Tips & Considerations for your Design & Construction Project

JL Drafting is the leader in Residential and Commercial Designs. We also offer Expediting for Building Permits in the New York Metro Area.

Below are some important considerations for your Design and Construction project. Click on the individual topics below for more detailed information.

    It is usually required that the Building Department inspect most phases of construction projects. Typically, inspections are needed for the footing/foundation; the floor, ceiling, wall, and roof framing; and insulation. A final inspection after all work is completed is also required.
  2. Although it may involve some additional expense, it is a good idea to have your Engineer or Architect inspect the foundation, insulation, and framing before the Building Department inspection. This will help to ensure that the Building Department inspection runs smoothly without failure which can result in the municipality (Town, Village, or City) requiring the scheduling of a repeat inspection days or weeks later resulting in costly delays of the project.

    There are many items to check during these inspections such as foundation hold downs; hurricane clips; framing ties; window and door headers; wall, floor and roof sheathing; girders; the size and spacing of floor joists; bridging; and blocking. Undersized beams as well as holes and notches cut improperly into girders and floor joists could cause future sagging or other damage after the project is completed resulting in expensive repairs. Your Design Professional is licensed and regulated by the State and hence more likely to spot problems than Building Department inspectors since his or her license is at stake. <Top of Page>

    Years ago the standard size for a child’s bedroom not including any closets was 8’ x  10’ but current designs usually specify 10’ x 12’.   For homes 2800-5000 square feet 13’ x 14’ is typical with 14’ x 16’ being used for houses 5000 square feet and over.  
  4. Typical living room sizes are 13’ x 18’ for a house size up to 2200 square feet, 15’ x 20’ for 2200 - 3200, 18’ x 24’ for 3200 – 4200, and 20’ x  25’ for homes 4200 square feet and larger.

    Many people like the idea of an island counter area in the kitchen. This calls for a minimum room size of 12’ x 13’ 6” with 15’ x 15’ preferred.

    Dining rooms usually start at 12’ x 15’ for houses up to 2800 square feet in size, increasing to 13’ x 17’ for 2800 – 3200, 15’ x 19’ for 3200 – 4200, and 17’ x 21’ for homes larger than 4200 square feet.

    Nowadays master bedroom suites are also made bigger than in past years, with 14’ x 16’ as a typical size for houses up to 2200 square feet, 15’ x 17’ for 2200 – 2800, 18’ x 18’ for 2800 – 3200, and 20’ x 20’ for homes 3200 square feet and larger.

    The minimum size for a two car garage is 19’ x 19’ but up to 24’ x 24’ is preferable.

    Make sure to discuss furniture layout with your Design Professional as it has a major impact on the sizing of rooms.<Top of Page>

    Contact or ask your Design Professional to contact your municipality to find out if any existing construction on your property lacks legally required Certificates of Occupancy and/or Variances. If this is the case it is important to file any required applications with the Town, Village, or City as soon as possible to prevent delays in the issuing of the Building Permit for your new project.
  6. While in the past the lack of required Certificates of Occupancy for existing structures frequently would not come up when seeking a new Building Permit, the authorities have become quite astute with this and it pays to “fess up” and get all your required C.O.’s at the outset to avoid delays and additional expense later. It will also prevent future problems when you eventually want to sell your house. <Top of Page>

    Contact or ask your Design Professional to contact your Town, Village, or City to find out the zone of your property. This will determine the maximum permitted size and height of your project and how close it can come to your property line.
  8. If your project is too large or close to the property line you may need to obtain a Variance from your municipality which is special permission from the local Zoning Board of Appeals to not meet zoning requirements (this is known as a Pre-Consideration in the five boroughs of New York City).

