“For anyone who has tried this — Are you happy you did?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rob Cannon

“Dear PoPville,

I wanted to revisit this post from 2010, and hopefully get some updates with respect to:

1) The timeline for adding a fair sized rear addition (from plans, to permitting, to construction);
2) Any recommendations of architects or contractors; and
3) Potential costs

The house is a semi-detached row house zoned R-2 (which means there is a 20 foot rear setback and 40% lot coverage requirement).

For anyone who has tried this — Are you happy you did?”

17 Comment

  • I am in the process of doing this now. You should expect permitting to take 8+ months, in all, with reviews by HPRB (if you’re in historic), BZA, and DCRA (including DC Water and WMATA). You will also want to take your plans to the ANC before the HPRB and BZA reviews. Don’t hire an architect who hasn’t worked in the District regularly, as they won’t know how the system works.

    It may be worth it, but be prepared to wait.

    • Why would WMATA need to review plans for an addition? Do you mean DDOT?

      • WMATA needs to review to make sure you’re not digging right on top of them.

        • Seriously? Even plans for a house that isn’t anywhere near underground metro tunnels has to be reviewed?

          • Not sure exactly what the criteria are. I’m about a block away from where google maps says the tunnel is. Sort of close, but definitely not overlap. Still took two weeks for WMATA to review.

    • Thanks for that info. We are about to fix some issues with our rear addition (after the flipper we bought it from botched it) and we’ve been told that we more or less have to go through the entire process like we were building a brand new addition.

      • might be worth to pay a few extra thousand dollars for a permit expediter. You honestly haven’t been to hell until you have spent day after day at DCRA trying to get a permit.

        • Yeah – I agree- this should take 2months max for any additions if submitted correctly. Especially if its not In Historic nabe.

        • My understanding is that the days of the expediter are mostly over. The application is all online now, so you don’t have to physically take your plans from reviewer to reviewer. It still takes forever and going down there in person can sometimes nudge things along, but you don’t need to hire someone to do it all for you. I could be wrong on that, though, which would explain the 8+ months….

    • I was considering something similar but have changed my mind but did talk to an architect who worked in DC regularly. He indicated that all the new changes in zoning/codes are something everyone – including those experience in DC – are having to understand in terms of dos and don’ts as well as process.

  • We just finished a two-story, 20-foot addition to our rowhouse, which is in a historic district. Getting HPRB approval took approximately 4 months and was relatively painless (our architects knew what they were doing, and the HPRB person assigned to our neighborhood was responsive and mostly very reasonable), while getting DCRA approvals took approximately 7 months and was miserable (despite hiring a very knowledgeable, connected and tenacious permit expediter). In hindsight, there is nothing we could have done to make DCRA move faster. Be warned, DCRA is a pit of dysfunction and indifference.

  • 1) If you use an architect or build company that regularly works in DC they know how to expedite plans and DCRA, etc. Doing it yourself can be 8+ months to never figuring it out. Assuming you are using a professional — designing should take 1-2 months (or more if you love to change your mind and re-do plans); permitting 1-3 months; construction 3-6 months (completely depending on size and scope).
    2) Go to Houzz to research licensed and insured contractors/architects with a portfolio that has many projects in excess of $100k. Or you can go the separate architecture firm route which will bid out your project to 2-3 build companies they like working with and are reputable in the area (or you can pick your own). All in one build companies such as Four Brothers; Trout; Case; etc. will all come out to your residence to give you a *very* rough quote based on your build assumptions and that’s where I would recommend starting. Then pick one or two you like and request a detailed estimate/timeline/etc.
    3) $150k-275k (or more depending on your finishes and scope). This assumes sizable 2 story addition 400-600 sq ft+ with a reputable company and not a Home Depot sub winging it as they go. Could be less if you are just doing bedrooms but usually this involves kitchen/bathrooms/etc.

    Bottom Line — it is absolutely worth doing if you plan on living in it for some time or investing this much in the house does not put you underwater if you need to resell it in the near-term. Also doesn’t hurt to make sure you have plenty of cash on hand and asprin for the inevitable headaches.

  • Kamm Architecture is a small local firm specializing in residential architecture.

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