Home Additions In Minnesota, where to start? The First Steps.
Updated: Nov 18
Let's get down to business. No Spam here, just honest answers on how to begin the process to add onto your home in the Greater Minneapolis, MN area.
Before jumping into the idea of a home Addition or building project there are a few things to consider first. There are a few factors that I like to talk about with clients when they are at this beginning phase. We can talk vision, contractor, process, and money later! Let's jump right in to the basic question first. Can I build on my property or add onto my home in the first place? Or, will my city allow me to build a new structure to my property?
Can you even build on to the home or on your property?
First things first... You or your Contractor are going to have to talk to the City where you live and discuss their steps to approving your project. Every city is different with what they will want to see, some are more thorough than others. You may have to talk to the city planner or possibly just the building inspector. They will want to see some things before they approve any permits to build such as, a site survey, or the property set backs, existing floor layout plans, site plans with the new addition added, a wetlands survey, grading and drainage plan, landscape plan, or building rendering, topography, etc. So prepare yourself for a process that could take a little time, communication, applications, and patience. The city may not be in as much of a rush as you are, so it always helps to be courteous and kind with city officials if you want things to progress smoothly. Just make sure that you communicate and give them what they need to progress to their next step... on time, as some things are time sensitive and it's usually first come first serve.
Let's go over Setbacks... Setbacks, are the minimum distance which a building or structure must be set back from a lot line, street or road, or a river/etc. To determine what your lot setbacks are you will need to talk to the city planner or inspector. The City will have their own dimensional requirements for residential properties like...the total lot area square feet, the total width of the lot, the front yard distance of your structure to the curb, then the side yard from structure to lot line, and finally the rear yard distance from the structure to the property line. Your home or structures must be "set back" from the property line, easements, streets or roads, rivers or streams, lakes, or other buildings. Once you know your setbacks then you can then use your site survey to determine how much free space that you might be able to build within your setbacks. If you need more space because you already have to much non-permeable space on your lot or you want to go beyond the setback, then you will need a variance.
Next, Easements. An easement is a legal land use agreement that gives a person, company or government the right to use someone else’s real estate for a specific purpose. It doesn’t grant them an ownership interest. How they can use your property depends on the type of easement. Also the easement basically is attached to the property, or person, by a time limit, or specific use of the land. Usually an easement on a residential lot is for the city use because of underground pipes or drainage systems. For our purposes we will need to figure out if an easement will block the use of a part of your property that you want to build on. You can determine if your property has any easements by contacting the city planner. Hint: the planner can also give you awesome info besides this like if you have a site survey, or your non permeable lot space, and your setbacks on the property!
Do you have enough Non-Permeable space to build onto you property? A non permeable surface is one such that water can not drain though located on your lot and can include the home, garage, walkways, driveway, cement, and sheds in some cases (currently the rule in Richfield, MN). Cities may include surfaces that are "not completely" non permeable as well like pavers, rock walkways, or stone patios in this category too. Every city will have their own requirements or exceptions on this, it can be different by lake property as well. For example Richfield requires no more than 45% non permeable, but West St Paul has No requirement! Again remember cities can have different requirements depending on the residential zone your property is in (residential home is R-1) or how your home and garage are set up.
Will you need a Variance? If you want to build beyond your setbacks or beyond the allowable non permeable space that you can build on your property, then you will need a variance. For example you may have a setback to the edge of your property line of 10 ft, but you want to build out to 5 ft of the property line... or, there are rules on how far your home can be from the street curb in your city, which could impact additions that add space in that direction (For example In Mendota Heights, MN it's 25 ft). First You will need to complete a planning application for this with your city planner and get your neighbors input as well. Then you will need a site survey and sketched plans to show what you want to do. Next your request will be sent to the planning commission for review and they will give their recommendations. Then there will be a planning committee hearing, this may require a visit to the city planning commission meeting that you can present your plan. Make sure that you get the info that they will need to approve your variance before this meeting or you will be put off until the next meeting (which is usually every month). This can cost you around $200 to $500 and can be a lengthy process, so buckle up and press forward until you get that ok from the city council!
If you are Building an ADU (additional dwelling unit or mother-in-law suite) then you may need to get an interim use permit that is approved by the city planner. this will then will go to the city council for approval. You may need to talk to the public works director about the grading and drainage too. This process could probably take some time (60-120 days) until they have their city council meeting. At this meeting you will usually be able to present what you would like and do some speaking on your plan. Also, your neighbors that are within 100 - 400 feet of your home can be allowed to chime in as well. This permit can cost between $475 and $800.
If you do not have a Site Survey then you most likely are going to need one. Sometimes the city will let you show where your pins are, but most of they time you will need a stamped site survey. A certified survey company will order the deed to your home and find the pinned boundaries of your land. Then they measure the home and any pervious (water can drain through) or impervious (solid surface) objects on the property. They will then Show driveways, sidewalks, outbuildings, and fence lines. Show partial location of adjacent structures. Locate and stake the lot corners. Show the setbacks of the building locations on the adjacent properties. Finally they will Draw Certificate of Survey on 11x17 paper and make pdf file for your legal use. It can cost between $600 and $1,250, but Topography will cost extra (usually around $500).
Electrical, depending on the scope of work the city may need to disconnect or move your power lines before the electrician can do their work. This process can be started by talking to the provider and setting this up with an energy company project planner. For example Excel Energy will have their own planner that can help you through the process, buy you will need to be on top of this process! If not, you could run into problems with the timing of the power being moved. This can delay construction if the electrical mast on the roof is in the way of the new addition or the power line is in the way of the lifts to install the roof trusses. There usually will be costs involved with this as well (about 1,500-2,500). As far as the electrician, they can set up a temp power pole that the city will hook up to while construction is being done.
So, this is not an exhaustive list but will get you pointed in the right direction. Let's get equipped with the tools needed before you put time, emotional energy, and money into exhaustive drawings, design, and selecting materials.
Stay excited though! This is just the beginning, and if you are able to build on your property or add onto your home then we can move on to next steps.
If you need help and want to work with a Remodeling and Design Build company getting this process started, please consider reaching out to R&B Homes. We have been serving most cities in the Greater Minneapolis and St. Paul areas since 2003. Thank you ~ James