Tag Archives: cape cod builder

Holiday Gift Ideas from a Cape Cod Builder (Seriously!)

With Halloween in the rearview mirror, the holiday season is officially upon us, bringing with it another surge of gift-giving anxiety. If your loved ones absolutely don’t need any more knickknacks, scarves, or gift cards, we suggest opting for meaningful, practical gifts from your favorite custom builder on Cape Cod. We’ve got a few ideas:

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cape cod holiday gifts

For your friend who spends all year looking forward to grilling season, a barbeque shelf like the one we installed above is a space-saving way to up their outdoor entertaining game, plus a time-saving route for passing food items and serving pieces from the kitchen to the patio. Plating burgers at next summer’s cookouts will be easier than ever.

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For your loved ones who keep busy households running smoothly, creating a secondary laundry room can be a serious game-changer. Adding a laundry space on the floor of the home where most of the laundry originates will save time, hassle, and that dreaded one-too-many trip up the stairs.

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For your most organized friend, a custom-made, built-in TV cabinet, like the one we installed in the home above, will help corral clutter and complete the visual feel of their living space. Coffee tables strewn with stuff will be a thing of the past.

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For the one in your life who can’t resist a bit of luxury, there’s this decadent dual outdoor shower. Just after a long day at the beach and just before a fabulous summer dinner, there’s nothing like relaxing, rinsing off the sand, and not having to take turns!

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Finally, for your loved one who’s always reading classic novels and browsing antique stores, a gorgeous gas-burning lantern is an eye-catching way to add some Old World elegance to their home. Makes you want to drive up in a horse-drawn carriage, doesn’t it?

This year, skip the so-so presents and give the Cape Cod homeowners in your life gifts that will last a lifetime. Contact us today for a holiday consultation!

Questions to Ask a Cape Cod Builder

You know that moment at the end of an important meeting when you’re asked, “Do you have any questions?” and your brain draws an inescapable, panic-inducing blank? I absolutely have questions, you think to yourself. Probably several! But now you’ve put me on the spot and I can’t remember a single one.

It happens to the best of us. When you first meet with a builder, a lot of important information is exchanged, which can make it hard to remember the burning questions you had right on the tip of your tongue as you drove to the meeting. But fear not: We’ve gathered some of the most asked (and most important) questions to have at the ready when you start your relationship with a Cape Cod builder, so you can leave that first meeting feeling confident and enthusiastic:


“Could you provide some references?”

While a helpful word-of-mouth recommendation can get you on the phone with a builder of your choice, you want to make sure they have plenty of positive feedback from clients to back up their reputation. Referrals from homeowners they’ve worked with in the past, subcontractors with whom they collaborate, or other professionals in the industry will set your mind at ease.


“Are you insured and licensed?”

When it comes to Cape Cod, there’s no guarantee that every homebuilding professional is, in fact, licensed and insured. Make sure the pro you’re thinking of engaging is by taking a look at the necessary licenses and proof of insurance for yourself. You don’t want to wake up in a cold sweat mid-project wondering if you’re covered in the event of a very specific and wildly unlikely potential mishap. Raccoons probably won’t stage a coup and attack the site of your new custom addition, but you never know.


“Could I see an itemized proposal?”

Before you move forward with your project, your builder can and should provide you with an itemized proposal with estimated costs for the work you’re considering. This document is incredibly important to have on hand through every stage of the process, both for builder and client. It is as sacred as Belichick’s playbook.


“What’s your history with meeting budgets?”

One of the reasons that itemized proposal is so important? Your project’s budget. For many homeowners, if a builder they’re considering tends to finish projects over budget, it could be a deal breaker. Whether budgets have been met on projects past can speak volumes about a builder, so be sure to get that info.


“When can you start this project?”

Even if your potential builder can’t give you a firm start date, it’s a good idea to ask about the general timeline you can expect with your proposed project. If business is booming but you need your basement refinished ASAP, for example, you may need to look elsewhere.


“How long will this project take to complete?”

While your kitchen is being remodeled, how long will you be eating takeout? Will your new mudroom be ready by Halloween? Will you have passed away peacefully in your sleep before you ever set foot in the converted apartment above your garage? These are important questions.


