Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
If you own a condo or are considering purchasing one, you might wonder if adding a room to the condo is possible. With a condo, you own the inside living space. You do not own any outside walls of the unit. This means you do not have the ability to add square footage to your unit.
Can you add a room to a condo? The simple answer is yes. Since the condo is controlled by a homeowners association (HOA), you will need to get permission from them. Also, the type of room you want to add will determine whether it is possible.
Since you will be changing the inside structure, local building permits will also likely be required. You may be unable to remove particular walls if they are vital to the structure. Rooms that require running water or plumbing will need to be placed near water and sewage connections. Due to the complex nature of adding a room to a condo, this job is only for experienced contractors.
How do You Add a Room to a Condo?
When you purchase a condo, you purchase a single unit inside a larger property. The unit you bought might be part of a large multi-unit property or a smaller dwelling like a duplex or triplex. Either way, you own the inside space but not the exterior walls. So you can add a room, but you won’t be able to create more square footage for the unit.
Typically you are allowed to make changes to the inside living space that will not change the structure itself. HOAs may have specific rules regarding renovations, such as the type of flooring allowed or the power requirements of electrical appliances, so check with them first. So usually, painting, changing the carpet, or kitchen renovations can be done relatively easily. Adding a room is a bit trickier because you will need to get approvals while following strict building and HOA requirements. To some people, it might not be worth the aggravation.
The first step you want to take when considering adding a room to a condo is to contact the HOA. Find out what changes are allowed to be made and the approval process for those changes. Typically, you must submit a proposal for the new room detailing what work is being done and what changes are being done structurally. Then the HOA will decide on the addition.
You want to start with talking to the HOA first to understand what might be allowed. Some changes you are thinking about may not be allowed at all. You may not be able to get those hardwood floors you desire because of how loud they are to someone below you. Contractors may only be allowed to work certain days and certain hours. Also, inquire about blueprints and other information about locations of wiring, plumbing, and sewage lines the contractor may need.
Find a Contractor
Once you have collected this initial information, it is time to decide on a contractor to do the work. You will want to interview and get estimates from several different contractors. Do your homework and ensure each one you speak with is licensed and insured. I would also recommend checking references.
When selecting the right person for doing the job, the cheapest contractor is not always the best choice. The old adage is you get what you pay for. Make sure they have a reputation for doing quality work and offer some type of warranty on their work. Some websites do the vetting process for you and will recommend reliable contractors in your area.
Walls that are needed to support the structure or that contain plumbing and sewage lines may not be able to be altered. So adding an extra bedroom, den, or other space that does not need access to plumbing and sewage lines is easier to do than a kitchen or bathroom. Placing a kitchen or bathroom next to an existing room with plumbing and sewage lines running through a shared wall simplifies those projects.
The contractor you choose will help you write your proposal for the HOA. They can provide detailed information about what work will be done and any changes to the unit’s structure. Approval should not be a problem by talking with them beforehand and understanding the requirements.
After you get the HOA’s okay, the contractor will know about any required building permits. Once those are attained, it will be time to begin to work. The length of the job has many variables. Ask your contractor how long the job will take.
While the construction is being done, you might be unable to live in the condo. In this case, you will need to make alternate living arrangements. This could be for a few days or a few weeks. Hotels can be expensive, so this might be an excellent time to visit family or friends.
For security purposes, make sure all valuables are secure. Even if the contractor is trustworthy, thieves look for homes under construction. You may also want to schedule a locksmith to rekey your condo once the work is completed.
What Benefits Are There in Adding a Room to Your Condo?
Adding a room to a condo can be beneficial in many ways. Here is a list of a few reasons you may want to go ahead and add that room.
- Your own satisfaction. First, you wanted that new space for some reason, and now you have it. Your new room might be an extra bathroom, a visitor guest bedroom, or a man cave or she-shed. Whatever the addition chosen, your home or condo, in this case, is your castle. It is time for you to enjoy your condo the way you envisioned. Whether it is a new bathroom that you will never be rushed out of, or now you have space for the family to stay the weekend, This room was for your enjoyment, right?
- Adds value to the condo. Whether you add an extra bedroom or another bathroom, the added room will also add value to your condo. This is good if you are considering returning your property to the market. One thing I do caution you on is to check how HOA determines your annual fees. If it is determined by the number of bedrooms, not square footage, you may see an increase in your HOA fees.
- Maximize living space. Your condo may have high ceilings that would allow for a loft-style room. Perhaps your condo has large rooms with little to no closet space. By adding a room, you can take advantage of space that is not being used productively and turn it into that missing addition to fulfill your needs. Creating a walk-in closet in the master bedroom or a loft office over the den are great ideas that give the feeling of more space.
- Family harmony. If you have children that are sharing a bedroom, I pray they get along like little angels. If they are typical children, though, they have occasional spats. These spats happen much more often when people are having to share space. Maybe you want a room that is all yours, just for your stuff and to get away and enjoy a drink, a smoke, or a good book alone. By adding another room, you allow for more private personal spaces. We all understand the value of having our own space, especially after COVID-19. Creating a little separation, in this case, might bring everyone a little closer together and less infighting among your family.
What Else Can You Do to Create New “Spaces” in Your Condo?
