4 must take steps before adding a second storyAdding a second story to your home offers many benefits, including increasing your property’s overall value and, in many cases, allowing you to remain in a neighborhood you’ve grown to love while accommodating a growing family or home-based business.

To make the transition from single-story to two-story house painless, follow these four must-take steps before beginning construction.

Check Local Zoning Ordinances

Your first move will be to visit city hall, or, if you live in an unincorporated area, the county courthouse and find out if you are permitted to add a second story under local zoning ordinances. While you’re there, find out if there are height restrictions, including for ridge¬†lines, in your community as well as whether or not there are any subdivision restrictions in place that would prohibit second-story additions.

Develop a Project Budget

For the most part, it is cheaper to add square footage to an existing home than buying a new home. However, second-story addition projects often come with hidden costs unless you take measures to avoid them.

Before visiting your mortgage company or bank to obtain financing, determine ahead of time how much you can afford to spend on the project. This helps to prevent any alarming surprises as construction moves along. Insist on a fixed-cost remodeling contract with your builder. Ask for a detailed statement of the scope of work, a firm price that you both agree to and a change-order policy.

Such contracts eliminate allowances for unplanned expenses such as encountering dry-rot during the demolition phase by placing the responsibility for anticipating such a possibility on the contractor who, if he or she sees such an occurrence as likely, should include them in the contract. A fixed-cost contract also allows you to avoid paying more for building materials, the cost of which often fluctuate.

Choose Between a Lifted Roof or New Roof

The simple way to add a second story is to have a contractor use a crane to lift the existing roof and then reinstall it on the newly added second story. It is more complicated and costly to tear off the existing roof and build a new one on the upper level.

In some cases it is possible to expand an upper level over a one-story section, such as a garage or porch with a flat roof. Many people attempt to avoid simply expanding vertically by doubling the height of a basic rectangular building, which can look looming and plain by adding overhangs, roof pitches and trim.

Hire Qualified Professionals

Hire a structural engineer to determine whether your foundation and first-story walls will support the added weight of a second story.

Don’t neglect to consult an architect when adding a second story to your home. While you may not require an architect’s full suite of services for a relatively simple vertical addition, it is best to pay for professional input on how to blend the addition with the general feel and look of the rest of the structure.

Some remodeling companies include architects on staff. If the one you choose doesn’t, be sure to consult an architect independently and then incorporate his or her suggestions into the building plans.

Hire a contractor who is familiar with local building codes and who has built a second story before. Screen potential hires by interviewing them and asking what challenges they have faced in such projects and how they overcame them.

Once you have hired the appropriate professionals, cleared the project with local building officials, decided on a method of expanding vertically and solidified your budget and building contract, you can rest easy and enjoy looking forward to significantly more space in your home.

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