When looking to increase the size or the amount of livable space in a home, there are a few possibilities. Firstly, a home can be built outward, and sections can be added onto the main floor plan. Second, a basement can be converted into a living space. Finally, a storey can be added onto the existing home. These latter two options keep the same dimensions while adding more floorspace, like in condos or high-rise apartments. When performing additions on a home, it is important to consider the impacts of these options in terms of cost and feasibility.
Building outward is commonly the easiest method because the existing structure wont need to be completely altered to accommodate extra weight (such as from a storey addition) or extra depth (such as from a basement conversion.) Because of this, the cost of outward additions is usually less than the other options because it saves the costs associated with alterations to the existing structure on the main floor, the exterior or the foundation.
Converting a basement can also be a viable option for adding usable space, however, specific building code requirements must be met. Often, basement ceilings are low, and a lowering of the floor (see Residential Underpinning/Lowering of Basement) is required. Adequate windows and ventilations will also need to be checked to ensure adherence with standard building codes.
Finally, if a storey addition seems to be the best option, there are several structural requirements that must be considered. The weight of an additional floor will be much more than that of the existing roof, and the main-floor walls or supports, along with the home's basement foundation, must be altered to accommodate. A structural engineer will be required to calculate exactly how much these existing structures will carry in terms of load, and will design accordingly. This is key when working on older homes, or homes that are built in places known for geological activity such as earthquakes.
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