“Do you have an online presence? Can I take a look at your website?”

You probably took at least a brief look at your builder’s website before setting up a consultation, but you should also ask if their online presence extends elsewhere. Their social media pages, including profiles on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, can provide greater insight about their work and how satisfied their clients are. Don’t be afraid to do some Google-hunting for customer reviews, either.


Do you have a project in mind for your Cape Cod home that you’d like to get off the ground? The expert team at C.J. Riley is at the ready with answers to these key questions (and any others you remember on your ride home).

Spring Ahead With Small Projects

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow. There’s still a bit of daylight when you get home from work. We “spring ahead” as we change the clocks in less than a month. Spring is coming, which means summer won’t be far behind. In preparation, consider some minor upgrades that will allow you to make the most of your summer fun.

Maximize Outdoor Living

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Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a new deck as the sun comes up, or enjoying dinner al fresco as it sets. Adding a deck, like the one above that we built, is easily done and surprisingly affordable.

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Already have a porch? Consider installing new flooring as we did at the home above.

As far as outdoor upgrades go, even an especially small yard has huge potential. Below, we added a terrace, with a copper spa, dual outdoor showers and storage, and privacy fencing: beautiful and space-efficient!

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Do you find yourself saying, “I don’t want to grill tonight,” because it means slogging back and forth to the kitchen too much? We can solve that problem by installing a simple shelf just outside a window, as we did below.

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And if you find yourself saying, “I don’t want to grill tonight,” because your freestanding, 10-year-old Weber just isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time to consider an outdoor kitchen. This one, from one of our projects, includes a grill, refrigeration, storage, and prep space.

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Small Projects to Add to Summer Fun

Kids in and out from the pool all day. Guests wandering around in search of a bath when you’re entertaining outside. Tracking mud through the house when you’re working out in the garden.

If you don’t have a first-floor powder room, or you do, but it’s nowhere near your back door, adding a strategically located one is the solution to all of the above.

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We can often carve out space within your home to add a powder room, but if a small “bump-out” addition is needed, consider taking things a step further. By making the addition two stories, we can easily give you a second-story laundry room. Imagine not having to haul laundry up and down the stairs! Shown below is C.J.’s own laundry room addition, which includes dual washers and dryers as well as ample storage.

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Please contact us to get started on your own summer-fun small projects.

Say WHAT? Learning to Speak ‘Builder Lingo’

If you’ve ever watched Flip This House on A&E, you’ve probably noticed that builders speak their own language. When they talk about a “doghouse dormer” or a “header,” they’re not referencing canine housing or an Olympic dive.

Confused? Read on and we’ll break it down.


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In general, a dormer raises a portion of the roof in a home, creating added interior space. When a home has a steeply pitched roof, so common in New England, this is a cost-effective way of increasing space without raising the overall height of a structure, a crucial consideration in adhering to zoning laws. In the photo above, a home we built, two “partial dormers” were used. The smaller one, on the left, allowed added windows and floor space in the bedroom shown.

A “shed” or “full” dormer, shown below, runs nearly the full length of a home, greatly increasing the interior living space. A “doghouse” dormer (beneath) adds visual interest to the exterior and is a great way of adding a nook with a window seat to an upstairs room.

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Cabinetry: Custom, Semi-Custom, Stock

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In virtually every kitchen, whether in a new home or renovation, cabinetry is the priciest element. Custom cabinets are the most expensive and allow complete flexibility in style and size. “Stock” cabinets, those that are pre-made, offer the least flexibility. But as available options have increased in recent years, stock cabinets, like those in the kitchen we built shown above, can be a great way to trim costs.

The middle ground in cabinets is “semi-custom.” These are also pre-made and then delivered to a job site, but have many, many options available for style and finish. With the variation in size increments of semi-custom cabinets less than one inch, compared to three-inch variations in stock — which can lead to wasted space — semi-custom cabinets are the perfect middle-of-the-road option for most homes.

Roofing & Siding

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When it comes to roofing and siding, shingles and clapboard are the primary materials used for homes on Cape Cod. Each has its pros and cons.

