Need More Space–Consider Building Up

Adding space to your home at the second or even third story can capture views, maximize square footage on a small lot and let you locate all the bedrooms on a single level. However, there are many things to consider when thinking about adding a level to your home.

Whole-house impact. A good design will make the second story look like it was always there and add to the curb appeal and your home’s functionality.

Structural requirements. A second story with occupied rooms will weigh much more than your old roof system, so engineers will need to calculate how much weight the main-floor walls and foundation will carry and how to hold that weight up.

Stairs. A new staircase usually means taking a bite out of your existing main-floor rooms, which can impact the use of those rooms and the traffic flow. Sometimes it’s a simple solution like over existing stairs going to the basement. But sometimes a little creative thinking is required.

Mechanical. Your furnace, water heater and electrical panel all work based on your home’s square footage and the number of fixtures you have. When you increase the size of your home, you have to revisit all of these systems.

Chimneys. When you add a story to your home and have a masonry chimney, you need to eliminate the chimney or build it up (with brick or a metal flue) to above the roof level. This can be a simple decision, particularly if you never use your fireplace or want to convert to a natural gas fireplace.

Windows, doors and siding. Should you match them? Start over? Do half and half? If structural work at the main level requires removing half of the siding, you may wonder whether or not the whole house should have new siding. If main-floor windows and doors are tired, rotting, don’t meet energy code or are simply out of style, should they all be replaced? Making these decisions early in the process is key.

Insulation. When engineering requires old siding and sheathing to be removed from your home’s exterior, it also presents the chance to install new insulation. Homes built in the 1950s or earlier tend to not have insulation in their walls.

Finishes. Often the finishes of your existing home — door style, trim sizing, Sheetrock finish, flooring — can dictate the finishes in your addition. But adding a new story allows you to revisit every finish. If you have textured walls, for instance, you may decide to go with smooth walls in the whole house or just in the addition.