Chicago Home Additions – It Costs Way More Than You Think It Does

Chicago home additions are an extremely popular way to add square footage to your home, open up the floor plan on the main level, add a stunning master bedroom suite to your home, and create the home of your dreams.  Bungalow second story additions are the most common type of a Chicago home addition project but I am going to have to break some really bad news tor you…

Are you ready for it….?

You sure…..?

You positive….?

You want it straight…..?

Ok here it is…..

A Chicago home addition costs WAY more money than you think it does!

The reason a home addition in Chicago costs more than you think it does is because there is the cost of the addition itself and then there is the cost of things you didn’t think about.


When you are doing an addition, you are likely adding a bathroom, or two, or three.  Anytime you add water fixtures to a home, the city of Chicago is going to do a water pressure test.  This entails turning on all the faucets, running all the showers, running the washing machine, flushing the toilets, running the dishwasher, etc at the same time!  Side note: what normal family would turn on every water source simultaneously in a home?  I think you have a better chance of winning the lottery than that happening…I’m just saying.  So if the water pressure falls below an acceptable limit and trust me it will because most of the water lines that feed into a Chicago home are a ¾ inch lead pipe, they will require you to upgrade the water service to a copper 1 ½ inch line.  This can cost you anywhere between $15,000 to $30,000!  Whey does a water line cost so much money you ask…well the city of Chicago likes to charge a HUGE permit fee.  Part of that money is for repairing the road because you have to tie into the main water line in the street and that requires digging the street up.  This is where the cost can really increase depending on which side of the street that the water main is on.  If you are on a big street and the water main is on the other side, you are going to have a big bill just for the water line alone.  Not only that, you are probably going to want to update a lot of the old galvanized plumbing that you have to copper to get maximum water pressure throughout the whole home.  Galvanized pipes corrode and restrict water flow.  They also commonly burst from corrosion and can cause a lot of damage to your recently remodeled home so even if you weren’t planning on redoing all the plumbing, now is a good time to do that. 


The 100 amp electrical panel that you likely have now just won’t cut it. Just like the water pressure, you have to account for all the new circuits and rooms that you are adding to your home.  The electrical panel is going to likely have to get upgraded to a 200 amp service minimum.  Not only that, since you are getting full architectural plans and permits, the city is going to want you to upgrade the rest of the electrical in your home to today’s standard.  This means replacing all the old wiring throughout and all new conduit if it hasn’t been replaced in the past.  This is one of the biggest reasons Chicago construction prices are some of the highest in the nation.  Electrical wiring inside conduit is typically only seen in commercial applications throughout the rest of the United States, but here in Chicago conduit is required in all residential homes.  Also copper piping for water is Chicago code which drives up cost as well.  Most other parts of the nation allow pex piping which is actually superior to copper in our opinion and much more cost effective.

Heating and Cooling

The furnace and the air conditioner you have probably won’t cut it if you are planning on doing a large addition because they are probably sized for your homes current square footage.  We have been in many homes throughout the Chicagoland area where an addition was done by another contractor but the HVAC was an afterthought and a Mickey Mouse solution was attempted (no offense to Disney).  This usually results in miserably hot second floors in the summers and frigid cold basements and first floors in the dead of winter.  This makes parts of the homes almost unusable with extreme temperatures.  The best way to set up the HVAC when you are doing a bungalow second story addition project or just a normal second floor addition is to add a second furnace and second air conditioning unit.  One furnace and AC compressor should be dedicated for the second level.  A separate furnace and AC compressor should be dedicated for the main level and basement. This creates a comfortable living environment for your home no matter how brutal the weather is outside.  You are also probably going to want a bigger water heater for your home but this is much cheaper than a second furnace and AC unit. 