    If a Variance or Pre-Consideration is needed, ask your Design Professional to prepare preliminary or “Not for Construction” plans as opposed to final plans to submit to the Zoning Board. These are simpler, faster, and less expensive to draw than final construction plans. It is important to submit your application quickly since a Public Hearing is required which is only scheduled once or twice monthly. Also, if your initial application is denied the preliminary plans must be revised which is much simpler and more cost effective than revising final construction drawings. <Top of Page>

    Many municipalities (Towns, Villages, and Cities) have Tax Abatement Programs which can defer a portion of the tax on home improvements for up to 10 years if you are renovating less than 50% of the existing premises.
  10. Be sure to ask your Design Professional about this. <Top of Page>

    You may be able to decrease the time required for the municipality to process your Building Permit or Certificate of Occupancy to maintain existing construction if you have a qualifying medical condition or are selling your house. This will generally require a doctor’s note or documentation of the home sale closing date.
  12. Again, your Design Professional should be able to help with this. <Top of Page>

    Make sure to get written proof that your contractor has a current liability insurance policy. This is very important to protect you from lawsuits if someone is injured during your construction project. Beware of contractors who claim that their insurance has expired as this is often a sign that they have had a problem or never had insurance coverage to begin with. Also, make sure that the contractor’s insurance names you as well as the Town, Village, or City as beneficiary.
  14. Consider obtaining a work bond, especially for large projects. This will provide financial compensation if your contractor fails to complete the project or does substandard work.   <Top of Page>

    Obviously of extreme importance. We have seen many projects fail to materialize when they turn out to be unaffordable. It also can be unwise to “over improve”, that is to spend more than is justified for the neighborhood and location. Also, beware of the common contractor ploy of offering a low price up front but coming in with big cost increases once the project is started. On the other hand, some cost increase may be justified due to unforeseen conditions.
  16. Your Design Professional should give you a cost estimate for the project and as a rule of thumb you should add 10-15% to this.  

    A rough cost estimate for a second story addition using builder’s grade (average quality) materials is $100.00 per square foot. Add $12,000.00 to this if you are adding a bathroom. Figure $4,000.00 per 1000 square feet for new siding on an existing first floor and $5,000.00 in repairs to an existing first floor to support a new second story. A separate one story addition will cost approximately $125.00 per square foot (the extra $25.00 is mainly for the foundation) or $110.00 per square foot if done along with a new second story. A porch, deck or garage is about $40-$50 per square foot.

    Please keep in mind that there are many variables associated with the cost of any construction project. The figures above are approximate and should be taken as guidelines only.

    Finally, never make the final payment to a contractor without having received the Certificate of Occupancy for the project from your municipality. Don’t buy contractor’s statements like “the Town issues the C.O., it is not in my control so it is not fair to make me wait for final payment”. Once that final payment is made you will have no leverage to get any problems fixed which may arise and you may be stuck “holding the bag”. <Top of Page>

    These will raise a red flag in most municipalities due to concerns about overcrowding and sometimes are prohibited in houses less than 2-5 years old. They will just about always require a special permit as a parent-child (formerly called mother-daughter) residence or as an Accessory Apartment. Oftentimes there are special off street parking requirements. Also, most Towns, Villages, and Cities will not allow two front doors in residential neighborhoods.
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    Off street parking requirements can also be an issue with these since there is a concern about parking for cars which were formerly parked in the garage.
  19. Also keep in mind that most Building Codes require a minimum 7’6” ceiling height for living space. If the available height allows, it is a good idea to provide wood floor beams over the existing garage floor to allow space for insulation. This will help to prevent a cold and uncomfortable floor as well as saving energy.  <Top of Page>

    You could be in a better position if your project is located in an area with a public sewer system as opposed to a private cesspool and/or septic tank located under your property.
  21. While a public sewer system has a practically unlimited capacity, your municipality may require a new private septic system depending on the size of your project if it is not located in an area with public sewers. This requires the design of a new septic system and may also require filing for a separate Septic System Permit, not to mention the cost of the system itself.

    When the economy slows you may be able to secure a lower price for your project as contactors become more desperate to keep busy. Be careful not to push too hard, however, because a bid that is unrealistically low can cause the builder to cut corners, abandon your project before it is completed, or come to you later with cost increases. One rule of thumb is never to accept the lowest bid but one that is closer to the middle.
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    When leasing a commercial space, make sure to have your attorney include a clause in the lease that relieves you from paying rent if the municipality withholds your Building Permit or Certificate of Occupancy based upon violations elsewhere in the building or on the property.
  24. Also keep in mind that it may take quite some time to get the Town, Village, or City Certificate which you need to open the business. You might pay a lot of money in rent before you can generate any income. Try to get a clause in the lease stating that you pay no rent until you have all the approvals you need to legally open your business. <Top of Page>

    © 2008 JL Drafting Inc.

    No portion of this article may be copied or re-printed without the written permission of JL Drafting Inc.