  1. Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – This is the quintessential Cape Cod look. The shingles will weather to a natural silver color. Cons – Although they will last for decades, salty sea air can cause rot and curling; they need to be power-washed every couple of years to get rid of mold.
  2. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – With “dipped” shingle siding, you can opt for natural or a color; they last longer than untreated cedar shingles and are not prone to mold. Cons – They are pricier than untreated shingles.
  3. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Asphalt Shingle Roofing:Pros – Asphalt roofing shingles like these come in a variety of colors and are the least expensive roofing option. Cons – They can look “flat” on a home.
  4. Clapboard Siding | Architectural Shingle Roof:Pros – Clapboard siding adds a regal look and works beautifully for both antique homes and more contemporary styles; architectural roof shingles are also made of asphalt, but they add depth. They also last longer. Cons – Clapboard siding needs to be painted every few years.

Decorative Woodwork

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Decorative woodwork — or “millwork” — is just what it sounds like: purely for aesthetic value, rather than serving any structural purpose.

  1. Beadboard: The ultimate Cape Cod add-on, beadboard can be used in virtually any room for added texture and visual interest (though it can warp in full baths because of steam).
  2. Shiplap: Chip and Joanna Gaines created a nation-wide love of shiplap with their show Fixer Upper.Like beadboard, shiplap is lengths of wood joined together, but the pieces of wood are much wider, and shiplap is often installed horizontally rather than vertically.
  3. Chair Rail & Crown Molding: While chair rails, wood trim installed at waist height around the entire perimeter of a room, can serve a practical purpose — they were initially used only in dining rooms so that chairs wouldn’t ding the walls — they are now primarily ornamental and work in most rooms. Crown molding wraps around a room where the ceiling meets the walls. Both add a rich finishing touch to a space.
  4. Coffered Ceiling: Woodwork arranged in boxes on a ceiling, creating the look of a grid. Always an exquisite addition to a space, coffered ceilings can help delineate spaces within an open floor plan living area.

Please let us know if we can provide you with additional information, or if you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation.

2019 Spaces: Creating a Master Suite for Your Cape Cod Home

Have you resolved to make improvements to your Cape Cod home in 2019? Allow us to suggest beginning the transformation with your master bedroom. With the help of the expert team at C.J. Riley Builder, revamping this oh-so-important space can prove far less pricey and disruptive than you may fear. To kick off the new year, we can create a stunning new space in your home, complete with several benefits:


While some renovations are done primarily for your family’s enjoyment, kitchen and bath remodeling is a good investment, as is creating a master suite. Based on average resale value just one year after completing a master suite project, you can expect a nearly 75% ROI. Whether you plan to sell one day or just want to keep up with the market, a master bedroom overhaul will do you favors in the long run.


As a Cape Cod homeowner, you’re no stranger to overnight guests—the summer months can feel like a merry-go-round of visitors spending time on our gorgeous island. Turning your master bedroom into a master suite, with your own en suite bathroom, will earn you some precious, well-deserved privacy when you’ve got a full house. You’ll no longer need to emerge from your sanctuary in the early hours and wait your turn for a shower before a family outing. Doesn’t that sound better?

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In this home in Osterville, the en suite master bath isn’t especially large, yet it contains a sleek glass shower, dual vanity and his-and-hers sinks, an absolute must for many couples. Incorporating this space creates more convenience for the homeowners and promises a smoother transition when guests come to stay.


The best benefit of a master suite project? More room!

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In the photo above, from the same Osterville build, the master bedroom functions as a spacious escape. Doors leading to the private terrace open up the room and flood the uncluttered space with natural light.

Overwhelmed by the thought of a big renovation project? Not to worry. A total home overhaul isn’t necessary if you want more out of your master bedroom. We can re-purpose existing space, such as removing a wall between a bedroom and an adjoining room (like an outdated playroom or little-used dining area). Alternatively, we can build a bump-out addition to accommodate an en-suite bath, luxurious walk-in closet, or a “bonus” space that can be used as an office or to showcase some striking furniture, as in the photo below. You deserve it.

