Adding a Second Story

Does adding a second story make sense? It really depends on a wide variety of intersecting factors–not all of them immediately obvious–and all of which need to be considered.
As an architect, I usually encounter this question when remodeling a house on a smaller lot. The owners need additional square footage, and do not want to use up the back yard.

This normally leads to four options:
  • add a second story;
  • make a smaller, one-story addition (usually at the rear);
  • demolish the existing house and build a new one;
  • sell the property and buy a bigger house.


addition
Second story addition, Brentwood, CA


If the existing house is relatively spacious and in good condition, adding a second story can be less expensive than building an entirely new house. This option allows the owners to enjoy more square footage, keep their back yard, add value to the property and remain in the neighborhood. But if the existing house is small and in poor condition, it’s often better to demolish it and build a brand new house because of the investment needed to fix up the existing structure. There are potential disadvantages to this option, which I’ll discuss in another post.

Important factors to consider can include the age of the house and size of the lot, the value of nearby dwellings, the owners’ long-term plans, the resale value of the finished remodel, and other issues as well.

It is also important to understand, early in the process, what the building and zoning codes allow. I’ll discuss these items in other posts, but the important thing to consider right away, is that the decision on whether to add a second story really depends on a wide variety of intersecting factors–not all of them immediately obvious–and all of which need to be considered and weighted.