Now if you are going to spend the money to do a second story addition to your bungalow or other type of Chicago home addition, you might as well finish the basement right😊?  This in theory again is fairly inexpensive right….wrong!  Basements in Chicago have notoriously low ceiling heights.  If we are in a basement in Chicago with a ceiling height of over seven feet, it is considered to be a tall basement.  The unfortunate reality is that most basements are under seven feet tall here in Chicago.  The duct work in the basement is a great place to hit your head and get a concussion.  That is why we recommend digging the basement down which can only be done by hand digging.  Unlike new construction where you can use an excavator, you can only use good old fashion hard work and manual labor to achieve a higher ceiling height.  You then have to get the dirt and concrete out of the home in wheel barrels or with a conveyer if you are set up like we are.  The only problem with that is you typically get 2-3 inches before you hit the bottom of the footings and trust me you don’t want to dig below them unless you have a phenomenal life insurance policy.  If you only get a couple inches from hand digging and hit the bottom of the footings and want a better ceiling height, you are going to have to do a process which is called underpinning.  Underpinning is just a fancy term for strengthening the foundation and we really recommend it if any digging is done even if you don’t get to the bottom of the footings because from the digging you might weaken the foundation.  The problem with underpinning is that it is expensive, and you can expect to pay anywhere between $15,000 – $25,000 for that alone.  The good news is that with the proper underpinning you can achieve tall ceiling heights like nine-foot ceilings in the basement.  We also recommend running all of the duct work on the sides of the home and not smack dab down the middle so it limits the soffit to one side of the basement.  This may require you to relocate the furnace but makes the basement more functional. 

Another thing you are going to want to do if you finish your basement is add a drain tile system with a vapor barrier system that feeds into a sump pump.  This removes the moisture from around the foundation of the home and ejects it outside the home so that you do not begin getting moisture and mold inside the home.  You will also really want to consider installing a battery backup sump pump as well so it will continue to work even if the power goes out.  If you are as paranoid as we are, you will also install an automatic home generator that runs on natural gas in case of prolonged power outages because a battery backup will eventually fail if the sump pump is constantly running and power is not restored in a timely manner. You will also want to invest in an overhead sewer system with a solid waste pump and check valve if you have any water waste in the basement.  So if you add a bathroom to your basement, the worst thing that can happen is the sewage backs up from the city and now your basement is flooded with sewage.  It is even worse than flooding from rain water, I’ve been in homes where this has happened and it is not pretty.  If you are going to spend the money to finish your basement, we really recommend protecting it with drain tile, a sump pump, and an overhead sewer system.

How Does the Addition Look Outside?

This is not a requirement when you do a second story home addition in Chicago but we believe the outside should be just as beautiful as the inside.  We recommend refacing the brick in the front to make it look like the home was built that way if this is for a Chicago bungalow second story addition.  This can cost a pretty penny or should I say several pretty pennies but it is worth it when it is done.  When done correctly, people will not even be able to tell that a second story addition was done.  If you have siding on the main level vs brick, simply redo all of the siding to match the first level for a beautiful finished look.

In Conclusion

My hope is that we haven’t scared you to death but helped you realize that a Chicago home addition costs way more than you think it does.  The good news is that any good Chicago home addition contractor will bring up all of these things mentioned in this article to you right away before you spend a bunch of money on architectural plans or buy a house and then get stuck with it because you can’t afford to do the addition.  This unfortunately happens pretty frequently here in Chicago so I am really glad that you are reading this article because all of the items above will factor into your cost for doing a home addition. 

We have done many bungalow additions, second story additions, rear additions, and wanted to share our Chicago expertise with you to help you avoid some of those traps and pitfalls.  If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out, we really hope to be your Chicago home addition contractor of choice and are also happy to be a resource for you.  If you are still feeling reluctant to renovate you will want to read this and you can also reach us at 847-305-2593 or can contact us by filling out the form at the bottom of the page. 

Linda shares her experience working with 1 Builders as her Chicago home addition contractor of choice

Fabulous Floors

On your next home remodeling project don’t just settle for average floors, demand fabulous floors! You have a slew of options so we highlighted some of the things to consider for various flooring types.

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood is a kind of flooring which has a timeless quality that is hard to find in other floorings. If you want to change the color of the stain, it can be done without having to replace the entire floor.  The team here at 1 Builders has refinished hardwood flooring that was over 100 years old throughout the Chicagoland area.  The best part is that it looks brand new after we are done…talk about durability and a flooring that lasts!  The fact that this flooring can be sanded and restained to popular trends makes this our flooring of choice.  Hardwood floors is also helpful for people who suffer from allergies or people with pets. 

Original hardwood floors stained in classic gray for this condo remodeling project in the West Loop in Chicago

Engineered Wood

Comprised of different levels of wood and plywood, engineered wood is actually real wood on the face of it. It’s a good option for areas that are built on a slab (i.e. over concrete) because it adheres well and is resistant to high humidity. It also comes in a variety of colors/finishes, to help achieve your desired look.  This flooring is sometimes harder to keep clean because there are small gaps between the planks unless it is finished with a stain.  You do have to look at the product label because some of the engineered wood products cannot be refinished at all or are limited to being refinished once or twice.