So maybe after talking to the HOA, you decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation or expense of adding another room. That does not change the fact you still wanted to create an extra space or area in your condo. Well, it is your condo, and other options are available.
So you may be unable to add another bathroom to your condo; you might not need to. In some cases, remodeling an existing bathroom might fulfill whatever reason you had for wanting another bathroom. Perhaps all you desired was a more oversized shower or an extra sink. Remodeling and resizing an existing bathroom is cheaper and much easier for approval.
Other projects you might consider for bathrooms include adding, enhancing, or changing a bathtub. You may want to add shelves, cabinets, or closets to create more storage areas. Since the room already has plumbing and sewage pipes, this is an excellent compromise to adding a bathroom.
If you want to add another kitchen, you will discover this is probably the most challenging room to add to a condo. With kitchens, not only do you need water and sewage, but there are also large appliances that need gas lines or heavy-duty electrical outlets and wiring. Also, vents and hood fans are needed.
An alternative to adding a new kitchen is to create a complete snack area or kitchenette in an existing room. Create a counter space with a micro-fridge, hot plate, toaster oven, or whatever appliances you need. Each appliance usually has some smaller version that requires minimal space and a standard electrical outlet to function. You may or may not be able to add a sink, depending on whether or not there is a shared wall with existing lines.
There are a few alternatives to building an entirely new separate bedroom. You can purchase bunk beds for a bedroom if you need extra bedding. Also, loft beds have desks, futons, or entertainment areas underneath the bed. This can create extra living space while also adding extra bedding.
Purchasing sofa beds for a den or living room is a way you can transform those areas into a temporary bedroom at night. Hideaway beds that fold into walls are another great way of adding extra sleeping space in a pinch. Adding dividers and temporary bedding, such as blow-up mattresses, to a room will also give some limited privacy and a feel of separate bedding quarters.
These ideas can be applied to create extra living or entertainment areas. Also, if your condo has a balcony, you might be able to enclose it with glass or metal screening to turn it into a sunroom or tiki bar area.
Adding more storage areas without adding another room is probably the most straightforward task, with the most available options. Storage can be added in a multitude of ways. There are multiple pieces of furniture that you can purchase to create storage areas. Chest of drawers, dressers, or chifferobes in bedrooms all have spaces for clothes.
Storage bins and baskets are stackable and have a neat uniform appearance. Adding racks, hooks, and bookcases is another way to give yourself more areas to help clear clutter. Purchase some coffee and end tables that have drawers or shelves.
Building new cabinets are a more permanent way to add storage areas to your condo. Other improvements to the condo itself include building a bar area or more counter space in the kitchen. Also, you can add shelves to the walls for more storage.
Be creative and look to convert empty areas into storage space. You can add drawers in many areas. Building drawers or closets inside the steps or as part of a staircase are creative ways to convert spaces that are usually unused.
How Else Can You Update or Add Value to Your Condo?
Perhaps you are just looking for simple ways to upgrade and add value to your condo because you are getting ready to put it on the market. Adding a room can be expensive and a relatively long process. However, many ways are cheaper and quicker to increase your condo’s appeal and get it ready to put on the market.
Renovate the Kitchen
You can do many things in the kitchen to increase the value of your condo. Upgrading countertops to granite is a simple improvement that adds value. Modernizing older appliances will increase a potential buyer’s interest in your condo. Replacing cabinets can be expensive, so you may choose to repair and refinish the existing ones. New sinks and faucets are other upgrades you may want to consider.
Renovate the Bathrooms
While granite is a great choice for the kitchen, marble is excellent for bathroom countertops. Cleaning toilets, showers, and tubs until they shine are cheap ways to improve appeal. If cleaning doesn’t work, consider replacing it. Cabinets are also expensive for bathrooms, so repair and refinish them if possible instead of replacing them. Touchless plumbing is a modern touch that adds value as well.
Improve the flooring. Take a look at the flooring. Upgrade what is there if it is old and needs more than just a little TLC. There are several different options to choose from. Carpet and linoleum are some of the cheaper choices out there. Hardwood and tiles are more expensive options with greater buyer appeal. Then again, strategically placed area rugs might be the only improvement you need.
Make the Walls Beautiful
Look at the walls in every room. Is the paint old, peeling, or just plain unattractive if the condo is painted? If it has wallpaper, does it need to be replaced? Decide whether you want to paint or wallpaper the walls if that is the case. Painting is cheaper and can be done by most DIYers. Wallpaper is a more complicated option, and I would recommend getting a professional to install it. Consider adding mirrors if the paint or wallpaper is still in good shape. This will help give the illusion of more prominent areas that entice buyers.
Upgrade the Lighting and Wiring
Today it is vital that homes have adequate wiring for all of today’s electronics. Homes now have many devices that require electricity. Condos may need updated wiring for this demand. Also, having the condo professionally wired for home theater equipment or internet usage will add value to your unit. Improving the lighting is another upgrade that buyers look for. Upgrade to something more modern and energy-efficient, such as led strip lighting. Also, replacing the light switch plates is easy and makes the unit more appealing to the eye.
Whatever you decide to do, always refer to your HOA first so you don’t waste time or money on a project you can’t get approval for.
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