Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Here's why you should be very, very careful in adding
a second story to your house. Ouch.
Travel down any residential street, and here and there you’re bound to find a few homes that scream, “Addition!” By most yardsticks, a good addition is one that’s invisible. Ergo, a detectable one is, by definition, pretty much a botched-up job. 

Ironically, if you design an addition well enough no one will ever notice it. While this may seem like a pretty sad reward for a job well done—particularly for the architect who's bent over backward to pull it off—it's still a lot better than the alternative.

How to produce an invisible addition? It’s not that difficult. Here are some guidelines to the fundamental decisions: 

• Don’t add on to the front of your house. Chances are its facade—quite literally, its "face"—was carefully composed by the original architect. Messing with it could end up turning the Mona Lisa into Mr. Potato Head. Take, for example, a very common addition commonly seen on L-shaped California Ranchers, in which a couple of extra bedrooms are expediently packed into the crook of the “L” beside the projecting garage.  The resulting U-shaped plan gives the facade a pug-nosed profile that projects too far toward the street and at the same time reduces the entry approach to a dark tunnel. In most cases, adding onto the front or side of the house is a better alternative.

Are you ready for this. . . . 
• Beware the old myth that adding a second story is the cheapest and easiest way to add space. It’s hogwash. On constricted sites where no reasonable alternatives exist, second-story additions can provide a fine solution. In most cases, though, it’s preferable to build at ground level.  Here’s why: 

Second-story additions often require reinforcement of the existing foundation, making them no less expensive and frequently even costlier than ground-level additions. They’re also inherently less space-efficient, since both levels lose appreciable floor area to the staircase.
But wait, tase.

or perhaps even this?
But wait, there’s more: It’s also much more difficult to integrate the towering bulk of a second-story addition into the design of the existing house, especially a quintessentially single-story design such as a Rancher or Bungalow. Last but not least, second-story additions are far more disruptive, since they involve the temporary loss of a rather crucial part of your house—the roof. 

If you weigh all these factors and are still convinced that a second-story addition fills the bill, push it as far back as you can to avoid a towering effect from the sidewalk.  

•  Take care to locate additions so they won’t cut off light to other parts of the house.  Consider where and at when the sun enters the existing windows (in every season, not just the one you happen to be in), and make sure the addition won’t throw crucial windows into permanent shadow. An extra bedroom or bath is no bargain if it makes other parts of the house unlivable.   

If you can’t avoid covering up an existing window, make sure it can be regained on another wall. Don’t figure on replacing windows with skylights—they won’t provide the same quality of light, and in some cases, building codes may not even allow it. And don’t resort to trading away south-facing windows for north-facing ones—you won’t get the sunlight or comfort level you had before.

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