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Aging in Place

If Cape Cod is your forever home, it’s never too early to incorporate some aging-in-place renovations to prepare for the future. One way to accomplish this is building or relocating a master suite to the first floor of your home.

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Another consideration is installing a zero-threshold, accessible shower in your master bathroom, as we did in the custom renovation project pictured above. Improved accessibility without sacrificing space or style is what we’re all about.

A custom-designed and built master suite can make your whole home feel brand new. Get in touch with the team at C.J. Riley today to get started on your Cape Cod home’s 2019 transformation.

Before and After Bliss: Home Renovation Inspiration

At C.J. Riley Builder, we love helping Cape Codders transform their homes. So when we’re not out literally renovating, we’re prowling the internet for before-and-after home renovation inspo. Check out one of our recent renovation projects, and a few online finds we love, below.

This kitchen renovation featured on ArchitecturalDigest.com was one for the books. The space was so cramped and dingy that even its well-meaning lighting fixture seemed obtrusive.

Opening up the space was the first step in the room’s transformation. Clean lines – the waterfall edge on the counter, streamlined cabinetry without handles – add a contemporary feel to the new kitchen. Love the on-trend blue accent cabinets, and the unexpected pops of black used in the pendant lights and stools.

cape cod remodel

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This kitchen transformation we found on CountryLiving.com is so satisfying. Even the high-end appliances (is that an Aga?!) couldn’t save the room from feeling dark and dated.

Although the size of the kitchen remains unchanged, a fresh palette of creamy hues lightens the look considerably. Open shelving used in lieu of upper cabinets make the space feel larger and add texture, as does the shiplap paneling.

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before and after kitchen

In yet another kitchen remodel before-and-after story, also on ArchitecturalDigest.com, what was 1970s ski-chalet style run amok is now all about timeless style.

The loft space above is now open to the kitchen, adding airy appeal. New windows and a nearly white-on-white palette make the formerly dingy room feel fresh. Touches of natural wood add rustic flair, perfect for a slope-side home.

cape cod remodel

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It isn’t just before-and-kitchen remodeling ideas that fire up our creative energies.

While this master bedroom, another ArchitecturalDigest.com find, was okay before, the after photo proves how much of a difference even small changes can make.

The odd cabinetry behind the sofa has been replaced with oversized windows. Hello, sunshine! With the swinging doors leading to the patio, which chew up a lot of floor space, swapped out for another window, there is now enough room for a sitting area. Shiplap paneling and woven blinds add dimension.

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Another example of small changes making a major difference is our own renovation of Designers Walk, an Osterville retail space that had seen better days.

The overall footprint remained unchanged, but with the tired carpet replaced with fresh hardwood flooring that we laid out in a chevron pattern, a soothing palette of white and gray, and dramatic hanging light fixtures, this “walk” is now worthy of its “designers” moniker.

before and after home

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Ready to write your own before and after story? We’re here to help. Get in touch today to discuss how our expert team can bring your vision to life.

Expand Your Living Space Without Breaking the Bank

Looking for a cost-effective way to add living space to your Cape Cod home? If you have an attic or a basement, consider yourself halfway there.

If you’ve outgrown your home but feel stuck due to the tight Cape Cod real estate market, the solution may lie beneath your feet…or over your head. Converting an unfinished basement or attic to an additional living space can be a smart move for homeowners who are feeling cramped.

According to this article on House Logic, finishing a basement or attic gives homeowners a high level of satisfaction. It also yields a decent ROI—53 %—which is an important consideration if you may be selling your home within the next 10 years.

Nail Down What You Need

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Where should you start when it comes to adding living space? Rather than simply saying “We need more room,” take the time to really understand what kind of space your home lacks. A home office? Sleeping quarters for summer visitors? A place for your tween children or grandchildren to call their own? This decision is crucial.

An Attic Renovation

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Is an attic renovation the right choice for your home?

The Pros: With the Cape’s damp weather, it can be a challenge to keep a basement feeling fresh. If you have the space in your attic, we’d suggest starting there. The attic tends to be quieter than a cellar, also a concern, especially for a home office or extra bedroom. Adding a bathroom to an attic is much easier than in a basement, as well.

