Adding Space and Value to Your Home: Expanding Up, Out and Down

Now that the real estate market has cooled down, a lot of people are opting to expand their homes as opposed to buy a new one. This is actually a very cost effective way to get more square footage because it is about half as expensive to add on square footage to your existing home then it is to buy added square footage with a new home purchase. If you are interested in adding value to your home without draining your bank account, you need to first figure out what the best direction to expand is for your home, up, out or down.

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Expanding Your Home Out

The cheapest way to expand your home is to add on to the house at ground level. This method is the most cost effective because you don’t have to worry about compromising the foundation and structure of your home, it is easy to get equipment positioned to do the work and the construction is straight forward. You also have the option of using pre-manufactured panels, which can save you 25 percent or more over site built structures.

The drawbacks to this option are based mainly on zoning and space limitations. Zoning is going to impact how close to your property line you can build and what materials you will be allowed to use when constructing your addition. You will also need to learn where your power lines, gas lines and other utilities are buried on your property to avoid accidents. Finally, the size of your lot is going to limit how big the addition can be, what shape it can be and where it can be located.

Expanding Your Home Up

If you have a small lot and expanding out is not an option then consider expanding your home upward. If you have a solid attic that already has the proper joist system in place, then you can finish this space into an extra room with very little effort and money. However, most older homes are not going to have the proper joist systems in place to even accommodate a storage room in the attic.

Before you consider expanding your home upward, whether it is to add a room in an existing attic or adding a complete second story you need to have a contractor examine your home’s structure. They will need to evaluate the strength of your foundation, the strength of the exterior walls and the overall construction of your home. If your home is not structurally sound, or if it is not strong enough to support a second story, then your expansion project can quickly become an expensive endeavor that will make it more cost effective to simply buy a bigger home. Zoning restrictions may also limit your ability to expand your home up. Some areas prohibit adding a second story to a home, so check with your local authorities before you start planning a second story addition.

Expanding Your Home Down

One expansion option that many people don’t consider is adding on a basement under an existing home. This option generally isn’t taken because it can be risky, expensive and it is very labor intensive. If you live in a seismically active location then this option is not recommended. However, if you have a home that has a half basement, or if you plan on replacing or repairing your foundation on an older home, then adding on a basement can be a viable option. You’ll also want to take them time to set it up to be easily accessible. One way to do this is to add steps to the entrance.

The drawbacks of this expansion option are based on the cost and difficulty of this expansion project. In order to complete this project you will need floor leveling jacks, a way to access the area under your home and a lot of people with strong backs to help you. This can be a DIY project, however, it will take you a lot of time to complete it.