19 April 2022

Adding a Second Storey to a House? Here's Everything to Consider

Emma McLaren

Reorienting a property for the first time is often turbulent, especially when planning to (literally) blow the roof off with renovations.

Beginning stages usually leave homeowners with more questions than answers, or worse, disregarding this make-or-break research entirely.

So, where do we begin when adding a second storey to a house?

We've compiled seven starting points to get you cracking!

Consult a Draftsperson

Get your plans drawn up by a qualified architect examining what's possible in relation to your property. Sadly, not all refurbishment dreams are achievable, with many avid renovators forced to reconsider their goals and swap them out for Plan B's.

Remember, when it comes to second storeys, swanky designs require sacrifice. This means allocating precious downstairs space for stairwells and other elements.

Not every property type can accommodate this, as you'll need about a room's worth of free space to work with at a minimum.

Single storey floorplans will either facilitate or conflict with your upstairs ideas, so it's critical to bang out the blueprints first!

Asking the following may provide some clarified direction:

  • What are the height limits on my second-storey ceiling?

  • What length/type of staircase is required?

  • How do I incorporate natural light considerations into the top floor?

  • How can I make it feel more spacious?

How Structurally Adequate Is the Building?

The quality of your existing foundations plays a vital role in adding a second storey to a house.

Going vertical requires two primary questions to be satisfied:

  1. Are the foundations and roof structurally acceptable?

  2. Is a stairway serviceable?

Contact a licensed builder or architect and request an inspection to find out what your home's capable of accommodating.

While most properties and plans are highly adaptable, many owners simply try to over-customise or anticipate works that are too elaborate for the property's bones.

This is particularly common with ""package homes"", where structures will fail to handle the extra weight.

Compare Builders

Dial up a few building experts, ensuring you ask for references and browse reviews before selecting. Remember, you'll have the same builder from start to finish, so getting it right in the beginning matters.

It's one thing to compare and request quotes; however, you want to know their schedule for the next few months.

A homeowner's worst nightmare is ending up with half-completed construction works several weeks in due to a builder's delay-causing commitments, holidays, or other interruptive plans.

Make sure you can lock them into your project and ask around to confirm how punctual they've been in the past. Don't forget you might even need to vacate your home while it's all happening, but we'll get to the bottom of this in a couple of points' time.

Brush Up on Council Regulations

As much as we'd like to, commencing any old extensions just willy-nilly is a firm no-go.

Each city or locale and its councils have strict rules, regulations, and guidelines detailing essentially what you can or can't do regarding renovations in a specific area or zone.

Planning and building approvals might be needed from respective authorities, ensuring your proposals sit in accordance with neighbourhood and zoning regulations.

Plumbing approvals and siting variations are often required depending on the property's location and the nature of its boundaries.

Once you're happy with the architect's design, submit the plans to the council and await the feedback.

Where Will You Stay Following Roof Removal?

Once you've been greenlit on the design plans and works are underway, that roof's just about ready to come off. Adding a second storey to a house means you probably have to move out while construction's being carried out, although some still choose to stay where permitted.

Downstairs ceilings are often barely harmed; however, more interfering, dangerous, or just plain unpleasant construction activities drive families out temporarily.

How the Process Affects You

You'll want to know exactly when and how long the residence will be out of action to organise alternative accommodation.

Other services will be switched off at some point, too, like electricity or plumbing to specific areas of the house.

It's always best to assume you won't be able to remain in the home for about 3-5 months, which is how long adding a second storey to a house usually takes.

While you may not have to vacate until a month or so into the project, your regular amenities and routine are likely to be heavily disrupted over the entire duration, most of the time without much warning.

When You Can Move Back In

When adding a second storey to a house, the process generally looks like this:

  • Electricity, plumbing, and sewerage are connected.

  • New roof trusses are built and installed.

  • Fit-out - Storage, fixings, painting, and flooring are completed.

  • A final inspection is conducted.

While a council certifier will check in on each build stage, a final inspection and a big green tick are required upon completion before you occupy the home again.

A satisfactory inspection provides you with official certification; then, it's time to call up the removalists.

Remember, amends might be required following the first inspection, so always allow for extra time just in case.

3 Tips for a Successful Multi-storey Extension

  1. Expect the unexpected - Plumbing, electrical, and all sorts of other unaccounted-for works may be required mid-project with payments requested under short notice to keep things moving. Rarely will initial quotes be your final bill, so ensure you've allocated about 20% more for extra or unforeseen issues.

  2. Review your insurance policies - Existing home and contents policies will most likely not cover damage incurred while building upon a home's ground level. A quick call or email enquiry regarding policy extensions can save you both hefty bills and hassle should a major accident occur.

  3. Don't forget the facade! - Considering your home's new face is not just about the street appeal but also ensures it's reinforced properly to withstand the new modelling. Think about how these strengthening aspects will suit the home's existing elements and what you might want to change, including doors, windows, fences and paint.

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