The Cons:  A steeply pitched roof, such as in the photo above, can limit usable floor space, which makes built-ins a great idea. Maximizing the space under the eaves makes the center of the room feel wide open. Beware: attics can be hot in the summer months. Insulation with a high R factor is a must, as is air conditioning.

Bunk rooms, considered a must-have by any Cape Cod kid, work beautifully in renovated attics. And if your attic lacks natural light, sunshine is only a skylight away.  

Making a Basement Feel Homey

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Maybe you’ve decided a renovated basement is the way to go.

The Pros: If you have a full basement, it probably has far more available space than your attic, none of which is impeded by a sloping ceiling. A basement tends to feel more “connected” to the rest of the home as well, an important consideration if the finished room will be used by young children, or for entertaining.

The Cons: As we mentioned, basements on the Cape are damp. Solve the problem with wall insulation and a dehumidifier. They’re also dark. Add a cozy feel with sufficient lighting: inset ceiling lights, wall sconces and table lamps. A concrete floor feels cold, so adding wall-to-wall carpeting with thick padding beneath is crucial.

Rather than fighting a basement’s lack of natural light, embrace it by creating a media room. A sleek space for entertaining friends is also a great idea, as is incorporating a fireplace.

Don’t Forget About Storage

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Finally, don’t let your need for more living space overshadow your storage requirements. Your holiday decorations and keepsakes will need a place to live when your renovation is complete. Whether you’re finishing an attic or a basement, remember to carve out enough storage space.

Please contact us to learn more about finishing your attic or basement, or to arrange a complimentary consultation.

On the Cape, a Guesthouse Can Transform Your Home

Considering adding a guesthouse to your Cape Cod home? We have good news for you. The Town of Barnstable recently eased regulations regarding ancillary dwellings, joining several towns on the Cape that have loosened restrictions or are considering doing so. Specifically, Barnstable has removed its year-round residency requirement for family accessory apartments, along with increasing the apartment size before a special zoning board permit is required.

With this increasing flexibility across the Cape, more homeowners are looking to build guesthouses. If you could use some extra space or income, consider how these additional dwellings can benefit your household.

First and foremost, a guesthouse provides much-needed elbow room and privacy for the summer guests that flock to your home each year. While we all love summer visitors, there is something to be said for enjoying a solo cup of coffee before an exciting day begins.

Guesthouses can also act as a space for your family should the need arise. Whether you have aging parents, students home from college, or older children in housing limbo, a guesthouse can provide peace of mind. If older parents may potentially move in, we can incorporate aging-in-place solutions, like a single-floor dwelling with a zero-threshold walk-in shower, to ease the transition. And if you expect children home from school to use the space, we may suggest building it farther from the main house for added privacy.

And let’s not forget the opportunity to generate income. Many Cape Cod homeowners use guesthouses as long-term rentals, or, more temporarily, as Airbnb listings during the tourist season.

If you’re trying to avoid paperwork headaches, note that regulatory issues tend to pop up when a guest dwelling includes a full kitchen, specifically defined as having a stove. Designing a kitchenette, with a fridge, sink, microwave, and cabinet space, is often the perfect workaround.

The team at C.J. Riley Builder, Inc. has designed several custom freestanding guesthouses, as well as creating guest suites in garages and carriage houses.

cape cod guesthouse

This suite above the garage provides ample privacy for guests without sacrificing yard space. A deck for sunbathing or evening cocktails makes for very happy visitors.

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This home’s carriage house offered the perfect opportunity for a roomy guest space, ideal for an in-law apartment or a place for boomerang children to crash.

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These homeowners opted for a spacious, freestanding guesthouse on their property. This two-floor dwelling with complete kitchen can easily accommodate even the most hectic of summer calendars.

With more than 20 years of experience, our expert team will carefully design the extra space you need to bring your Cape Cod home to the next level. We’re ready when you are.

Introducing Kitchen and Bath Designer Stephen Ryan

Say hello to our new collaborator, Stephen Ryan!

Stephen is a kitchen and bath designer with more than 15 years of experience. For more than ten years, he was a designer at Main Street at Botello’s in Mashpee. He also spent several years designing at Marine Home Center on Nantucket.

