When it comes to updating your home, bigger could very well be better.

Building an addition — whether another storey, a back room or a patio — is a great way to maximize your space and perk up your investment.

But be mindful of some important issues before embarking on such a major project, says Jamie Shipley of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

One of the first things you should do is check with your local building authority to make sure the addition will meet zoning requirements. For example, “there could be some setback requirements you aren’t aware of,” Shipley says.

Secondly, beware of unexpected extra costs. “Maybe your heating system isn’t big enough to accommodate the extra square footage you’re adding — same with your electrical system,” says Shipley.

“So what people should really do is an assessment of their existing home and what kind of systems they have. They may find that they have to do some additional work ... to bring the entire property up to code.”

And because you will likely be renegotiating your mortgage, this may be the time to replace those old windows or update the plumbing as well, says Shipley.

“Whenever you’re putting an addition to your house, that’s also a good time to take a look at some of the other things in your home that you may want to do at the same time.”

Hiring a legitimate contractor is paramount when taking on a renovation like this, says Michael Martin, chair of the Ontario Renovators’ Council and president of MJM Luxury Renovations.

He suggests going online to check out the RenoMark program, which is endorsed by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and stipulates, among other things, that your renovator carry a minimum two-year warranty.

“There’s a 10-step code of ethics of what the contractor has to follow, and it’s ensuring you a little peace of mind,” he says.

Building an addition qualifies for the new Home Renovation Tax Credit, and you can get up to $1,350 in tax relief.

But that’s not the only way to save money. You may be eligible for grants of up to $5,000 under the federal government’s ecoEnergy Retrofit program if you make your home more energy-efficient.

For example, if you need to install a new furnace to accommodate your addition, you may want to consider switching to an energy-efficient geothermal system, says Herb Lagois of Lagois Drafting and Construction.

“It may cost more upfront, but the long-term (effects) — both energy-saving-wise and in direct cost savings to the consumer — are important,” he says.