Micro Management

Adding a Second Story to your Home

Dan Fritschen asked:

If you find yourself and your family 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 or a view of mountains; it might be the quality of the local schools or proximity to community amenities; it might be some family history that attaches to the house; or it might just be in the “in” area.

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 ranch home 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 and relatively lower additional cost. Do you love spiral staircases? When the roof comes off, you can use one to provide access to the second floor. It will also add interest to the first floor.

Some popular features

The potential for adding the features you want or need in this new space are endless. Here is a list of some of the features that are very popular today.

• A home theater room – Build in your HD Wide Screen television, add the kind of comfortable seating your family likes, add a small kitchenette for cold drinks and popcorn, and mount your Surroundsound speakers.

• A hobby or craft room – If you pursue a hobby or you are a crafter, even a seamstress, you might want a space where you can leave your work out and close the door to hide your mid-project mess.

• A play room for the kids – You can even build in cabinets and shelves for toys, games, etc.

• Extra bedrooms – One of the most common reasons for adding a second floor is to have more bedroom space and an additional bathroom.

• A teen suite or an in-law suite – There comes a time when teens want their own space. Your new second story is the perfect place to create a special suite of rooms (sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom) just for them. You can also create a spacious and comfortable in-law suite. Adding a small kitchen would create an entire apartment for parents or in-laws.

What about the cost?

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. Further, the size of your lot and the local “setback” requirements may prohibit an addition of the size 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 to try to do yourself. Here are a few of the considerations:

• Do you know the local zoning, construction, and 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 the neighborhood?

• Are you competent to assess the ability of the footings, the exterior walls and the interior supports to handle the additional weight?

• Do you know how and where to position the stairs that will provide access to the second floor? Do you know how to do this in a way that enhances the first 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 to install electrical wiring and fixtures safely? And do you know whether you need a new main line and breaker box?

• 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 are not paying people to stand around waiting to be able to do their part of the job?

3. Do you know what kinds of permits and inspections are required by your municipality?

4. Do you have the available time to spend investigating the people you will need to hire to each type of work?

These are just some of the questions you will need to ask. The first step in the decision, however, will be to check on the building and zoning codes for your area. Before you talk to 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!

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