Stick built vs. modular extensions: Which is right for your home?

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As you get older and your needs change, your home may require certain modifications. Whether you’re adding to your family or you’re simply changing up the look of your home, an extension may be necessary. Some of the most common reasons for a new addition include a master suite, more bedrooms or an apartment for older parents. Regardless of the reason for your expansion, you’ll need to decide between a modular and stick built extension, which can fulfill different needs for your home improvement project. James Quinn, construction consultant at Alure Home Improvements, explained the differences between the two options.

“Modular extensions are best for those who want a quick expansion with minimal fuss.”

Modular extensions
If your main goal is to have a quick expansion with minimal fuss, a modular extension may be the best option for you. They’re built and assembled inside of a factory and shipped to your home with carpet, trim, lighting and electrical already installed. If applicable to your project, bathrooms and kitchens can also come pre-installed. Since most of the work is done off-site, there are many benefits to a modular extension.

“The huge advantage of modular is less time on site, which means less chance of possible injuries, less stress for the homeowner, less impact on the existing house and property, less impact on their neighbors, controlled costs and, in some cases, lower costs,” explained Quinn. 

They also come with modern, top-of-the-line features that are Energy-Star rated and highly durable, including extra insulation, attic storage and 110 mph-rated windows. Once it’s shipped, each section is lifted by a crane. From there, mechanical connections are made and siding is installed. 

While modular extensions take less time than a stick built extension and provide more convenience, there are some downsides. For starters, customization is more limited, since there are fewer finish material choices available. Also, it’s more complicated to make additions on slab, since they’re pre-built with a floor system. The size of your property is another consideration to make when deciding on an extension.

“If it’s not large enough, it’s probably more cost effective to build on-site,” said Quinn. “Street access for the trailer and access for the crane are also key factors in deciding which is best. Sometimes, it’s simply impossible.”

Choose the right extension option for you.

Stick built extensions
On the other hand, those who place more of an importance on details rather than a shorter timeline on the project may opt for stick built extensions. This type of project is done completely on-site, from start to finish, and is considered to be built “from the outside in,” explained Quinn. 

“The structure is framed, roofed, sided, windows installed and weather-tight before you then start the interior work,” he said.

While it will take longer for this kind of extension to be completed, it offers an unlimited approach to customization. Basically, if you can dream it, designers and contractors can make it happen.

“You can make design decisions as you go each and every day,” said Quinn. “And finish material choices are limitless. This, however, is also the biggest disadvantage, because complete custom and unlimited material choice also means more money.” 

Despite the larger required budget, stick built extensions remain more popular than modular additions for a few different reasons. First, many homeowners don’t know exactly what it means to have a modular extension, and assume that they’ll simply be putting a pre-made “box” on their home that may not work with the rest of the appearance, noted Quinn.

“It’s a lack of knowledge of what can be done,” he said. “With proper design input, there is almost nothing that can’t be accomplished with modular.” 

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