R e s i d e n t i a l   a n d  C o m m e r c i a l   A r c h i t e c t u r e
Second Story Addition

One of the most dramatic changes an owner can request comes in the form of a second story addition.  No other upgrade, besides a complete tear down, can provide the total transformation of an existing home.  A few examples of the finished products on my 'Projects' page offer a glimpse of the possibilities.  This type of  addition can provide needed space while preserving the lot's square foot area and keeping the backyard open for the kids and vegetable gardens.   New views can open up, dramatically increasing the home's value.  A second floor can offer privacy that a ground floor addition cannot. 

One must be fully aware, however,  that getting to the finished product is an involved and typically expensive proposition.  

Most of our older, urban homes were built under a different set of realities.  A single story home was never designed to hold a second floor.  Building codes were more forgiving than today's and often didn't take into account  gravity loads, wind and seismic conditions  that are required by code today.  Simply put, the original structure will need comprehensive structural upgrades to prepare for the new loads the new addition will create.  

Let's see what's involved:  Without even discussing the actual design and spatial program (the fun stuff) , structural upgrading to the existing structure will need to be provided.   Starting at the foundation, the new second floor will create new loads that will need to be addressed.  The existing footings will need to be augmented, either from the interior side or exterior, depending on access.  The foundation, provided it's in good shape,  will need to be seismically strapped to the upper floors.  If it is in bad shape, new walls may need to be poured.  As we work our way up the buildings structure, new shear sheathing will need to be added to the exterior walls, meaning the siding may have to come off.   A new second story floor deck comes next and then the new roof structure.  Given the extent of disruption, it is doubtful if the owner can occupy the home once construction starts.  To add insult to injury, most of these improvements will never even been seen. 

If you haven't figured it out yet, a second story addition can be very involved.  But, do the benefits outweigh the risks?  Budget constraints, existing building condition, site constraints and home location will ultimately be the deciding factors.   Not all homes are candidates for a second story addition, but in those cases where the stars align,  there is simply no better solution for adding quality space that will add tremendously to a home's value. 

My office is located in the Ravenna Neighborhood of
Seattle where I specialize in Single Family Residential, Multi-Family, and Neighborhood Commercial Architecture.

I strongly believe that great projects are the result of a
collaborative effort between the architect, the owner and
the contractor.

Jim Rymsza, architect

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