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March 23, 2018


2nd floor pic

Adding a second story to a one-story home is a bigger challenge than most people realize. A second story home addition is a great idea for any family who needs additional living space, and has the capital and time available to invest in a large-scale home renovation project. Second story additions are also technically complex projects, so it’s a good idea to have an idea about the process and typical costs  before starting. Consider the following 10 steps so that your addition can be successful and run smoothly:

1.       The first step is to hire an experienced architect to find out everything there is to know about adding a second floor to your. Regardless of what your dream entails, all major remodeling projects can benefit from the expert design help of an experienced, licensed architect. Go into the meeting with some designs, floor plans, sketches, and talking points. Be certain about what you want. This will help you prepare for an in-depth discussion about home addition possibilities with your architect.  

2.       Second stories add significant weight to the original structure and foundation of your home and perhaps it was not designed to support the additional loads.  A structural engineer must come and inspect your foundation. Your architect can arrange for the inspection through his engineering consultant. This is a very important step in the process to ensure the existing foundation is built properly and can support the weight of a new second floor. The structural engineer will be able to inspect the foundation/slab to determine its levelness and ability to carry additional loads without failing. If the foundation is not adequately designed to support the additional loads then the architect and engineer must design reinforcements to carry the added weight. 

3.       Once the determination is made to either reinforce the foundation or it is found to be properly designed to support the new second floor then your architect can proceed to prepare a needs, cost, and design options assessment before starting any detailed plans. An architect will evaluate needs, desires, and will help establish a budget with reasonable contingencies to cover for unforeseen conditions and expected delays. He will create a design that’s sensitive to the architectural style of your existing home and scaled to the proper proportions. 

4.       Make sure your project meets building code and zoning requirements. It’s the architect’s job to design the project to satisfy building codes and meet specific structural demands. And striking that balance between aesthetic beauty and structural safety is no easy feat. Why? Because it requires a vast knowledge of various building materials and construction techniques. Hiring a pro makes sure your renovation plays by the rules and avoid as much possible hiring unlicensed low-cost service providers who are just after a few quick bucks. An architect plays and vital role, will add value to your project, and are experts at seeing not only the big picture, but also managing the hundreds of tiny steps between concept and completion. 

5.       Once the project’s  requirements and parameters defined your architect can prepare detailed plans with the engineer’s input along the way.  The engineering involves analysis of your slab and need for strategically placed underground piers inside and around the perimeter to assist in carrying the additional loads.   A similar analysis has to be done if your home is built on a “pier and sill beam” foundation up off the ground.  Critical structural details like beam sizes should all be spelled out in the plans before you get any estimates.  The City and an experienced remodeling contractor will both need this information in order to process a building permit. 

6.       There is more demolition (of roof systems for example), there is a lot more interruption and re-working of the plumbing, electrical systems, and A/C equipment in your attic and walls; the addition of stairs in the house always requires significant changes in the downstairs space, a factor often overlooked in the beginning stages. 

7.       Find a reputable contractor. You need a contractor with strong experience knocking out structural walls and tying into existing mechanical systems.   The most experienced contractors have certifications in remodeling and construction.  Instead of wasting time parading several contractors through the house, use your time wisely to ask the right questions over the phone first , to narrow it down to 1 or 2 companies to come do site visits.  Then your architect will assist you in selecting the one you think is the best fit for you by evaluating bids  and will help you negotiate the project from there.  A skilled remodeler can even help you cut some cost out of the project if need be. 

8.       Getting A Building Permit can be a frustrating process for your second-story addition. Always remember that second story home additions need to be cleared with your municipality. The building department will often need a certification as part of the building permit process to determine if the structure and slab is adequately designed to support a second floor. Zoning requirements may have height and floor area ratio (FAR) limitations that your architect can help you interpret through a needs and options assessment. 

9.       Hire an architect to oversee construction and to administer the contract for construction. Your architect will make sure that the work is being done in accordance with the plans approved by the City. Working to protect your interests, the architect will act as your eyes and ears in the field and will immediately report any deviations from the plans to you unless the contractor has received prior approval from the homeowner in writing regarding any changes in the scope of work and approved design. If a problem should arise–which often happens–the plans will act as a record of what should have been done, and the architect will find a solution without compromising the design, your needs, or your wallet. 

10.   Clean the house and temporarily move out. Those who undertake a second story addition will probably have to move out for a period of time while the contractor works on the home.  You must plan ahead for to find a comfortable place to lodge, either with an accommodating family member or friend while construction is taking place. When the builder is ready to start construction of the remodeling project for your second story addition, he is literally going to raise the roof. That means the attic needs to be cleaned out since it will be fully exposed to the elements, debris, etc. You have to remove everything above the first floor and protect your furniture below. Plan ahead and allow yourself enough time to sort through those items that need to be disposed of and need protection. It might be useful to rent a storage unit, such as a Pod, during the construction to store fine furniture and delicate items. 

These are the real facts about second story addition work.  It is always good to go into these adventures with your eyes open, armed with realistic information, and an architect at your side. Adding a second story to your house is a major remodel. Take the time to plan carefully, ask questions, and prepare your home and your family for this big step.

Questions you should raise with your architect include: 

Can you extend outwards to gain some more space without encroaching the zoning setback lines?

How high can my second story ceiling go without violation the height limitations?

How deep  and how wide do my stairs need to be?

How can I maximize natural light flow?

Can I plan according to the views?

What can I do to make my new upstairs level feel bigger?

Is the design structurally sound, particularly the foundations and walls?

Can a stairway be practically added?

 When you add a second floor to your home, you will likely want to make changes on the main floor. You probably have one or more bedrooms that will move upstairs, so what do you want to do with those rooms once they are vacated? Do you want to create a larger space by knocking down walls? Could you use more room in the kitchen? And how will the addition of a staircase to the second floor impact the current layout? A second story addition does more than create more space. It demands that you put more thought into the rest of the house, so discuss the possibilities with your Architect. 

12193878_1036367243061134_2220994683676835463_nIn 1994, Roland & Jeannette Arriaga, a husband and wife architectural team, established Archi-Dinamica Architects, LLC. The firm specializes in custom residences, historic building additions & renovations, mixed-use projects, and construction management.

We believe that good design is thorough down to the last detail and makes a difference. Our practice focuses on essential aspects and ordering principles to improve and add intellectual and material value, thus, increasing comfort, satisfaction, and fulfillment of its user.

“Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user”

-Dieter Rams       



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