1 Builders used an engineered hand-scraped acacia flooring in the kitchen and living room for this home remodel in Elk Grove Village

Laminate Flooring

Laminate is the most cost-effective flooring next to carpet or a roll of vinyl if you are looking to save money on your next remodeling project.  You can purchase a wide variety of laminate flooring for less than one dollar a square foot but it is not the most durable product because it is technically a “floating floor”.  That is why you want to put your furniture on it right away or it might float away into space (badum tish)…all jokes aside this flooring should not be glued down, screwed, or nailed down.  It supports itself through locking systems by clicking the flooring together and it sits on top of the subfloor.  It does come in many finishes and colors.

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is more forgiving than most if you happen to drop an item. It’s also comfortable to stand on. It is damp, mold and mildew resistant. It also comes in a number of different colors and styles to compliment your décor.

Luxury Vinyl Tile

Vinyl has come a long way over the years. The latest and greatest vinyl is known as Luxury Vinyl Tile also known as LVT.  It boasts durability and a very real wood-like look.  Many of the luxurious yachts and boats that you see on Lake Michigan here in Chicago use this product because it is waterproof.

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and has the widest variety of all the flooring types.  There are many ceramic and porcelain tiles that look like hardwood and marble at a lower cost.  This makes it perfect for someone that wants beautiful or unique flooring at an economical price. 

Slate Tile

Slate tile is one of the strongest natural stones that you can install for your flooring.  It is extremely durable and very resistant to cracks, breaks, chips, and scratches. It has a beautiful unique appearance and typically seen in higher end homes since it adds value to the home.  One of the downsides to this flooring is that the texture of the flooring can be alittle rough if you walk on it barefoot and expensive to purchase and install. It is an extremely popular choice in mudrooms.

1 Builders used slate tile in the mudroom of this custom home build in Wheaton

Marble Tile

Marble tiling is perhaps the most elegant flooring but the downside is that it is prone to staining and scratches more than the other flooring types mentioned in this article.  There is nothing that compares to the natural beauty of marble and is truly timeless.  We recommend this type of flooring in bathrooms and not in high traffic areas of the home.

We used marble tile on the floor and the walls for this bathroom remodeling project in Chicago.

Polished Concrete

Polished concrete is a cost effective option for flooring in basements or commercial spaces where there is concrete now.  Polished concrete can even be made to look like a large slab of marble but way more durable.  It can be polished in a multitude of colors and designs. 

In Conclusion

You can have a fabulous floor with any of the materials mentioned in this article.  One thing that we do at 1 Builders differently than most contractors is that we create a 3D rendering of what your flooring will look like in your space before it’s ever installed.  Learn about the importance of getting a 3D rendering by clicking here.

This ensures that the fabulous floor you envisioned in your head, looks great with all of the other fabulous selections you made.  This way you will LOVE your flooring and remodel project and can confidently tell everyone you meet, “I have fabulous floors”!  Feel free to call us at 847-305-2593 or fill out your information below if you want to see if we can help make your floors fabulous on your next home remodeling project in the Chicagoland area or if you have any questions about flooring or remodeling in general.

5 Steps to a Stunning Bathroom

You find yourself sitting on the sofa, enthralled by a master bathroom renovation on HGTV. “That bathroom is stunning!” you say out loud, as you focus on the eye-catching tile. And then you think about your own master bath…which is, well, less than stunning.

You have chipped tile on the floor, an over-sized jacuzzi tub that no one ever uses, and the vanity is like the size of a carry-on when you need a full suitcase. Sigh. It’s more sorry than stunning.

If you can relate to having a “sorry” bathroom, this post is for you!

We are going to cover 5 steps to take your bathroom from some-state-of-sorry to seriously stunning and some things to consider when hiring a bathroom remodeling contractor.

Step 1 – Make a list of what you don’t like about your bathroom and why you don’t like it

For example, you don’t like the huge tub because it never gets used. It’s a waste of space. You also dislike the small shower. You must squeeze in and out, which makes for an unpleasant morning routine. There is only a single-bowl vanity, which you don’t like because it’s awkward when you and your spouse are both trying to brush your teeth simultaneously.

Most lists will be considerably longer than this, but you get the idea. Creating a list like this identifies the problem areas in your bathroom and exactly what you want to modify or replace. And that leads us to Step 2.

Step 2 – Gather some design ideas

Since you are probably going to remove your tub and increase the size of your shower (this is common among our clients these days), you can start looking at images of bathrooms that you like. You can save ones that have a tile color or pattern you might want in your own master bath.

