What Homeowners Should Know About Vertical Additions

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If you find your family growing, or spending more time at home has you feeling like you live in a tiny home, craving a more spacious abode could be your current reality. The obvious choice is usually to sell in favour of a larger dwelling, but the simplest solutions aren’t always the best—or easiest. 

You may encounter roadblocks to buying a larger home like prohibitive pricing, or not wanting to move away from a beloved neighbourhood, close family or friends. Whatever your reasons, things could be looking up with a vertical home expansion, especially if expanding horizontally is not in your cards.

Not your average reno

Make no mistake, this is a massive and complex renovation that requires professionals from start to finish. Since you’ll literally be without a roof over your head for a time, you’ll need to arrange alternate accommodations. Whether it’s hiding out in your own bunkie, claiming an in-law suite or guest room with loved ones, or even a short-term rental, plan to be out of the house for a few months. You’ll likely also need to arrange for temporary storage for the contents of your home in order to keep everything safe from damage.

Cost, financing, and resale value

Understandably, adding an additional storey to your home carries a hefty price tag that can run well into the six figure range, depending on the size of your home. You should also account for things like unexpected roadblocks. For example, if your contractor opens a wall and finds something that’s no longer up to code, they are required to address the issue, which will be an additional cost to you. As the costs of labour and supplies continue to rise, it’s crucial you have a full-picture view as to how much the project will cost you, and how you’re going to pay for it.

There are a few different options when it comes to financing your renovation, from personal lines of credit to construction loans, but no matter which avenue you choose it’s important to make sure this is all secured before starting on the project. 

While it can seem overwhelming to get these finances in order, keep in mind this kind of home improvement can help increase the value of your property.

Zoning

A good start before looking for contractors is to check with your local zoning office and determine what, if any, zoning restrictions may be in place for your home. Some neighbourhoods limit additions and even restrict building an additional storey to dwellings.

Find a good contractor

Trust is key for this kind of project, so it’s best to take your time when searching for and choosing the right contractor. An experienced contractor will be well-versed in the building code and know exactly what options are available to you. It’s a good idea to get recommendations from your REALTOR®, family, or friends before turning to Google, and always check their work history, reviews, and ask for references. A trustworthy contractor will provide transparency throughout the process and will gladly provide references on request. 

Inspection and planning

Now that you’ve confirmed if the zoning allows for a vertical addition and you’ve selected a contractor, they’ll perform an inspection to confirm project viability. You could experience speedbumps if the structure of your home is unsuitable to bear the weight of a second storey, whether due to age, type of construction, distribution of structural supports, and foundation integrity. During this time, your contractor will also need to work with an architect or structural engineer to help make these determinations. 

Once your contractor is confident the project can move ahead with the existing structure or with minimal alterations or repairs, they’ll discuss your vision and detail how to partition the space based on your intended use. They’ll also discuss where to place the stairs leading to the new floor, as well as services like plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical. Depending on your current infrastructure, a power distribution or service upgrade may be in order.

Approvals and permits

Once the building plan is designed, your contractor will take the approved schematic to your local planning office and apply for a building permit. Permit approval will depend on the viability of the plans, but as long as all zoning bylaws and building code requirements are satisfied, this shouldn’t be a roadblock.

In the event you need to apply for a zoning variance, this could extend the timeline of your project since the application and permit must be visibly posted on-premises, and a public hearing held to allow any neighbours with concerns regarding the proposal to be heard and addressed.

Milestones

Throughout a complex project like this, several inspections and approvals must take place at key points. Once construction begins, a building inspector must approve the new structure,  framing, electrical, and plumbing. These will need to meet building codes before drywall and any finishing elements are applied. 

Project milestones can also be tied to the type of financing you’re using to fund the project. Construction loans are paid out based on how much of the project has been completed, as they want to ensure the money is actually being used for home renovations.

Finishing touches

Once all the milestones and inspections have been reached and passed, your contractor will install insulation, drywall, flooring, mouldings, and fixtures, then perform their cleanup. Now all that’s left is applying your favourite paint colours and deciding on furnishings and décor

By this point you’ll be eager to get back into your home and just bask in the spacious glory of your upgrade. 

While we’ve made it sound pretty quick and painless, remember this is a complex project that will take careful planning and the help of professionals to complete. Remember to take your time and be prepared for bumps along the journey. Above all else, be patient, this too shall pass and your home will be all the better for it—enjoy!


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