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Adding a Second Story to Your Home

June 1, 2014   
If you find yourself  in need of additional space, you might want to consider adding a second story to your home. Sometimes it makes more sense to grow upward rather than outward. There are a number of considerations that should be part of your decision about whether to add a room to the side or the back of your house, or to add a second story to your home.

The benefits of adding a second story to your home:

One benefit of “growing upward” is that you don’t have to move to acquire additional space. If you like the location of your home (especially if your property has enhancing advantages), adding a second story is a very popular way to obtain the additional space without losing the neighborhood features you love. Enhancing advantages might include a view of water.  It might be the quality of the local schools, or proximity to community amenities.

Another benefit of adding a second story to your home is that it provides the opportunity to modernize your home, or to “lighten and brighten” by opening some spaces, adding windows, achieving higher ceilings, and the like. The addition of a second story on a bungalow can radically change the exterior appearance of the home.

Third; adding a second story provides unlimited opportunity to design the interior space of the second floor to meet your specific needs. For example, if you already have lots of windows in the house, you might want a darker space that can become a home theater. If you have a musician in the family, you might want to soundproof one of the rooms. If there is a photographer, you can design a space specifically for the needs of a darkroom. If you are adding bedrooms for your children, you might want to connect the bedrooms with a study. The possibilities are endless!

Fourth; adding a second story provides the chance to make some changes to the first floor at a relatively lower additional cost. Do you love spiral staircases? When the roof comes off, you can add one to provide access to the second floor. It will also add interest to the first floor.

You will probably find it more expensive to add a second story, than to add a room or two on the ground floor. Adding to the ground floor is far less complicated, and requires less modification to the existing structure. However, you probably will not be able to add as much space by adding a ground floor room. Furthermore, the size of your lot, and the local “setback” requirements may prohibit an the size of the addition you need.

Is this a do-it-yourself project?

The short answer is that if you are not an architect, a contractor, a builder, or a structural engineer, it is probably NOT something you want to do by yourself. Here are a few of the considerations:

– Do you know the local zoning, construction, land use, and elevation specifications?
– Do you know how to design a second story that will look like it is a natural part of the house, and fits in with your neighborhood?
– Are you competent to assess the ability of the footings, the exterior walls and interior supports, to handle the additional weight?
– Do you know how and where to position the stairs, providing access to the second floor?
– Is the foundation strong enough to carry the extra weight?
– Are you competent to do the plumbing work, and connect to the existing plumbing?
– Are you competent with installing electrical wiring and fixtures safely?

If you want to act as your own contractor and hire people to do the things you don’t know how to do, here are some questions to ask:

1.  Do you have the time to devote to micro-managing this project?
2.  Do you know how to keep each step of the process on schedule, so you’re not paying contractors to wait until they can do their job
3.  Do you know what kinds of permits and inspections are required by your municipality?
4.  Do you have the available time to  research the people you’ll need to hire for each type of work?

These are just some of the questions you will need to ask.  Your first step will be to check on the building and zoning codes within your area. Before contacting an architect or a contractor, you will want to know what you can or cannot do. From there the sky is the limit – perhaps literally!