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While the team at C.J. Riley Builder, Inc. will expertly construct the bones of your new or updated kitchen or bath, electrical and plumbing work is typically subbed out to other contractors. Similarly, the look and feel of your kitchen or bath should be handled by a designer, who works with you to design your space and choose color schemes, tile, cabinetry and pulls, appliances, lighting… everything that will make the space uniquely yours.

While we’ve handled countless kitchen renovations in our nearly 25 years in business, they were typically done in tandem with a kitchen showroom. This new collaboration allows our clients to work with just one company throughout the process, eliminating the hassle that can come with two businesses working on one custom project.

“We’ve created a one-stop-shopping experience for our clients,” says C.J. of the collaboration. “There is no longer a need to work with an additional designer or home center.”

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Working with C.J. Riley means working with an expert team ready to make your custom building vision a reality. Whether you’re building a new home or just looking for a modern update on a more traditional space, we’re here to make it happen. And with Stephen collaborating on your kitchen or bath project, we can move seamlessly from the build to the design phase, allowing you to customize your space (and use it!) much sooner.

Ready to get started? Please contact us with any questions or to arrange a consultation.

Need More Space? Consider a Custom-Designed Addition

You’ve got a new baby on the way and not enough bedrooms. The kids are now in their teens and you could use a den for them to retreat with their friends. Maybe your elderly parents are moving in or you’ve decided to start a home-based business. Or perhaps you’re at the other end of the spectrum, retired and weary of traipsing up and down a flight of stairs and wish you had a first-floor master suite.

The bottom line is that you need more space, and moving in this tight and expensive Cape Cod real estate market is simply not a realistic option.

What to do? The answer could be a custom-designed addition that will suit your needs while increasing the value of your home.

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Additions can be attached to the back of the house, especially family rooms, while others, such as an extra bedroom, an in-law apartment or a home office, might be built over the garage or sprout from the side of the structure. A rear addition connects the home to the backyard, and allows you to utilize different materials. For example, rather than matching existing brick, you might choose less costly wood. That extra room built over the garage provides privacy, while a second-story addition to a ranch can double your living space.

It’s important to keep the addition in scale with the original structure so as to not overwhelm it, although you could also use it to make a statement.

Adding a den is extremely popular with growing families. It can also be a terrific investment. Even better, you can transform an under-utilized space, such as a basement or an attic, into a comfortable, cozy retreat for watching TV, listening to music, reading, playing games or just spending time together chatting. You could also build a new wing off the side of the house, over the garage or even detached from the main structure.

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There was a time when dens were small rooms, usually with built-in bookcases and paneled in wood. But times have changed. Today, dens are often expansive spaces, with hardwood floors, fireplaces, open-beam rafters and brightly painted walls.

In-law apartments have become increasingly popular in recent years as aging parents look to be closer to their children and grandchildren. A separate space, with a modest kitchen, sitting area, bedroom and bath, can also help ease a financial crunch. But it’s important, for everyone’s sanity, that there be a clear separation from the main living quarters.

The same be said when adding a home office. Working from home is a great perk, but you want to feel like you’re in a different space and not bumping up against everyone else living in the home, which can be intrusive to the entire family. Adding a home office that is functional and comfortable can make all the difference. Embrace natural light and avoid designing your home office into yet another cold, corporate cubicle. If you have enough room, add a “comfort zone,” with a comfy chair, a small fridge and a coffee maker for taking breaks.

Retirees aging in place are not uncommon on Cape Cod, so it’s hardly surprising that many people are electing to add first-floor master suites to their home. When planning this addition, consider privacy, storage, exits and entries, the view and the noise factor.

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If the addition will be built close to neighbors, you’ll want to think about the orientation of windows and the use of skylights to bring natural light into the space, along with what kind of closets, shelving and cabinets will best suit your needs. Don’t forget to take into account outside noise, which can be more of a factor on the first floor. Finally, will the addition be a “room with a view” overlooking gardens, a wooded area or the waterfront?

Clearly, the options are endless when deciding on a custom-built addition to your home. But whatever you choose, your dream of a bigger home can become a reality, and you’ll never have to think about renting a moving van.