What to know when adding a second storey to a home

Written by view.com.au in Renovating

The second storey of a home

If done effectively, and without any unforeseeable disasters (such as the discovery of an ancient Elephant burial site in the attic of your Californian Bungalow), adding a second storey to your home can be one of the best ways to dramatically increase equity in your existing home, while providing you with an entirely new way of interacting with and enjoying your home.

Perhaps you bought a nice suburban 3 bedroom home fifteen years ago and have spent these years paying off the mortgage on it. Beyond the obvious capital gains you have probably already made (good for you! No, really), you may be considering the addition of extra bedrooms up top as a means to attract a greater price at auction or just to enjoy a view that has been cruelly denied to you due to your neighbour’s longtime love affair with the admittedly beautiful but famously tall Grey Gum tree.

Then what are your initial steps for adding a second storey to your home?

  1. Weigh up your options.

First of all, it takes on average between 12-20 weeks to add a second storey. Are you ready for that?

There are alternatives to adding a second storey to your home, and they are probably better. It is an unavoidably expensive way to renovate, even if the investment is matched by the increase in equity, and often involves homeowners having to vacate the property at certain stages (such as when there is no roof).

Your best alternative is to build out. It involves fewer considerations and risks, if you have the space. You may also want to consider selling the home and either building a two-storey home from scratch or buying a two-storey home, if this works out as a financially smarter option.

Is adding a second storey to your home even feasible? It may not always be possible, or at least financially prudent, to add a second storey to some homes, be they old or modern. This is where the next step comes in play…

2. Seek professional help

That could be taken as, ‘Go see a shrink’, but before you do that perhaps get a building surveyor in to gauge whether your building will take the extra load of a second storey. They will be able to give you a better idea of some of the hidden costs (i.e. the extent of rewiring/plumbing the home, expected time the home will be without a roof, ability to recycle materials etc.). Once you have done this, and are miraculously still interested in adding a second storey, now you have to…

3. Have your plans sketched on oversize paper

An architect or a draftsperson (not sure which you need?) is integral to adding value to your extension and making sure the costs of the project create income in the future. A professional with experience in both your style of home as well as with extensions to existing structures will be able to not only help guide you through the hoops and over the hurdles of planning applications, building regulations and zoning restrictions, but they will also be able to inject innovative solutions to the designs. This helps to save space and enhance the way you experience your new home.

For instance, not many account for the fact that you almost require an entire room to accommodate a staircase in your new home. An architect may be able to find solutions that minimise the impact of this requirement.

4. Know your contract

Once you have interviewed a number of builders and done more research on them than you would on buying a new phone (i.e. making sure they are registered with the Victorian Building Authority), it’s time to make sure the contract is right for you.

Different states have different regulations about what particular bureaucratic steps you need to take, but in Victoria you are required by law to have a ‘major domestic building contract’ for any major domestic works that exceed $10,000 in scale, which applies for almost any extension.

There are also a few other i’s to dot and t’s to cross with the contract you sign with your builder:

  • What are your rights and what are the processes for changes made to the plans during construction? Is there a clause that allows for changes?
  • What is the payment process? Is it monthly or do you pay for particular milestones achieved in the project?
  • What does the price include: planning permits, mandatory council inspections, lodgement fees, government levy fees?
  • Is the price fixed? Be wary of cost-price methods in construction. They are rare now, but may occur when a builder wants to charge hourly. On such a large project, this is  not common. A builder should work from your plans to estimate the costs of the project, accommodating for possible complications or even wage increases.