Since you have found that a single bowl vanity is insufficient and you think there might be room for a double bowl vanity, you can start collecting pictures of ones that will better suit your new space.

Having several pictures is helpful when you meet with a Designer to plan out your new master bath because it gives him/her a sense of your style and the overall look and feel you want to create. That brings us to Step 3.

Step 3 – Meet with a Designer

If you read our blog post, Reluctant to Renovate, you know that at 1 Builders, we offer design services so that you don’t have to find both a Designer *and* a General Contractor. We are a full service Design Build firm.

When you meet with one of our Designers, you will already have the list of things you want to change and why they are important to you. That will help us determine if it would make more sense to take your master bath down to the studs and start from scratch with a new layout, or if more minor modifications will yield your desired results.

Not only that, when we know why something isn’t working for you, we can be sure to create a design that will alleviate that problem in your newly renovated bathroom.

Step 4 – Get Renderings of What Your New Master Bathroom Will Look Like

This is SO valuable. Preliminary Renderings allow you to see the layout of your new space, which will help ensure that the flow and function is going to work for you.

Once you have worked with our Designer and selected the vanity, the lighting, the tile and all the other details that will fill your new master bath, a full rendering will show you how everything looks together. This ensures you will love the look when your bathroom is completed.

Below is an example vanity and shower for the master bathroom in a high rise condo renovation 1 Builders completed. The client had some very specific tastes and wanted to make sure to get it right before the work began. The renderings allowed us to duplicate exactly what they were looking for.

Original tub and shower combo in master
Rendering of shower before work began
Shower completed matching rendering and clients specifications. Note, client had us add pebbles to the shower wall niche after rendering
Original master vanity before work began
Rendering we created for our client specifically addressing the master bathroom vanity. Notice the detail on the vanity like the handles, vessel sinks, and the wall sconces. Our client wanted a very specific look and wanted to make sure she didn’t just like it, but LOVE it before work began.
Vanity with handles, wall sconces, and vessel sinks that client approved from rendering we created

Step 5 – Hire the Right Contractor and Let the Reno Begin!

Now that you have renderings of what your newly renovated master bath is going to look like, you are ready to move forward. Whether or not your hire 1 Builders to make your master bath stunning, be sure your contractor has a good reputation, is licensed and insured and offers a warranty.

When your project is complete and you find yourself sitting on the sofa watching a master bath renovation on HGTV, you’re going to think to yourself, “yeah, that looks nice, but my bathroom is seriously stunning!”

If you are in the Chicagoland area and you would like 1 Builders to look at your next bathroom remodeling project or help you with a preliminary 3D rendering and layout please contact us at 847-305-2593 or fill out your information below. Thank you for reading!

Reluctant to Renovate

Every time I walk into my kitchen and see the outdated tile countertops with crumbling, stained grout, I groan inwardly. I grab the carton of eggs from the fridge and set them on the counter. I open the lower cabinet and wrestle loudly with the stacked pots and pans to find the one I want so I can fry my eggs. After turning on the burner of my old stove, I crack the eggs into the pan. I carefully hold the eggshells while walking the 10 looong feet to the trash can, wishing desperately that my kitchen had a better, more functional layout.

Does this scenario, or one like it, sound familiar? Do you dread walking into your outdated, dysfunctional kitchen, bathroom or other area of your home? For many of our clients, the answer is a resounding, YES!

Though you may really dislike your kitchen, wanting to tackle a kitchen renovation project may feel a bit daunting. You might experience some reluctance because it seems like such a big, time-consuming project. Not only that, where do you even start?

Do you scour Pinterest and Houzz in search for images of your dream kitchen only to get discouraged because you don’t even know if all the things you like will look good together?

Do you first find a Designer to help you figure out your style and who will help you visualize what your new kitchen will look like?

What about a contractor? How do you find a reputable one who will do excellent work for a fair price?

With questions like these, it’s not hard to imagine why people can be reluctant to renovate.

Perhaps we can assuage some of these concerns by remembering that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Admittedly, remodeling a kitchen can be a significant undertaking. However, if you have the right people and the right tools guiding you through the process, it can be manageable, and dare I say, enjoyable.

Get a 3-D Rendering of Your Space

When you work with a company like ours, you don’t have to worry about finding a designer *and* a contractor. Our team works together seamlessly to provide you a 3-D rendering of what your new kitchen, new bathroom or other new area will look like. We walk you through the process of choosing new cabinets, tile, lighting, etc., and then we turn your dream space into a reality.

