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Add Space in Your House


Ask any homeowner what their number one remodeling desire is, and you may get responses like, "Renovate kitchen" or "fix bathroom." But "add space" is always up there at the top, too.

Few people want less space. Even if you don't particularly need more space for yourself, greater space always means higher resale values for your house. So, let's review the most popular ways of adding new space within the home, and of creating the illusion of more space:

1. Build Addition Outward

Building an addition is the only true way to "create space." Nearly every other way of creating space involves redistributing existing space.

Pros: You create an entirely new space, unhindered by existing structures. Usually, you do not need to vacate the house during construction.

Cons: Enormously expensive and never a do-it-yourself project.

2. Build Upward (Second or Third Story)

Most homes will accept a second or third story, but it's not as easy as lopping off the roof and sticking another floor on top. Additional shoring-up is needed.

Pros: A better way of gaining space than even building outward. The sky is the limit, as they say.

Cons: Like building outward, very expensive and never a do-it-yourself project. Almost always involves vacating the house for some period of time.

3. Attic Conversion

Attics are pre-built for some degree of foot traffic. So, unlike the "build upward" option, you do not have to build in a lot of structural elements. Also, because attics are near to the habitable floor below them, utilities (electrical, plumbing, waste, etc.) can be tapped into. That's the good news. The bad news is that attics are often oddly configured, with low-hanging ceilings and angled dormers. An attic conversion is not the "shoo in" it seems at first. Though designed for storage and some foot traffic, attics are not meant for constant use. So, you will still need to strengthen the joists (by sistering or other methods) and lay down sub-floor.

4. Converting the Basement

The basement is often a better choice for conversion than the attic because it is usually more substantially built. Walls are solid and often need little more than a false wall system through which you can run electrical wires. The floor rests on solid earth. Moisture is almost always a problem, but this can be mitigated. Basement conversions are within the reach of most ambitious DIY home renovators, plus there are plenty of contractors specializing just in basement conversions, too.

5. Converting the Garage

Not seen much anymore, the garage conversion seems largely a vestige of the Brady Bunch era. And for good reason: cars need homes, too. It is extremely tempting to convert the garage, but resist the temptation. If anything, repeat to yourself, "This will drag down my resale value."

6. Taking Down an Interior Wall

Now we are in the realm of creating the illusion of space, rather than creating actual space. Many interior walls are not load-bearing and can easily (yes, we said easily) be removed by a homeowner in a weekend. However, load-bearing walls are a different story and nearly always require contractor intervention.

7. Repurposing a Room

The Porch-that-Gets-Enclosed-and-Turned-into-a-TV-Room. If you're any kind of real estate follower, you'll recognize this type of conversion from open houses. The trick is to closely align the function of the old room with the fuction of the new room.

8. Building a Separate Structure

City permitting departments don't love homeowners who turn sheds into mother-in-law apartments. The work of extending utilities 50 feet or more from main structure to accessory structure is usually more than most homeowners bargained for. And that orange extension cord strung through the trees isn't even close to "code." A properly built, permitted separate structure can cost as much as an addition--yet give you less resale value.
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