If you live in a ranch-style house or other single-story structure, you may have considered a second floor addition, which is often incorrectly called a two-story addition. However, in order to gain a second floor to your house, first there are some things you must consider before getting started.

1) Will local zoning ordinances and building code requirements allow you to add a second story?

This is, of course, the most important thing to do first. If the local ordinances and code requirements will not let you, then you can’t go any further. Also, if you’re part of a neighborhood homeowners association, you want to check if they will allow you to add a second story. Some neighborhoods will, but there are those that do not.

2) Is the home’s foundation strong enough to handle the extra weight? How about the exterior walls and interior supports?

With adding a second floor, the foundation may need to be strengthened and extra support added into the walls. This could well require gutting the entire house in order to add the necessary support. You’ll have to decide whether that added expense (and inconvenience) is worth doing.

3) What permits and inspections will be necessary?

You want to make sure that you have all necessary permits pulled and inspections in order before you get started; otherwise, you could run into costly project delays.

4) Will new water and sewer lines or electrical circuits be needed to handle the extra load?

Adding extra utilities can be pricey and you need to make sure that your neighborhood is good with this, as well. This is part of why permits and inspections are so important.

5) Are there any restrictions on the design of the addition and the materials you will be able to use?

Even if they allow for the addition of a second story, local building ordinances and code requirements can also affect exactly what you can do with said addition. Your friendly neighborhood design/build firm should be well aware of these restrictions, if any, and will help you make the correct decisions to get an addition that you will be happy with.

6) Will the second story addition appear as if it was always part of the house and will it still let the home fit into the neighborhood?

A good design/build firm should be able to do this part for you with relative accuracy. Local ordinances could even affect this part, as well, especially if you’re in a historical neighborhood. Some neighborhoods won’t care so much if the home stands out, but others will. Most of the time you’re better off having the home look like it belongs, however, and it’s important to have an architect and/or design team that understand this.

7) Where will stairways be built in order to access the new second story that also looks like it always belonged on the first floor?

Again, a good design/build firm will make the stairway to the second floor look like it always belonged. While not as important as other considerations already listed, you do want it to look as natural as possible.

After taking these seven items into consideration, you should calculate the cost of what these items will cost, in addition to the estimate for the project. You may want to consider if simply adding a room or two to your existing first floor would be more cost-effective. However, your lot may not be big enough to add more floor space to your ground floor.

Another possibility in adding a second story addition is to add a second floor over only part of your home. This can allow for the added benefit of space, and properly designed it will give you a more attractive home at a fraction of the price. It also makes the structural considerations less daunting.

Hopefully, these considerations will help you decide whether it is worth adding a second story to your home. If you decide to do so, we’ll soon cover some of the benefits that adding a second story to a single-story home can offer you.