We have found that including renderings of your new kitchen, bathroom, etc. does the following:

  • allows you to make changes before anything “permanent” goes in
  • helps ensure you get the look, feel and function you want in your new space
  • helps you choose items that fit your budget and minimizes miscommunications once the renovation begins

See the photos below to see how this is implemented. The first photo is what the kitchen looked like before we began remodeling. The second photo shows the rendering of what the kitchen would look like with finishes and selections that our client made. The last photo shows how 1 Builders made the rendering a reality to incorporate the selections and features that the client wanted in their kitchen. 1 Builders made sure the client was 100% happy with design before work began!

Read/Watch Testimonials

When it comes to finding a reputable contractor, reading or watching the testimonials of previous clients can prove to be very helpful (see some of our testimonials here). They will give you a good sense of their experience with the contractor and his/her team. This might include elements like communication, job cleanliness, and the timely manner in which the project was completed.

See Previous Work

Another way to find the right contractor for you is to meet him/her at a location where they have done renovation work. Our company is happy to meet you at locations where we’ve remodeled kitchens, bathrooms, basements and where we’ve done new constructions. That enables you to see firsthand different design features we’ve incorporated as well as the quality of our craftsmanship.

READY to Renovate

So as you think about that area of your home that you really, really want to update, maybe it’s time to go from reluctant to renovate to READY to renovate.

If you are in the Chicagoland area and you would like 1 Builders to look at your next remodeling project or help you with a preliminary 3D rendering and layout please contact us at 847-305-2593 or fill out your information below. Thank you for reading!

Why You Need Plans For Your Next Remodel

There is an old saying that goes “compare apples to apples”. In construction and home remodeling more than any other industry most homeowners are comparing apples to pears to lemons to watermelons. Many homeowners feel that getting three bids is a wise and prudent thing to do. The problem with that thinking is that homeowners are getting bids from contractors and some contractors are bidding on apples, some contractors are bidding on pears, and some contractors are bidding on lemons. That is why many times homeowners will see bids all over the board, some that are high, some in the middle, and some that seem too good to be true which is likely because they are bidding on lemons and not the apples that they really want.

That is why having plans is extremely important! You would never attempt to build a home without blueprints so why would you attempt to remodel a kitchen or a bathroom without plans? It makes zero sense and it typically costs homeowners thousands of dollars in change orders. I’ve spoken with homeowners whose construction budgets were doubled or tripled because things were not planned for in advance.

The last thing you will ever want to hear a contractor tell you is “that wasn’t included in my bid” or “that’s going to be a change order” and yet homeowners hear these statements all over the world every single hour of every single day in all sizes of renovations from bathroom remodels to kitchen remodels to additions. The way you remember a conversation and a contractor remembers a conversation are two completely different worlds. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist!

Use an Architect?

So how do homeowners protect themselves? One way is to hire an architect to create drawings. The architect will come in and take measurements of your space with it’s current configuration and then based on the adjustments that you would like to make, they create a drawing so you can bid it out. This typically costs anywhere between $2,000-$3,000 to do but at least this gives you a baseline to start comparing apples to apples with your bids. This usually does not include a 3D rendering of your space but just floorplans for bidding purposes which contractors will be able to use.

Use a Design|Build firm?

A more cost effective option is to use a Design/Build firm like 1 Builders to create a layout for you and create a preliminary 3D rendering of your space. This will allow you to get a layout of the space, a visual of the space, and help you get better apples to apples bids from contractors. 1 Builders charges $99 for standard 5×8 bathrooms, $249 for larger master bathrooms, and $499 for a kitchen remodel.

Below is an example of a rendering and layout you can expect to get for $499 on a kitchen from 1 Builders. This shows a rendering and the kitchen after it was built by 1 Builders. Note: This rendering and layout that 1 Builders would create will not have all of your selections because this would happen in the design phase (for example if you want a certain type of backsplash, or a certain brand of appliances, or a certain type of light fixtures or plumbing fixtures, this rendering will not show those details but this will give you a representation of the space with the layout).

Get Apples to Apples

We wish you the best of luck on your next home remodeling project and always to remember to get apples to apples! If you are in the Chicagoland area and you would like 1 Builders to look at your project or help you with a preliminary 3D rendering and layout please contact us at 847-305-2593 or fill out your information below. Thank you for reading!