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Friday, January 17, 2014

Adding Up | Second Story Additions

Though additions have always been a large portion of our remodeling portfolio, lately at Key Residential we've had a marked increase in client inquiries about second story additions. As opposed to adding on to the existing footprint of a single story home, more and more homeowners are opting to build upward as opposed to outward.


  • A small lot- Don't let the size of your lot discourage your home expansion dreams. In densely populated areas, often the only option for home expansion is to build up.
  • An amazing location- Whether it's proximity to work, schools, or family, or you just love your neighborhood, sometimes relocating is just not an option.
  • A killer backyard- If you're lucky enough to have snagged a sprawling lot in a coveted enclave, or have mature planting and unique landscape features, you don't want to ruin them by filling your backyard with a bunch of house.
  • Curb appeal envy- Many of us love the charm of older single story homes, but can still get a little green at the sight of the striking two story down the way. When done right, the addition of a second story will enhance your home's architectural appeal. 
Architectural Drawings by Tuggle Design - Aubrey Tuggle


  • The Attic Finish Out- Expanding the livable area by adding walls/floors/doors to a previously unfinished attic space within the existing roof-line
  • The FROG- No, not the ribbit kind, but a finished room over the garage or other existing single story portion of your home
  • The Full Story- Basically pulling off the roof and building the equivalent of another house on top of the one you already have, effectively doubling your square footage within the same overall footprint


Structural Loads

Can your existing framing and foundation support the additional weight? Though you generally won't  have to add to the existing slab when building up, you need to make sure the foundation you have is rated to support the additional weight you're planning to add. Your contractor will need to work in conjunction with an architect and engineer to determine what reinforcements and upgrades will be necessary. While nothing is ever "impossible", some older structures are simply unable to support the added weight of a second story as-is and will require multiple upgrades, which can become quite costly.

To learn more about the basics of structural loads, check out this Houzz ideaboook.

Flow Between Levels

Regardless of the type you add- switchback, straight run, or even spiral- any staircase will take up valuable floor space and you will need to consider the flow within each and between levels. Stair placement is also critical, especially when working with the existing roof-line as with an attic conversion. You need to place the staircase centrally located (to ensure you can stand up once you get up there), which may eat into the vast amount of space you were expecting to gain. 

Mechanical Systems

An additional task, and cost, that can be easily overlooked is the relocation of your mechanical systems, which may currently be located smack dab in the middle of your proposed upper level game room. Also systems designed for a single story home will need upgrading to keep up with the demand of the added square footage. 

Aesthetic Consistency

When making any additions to an existing structure, always beware of the FRANKENHOUSE (oooooh). This monster is born when the additions do not respond to the existing structure's architecture, resulting in a patchwork of mismatched bits and pieces. When adding up, you will likely have to integrate changing roof-lines and coordinate updated exterior finishes. Aside from the overall design consistency, your HOA may also have specific restrictions about the materials allowed, as well as local building code overall height restrictions that could impact your dream design.

Disruption & Chaos

And finally, consider the amount of disruption that will occur to your home and your day to day life during renovation. While any remodel project will throw your home into a certain degree of tumult, adding a second story is much greater than when expanding a first floor. You may need to factor in cost of temporary living (ie: hotel or staying with family) as your house will be (tastefully) topless for a period of time.

If you have questions or are considering a second story addition of your own, contact us today to discuss, and remember the SKY (or your local building code height maximum) is the limit!

Check out this Better Homes & Gardens blog with other suggestions of what to consider with a Second-Level Home Addition.