Home additions: Options and procedures when adding to your house

Increase your living space with a home addition. Here are the options. 

You do not have to move house just because things are starting to feel cramped in your owner-occupied home. An addition creates more space and increases the value of your house in the process. The options range from extending outward to adding a story or converting an attic. 

A wide range of options for home additions

The needs of homeowners change as the years pass. Their family grows, they want their parents to be close by, a new hobby needs space – there are many reasons for needing more room in your home. Which form of home addition is suitable depends on the building. 

Home extensions 

If more living space is created by building an extension, the footprint of the house changes. Consequently, a house can only be extended if there is enough room on the lot. In addition, building lines from neighboring plots, which are set out in the municipal building and zoning regulations, must also be observed.

In many cases, making a house wider on the eaves side is complex and uneconomical: Generally, the whole roof has to be redesigned and adapted to the new structure. Less work is usually needed when making a house longer at the gable end because only the exterior wall needs to be removed, while the shape of the roof can be retained. In this case, the extension can be carried out almost like a new build.

Adding a story 

When adding a story, the home addition is built upward, meaning that the footprint of the house does not change. The construction method depends on the building's static load-bearing capacity. Often, only a lightweight construction in wood or steel can be considered, as bricks and concrete are too heavy. Adding a story is also a good opportunity for carrying out energy-saving renovations. Because it often only costs slightly more to invest in new insulation of the roof and facades as part of the renovations. Moreover, reduced heating costs compensate for the additional expenditure.

Attic conversion 

When an attic is converted, the habitable floor area is increased while the footprint and the height of the house remain the same. Although the pitch of the roof can be a challenge, it also provides a wide range of design options. However, the construction costs and work required can sometimes be higher than initially expected – for example, if the existing insulation is bad, if there is insufficient daylight in the attic, or if there are no water or electricity connections. These are important factors that must be clarified at the start of project planning.

The basement or garage 

In order to estimate the cost of converting a basement or garage, a survey of their current condition is essential. Because the existing space might first need to be insulated, or windows or electricity and water connections might have to be installed. In addition, this helps you identify the best heating solution. Especially in newer buildings, basements or garages can often be turned into comfortable living spaces with just a few alterations – such as a new floor and inviting lighting.

The conservatory 

A conservatory also increases a house's living space and can take the form of either an extension to the house or the addition of glazing to a balcony. However, in order to be able to use it all year round, it needs to be heated. In this case, the heat insulation requirements for buildings must be adhered to.

Careful planning is crucial 

Anyone planning an addition to their home should seek advice from an architect for the preliminary clarifications. Because the type of conversion that is most suitable varies from house to house and depends on the owners' needs. It is well worth obtaining more than one expert opinion on the options, the price, and the design. 

The need for a building permit

Laws and ordinances of the federal government, cantons, and municipalities regulate in what form and how high you are permitted to build. The requirements depend on the municipality and the construction zone in which the house is located. Therefore, prior to any conversion or addition, the legal requirements must be clarified with the municipal or cantonal building authority responsible. It is advantageous to consult with an architect when seeking such clarification and when applying for any building permits.

In most cases, an extension, adding a story, or a conservatory require a building permit. Even an attic conversion where walls are removed or windows installed often requires a permit.

Cost of a house addition: Secure financing

Many factors affect the cost of a house addition, including the type and area of the addition, the materials, and any extra building work that is needed. It helps to consult an architect in order to work out your budget before the project starts. This can be used as the basis for finding the appropriate financing solution: 

Are you planning a house addition and would like to know more about our financing solutions? 

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