Improving Your Home: Remodeling plans that are adding up

by lcmremodel

With the spring and summer building season right around the corner, many of you are probably starting to contemplate remodeling plans. For those with a growing family or others who are finding themselves challenged by a small house, those plans might include creating some additional living space.

One option is building up, either by creating new space or expanding into an existing attic. Expanding up can be a great way to maximize the usefulness of a small lot, provide additional privacy, or take advantage of a great view.

If adding up is something you’re considering, there are a number of issues to explore before the first nail is ever driven. As with all construction projects of this magnitude, it’s important to get your homework done early.

Legal considerations

First, you need to determine if a second-floor addition — or even an alteration of an existing roof line — is allowed in your neighborhood. You also want to determine if the addition can be used for the purpose you have in mind.

Many cities and counties have ordinances that restrict residences to specific heights, so first you’ll want to check on that with your local planning department. And what exactly is “building height?” It’s usually the distance from the average ground level of the property to the height of the tallest ridge, but there are exceptions, so be sure and ask exactly how “height” is defined and calculated before you make any incorrect assumptions.

You also want to check on intended usage. If you’re hoping to use the addition for an income-generating rental space, that may not be allowed. There may also be restrictions on using it for commercial or home occupation purposes.

If you live in an area that has CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) these are specific legal rules concerning what can and can’t be done with a piece of property. They can cover a wide variety of things that you may not even be aware of, from height limitations that are more restrictive than elsewhere in your community, to specific roofing material choices and exterior color palette limitations. Be sure and read over your CC&Rs carefully, or discuss your plans with your local homeowner’s association.