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FAQs on remodeling and more...

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Can I put a full basement next to an existing crawlspace?

If the budget and site conditions allow a basement to be taken into consideration then it’s best to understand the limitations if the existing home is on a crawlspace or slab on grade.  Both would leave the existing foundation unacceptably close to the newer, deeper basement.  Engineering would be required to properly support the existing foundation in the area adjacent.  This can be done by a process called underpinning or by simply holding the new basement walls a calculated distance from the existing foundation.  Working with a pro would be the best way to determine the most cost effective solution to this situation. Either way is an acceptable approach to maximize the square footage in a lower level below an addition.

Is a basement always better than a crawl?

Much is being done these days to maximize the return on dollars spent when it comes to new homes and remodels.  Some very cost effective square footage can be derived from the lower level of any home being built or as part of an addition.   Crawlspaces serve a great purpose in affordable foundation construction but yield no additional usable square footage to the home. Some consideration to the site and access must go into the mix as well when the decision on crawl versus basement is being debated.  Don’t forget about stair access and daylighting of the lower level space if a basement is being considered. Although it is more costly, the benefit of a basement is generally of great value in our area of the country if the budget would allow such an investment. 

Are two stories more cost effective than a larger single story?

If you look at all the costs associated with both single story and two story, the two story generally wins out in best value achieved for the money being invested. The most easily realized cost savings in that the foundation and roof costs are most likely less for the same amount of square footage added.  Think of this, if you add 800 square feet, then a single story would require 800 s.f. of foundation and a roof that covers the same 800 s.f.  If you would do this over two stories, then the foundation could be built at 400 s.f. and the roof covering would only need to shelter 400 s.f.  The cost saving s can be substantial, even needing to add access perhaps via a new stairway.  Lot conditions, space and layout considerations, surrounding neighborhood and architectural styling preferences can also affect the decision to add a single or 2 story addition.  All are important considerations but dollars generally can be saved by going up.

On a ranch, is it cheaper to go up or add onto the ground floor?

That is a very difficult question due to the site specific nuances that can ultimately drive the construction budget.  All things like access to the site being equal, it is probably less expensive to build onto a structure than it would be to build up.  Equally important is the scale and massing of any addition, but this becomes more important if you are considering building a second story (large or small) onto an existing one story home. A design/build pro can work with you to show several examples of the “look” of either option.  Both potential designs are worthy of exploration in terms of the appearance, the function/utility of the new space(s) and the associated budget. Just be sure you ask for the correct representations of what the final product will look like once constructed.  There are lots of good examples of well-done second level additions to ranches and there are also many examples of how the architectural integrity, the massing or scale was compromised, sometimes referred to as “remuddling”!

Is zoning always an issue with an addition?

Zoning may be an important consideration and it’s always best to approach this question sooner, rather than later in the plan development process.  Existing homes or older additions/alterations can end up in conflict with newer zoning codes or addendums.  Generally, non-compliant structures built prior to a zoning code being enacted are grandfathered into place but plans for improvements submitted after the code was put into force may be an issue with the governing authority.   Once a footprint is completed for any improvement that will alter the exterior of the home, take that concept and run it by your city or township official to determine compliance.  If the plan is non-compliant then an appeal process probably exists in which a hearing would be held to consider a variance(s) to the zoning code for your particular project.  Variances are usually granted on the basis of demonstrating practical difficulty or hardship in meeting the zoning code in force.  If the governing body disagrees and feels there may be a middle of the road solution, most jurisdictions have a process to revise, table a decision or even appeal decisions to a higher authority. Rarely these requests end up in the courts where final determinations can and are made.  This is very unusual in residential construction.

Will I need to replace my furnace and air conditioner?

If the project is substantial in square footage added or it creates difficulties in how air is moved throughout the home, then it might warrant looking at the furnace and AC.  Smaller additions and remodeling/repurposing existing space rarely indicates or requires mechanical replacements or upgrades.  Usually redesigned supply and return air ductwork is all that’s included in the scope of work.  In larger remodels and for major additions it is not out of the question that present equipment may not keep up with the additional heating and/or cooling loads. At that point, the contractor and the heating/cooling contractor would consult and present the options to you.  Generally, there are always several choices in equipment grades and efficiencies as well as how the distribution should be handled.  All have a budget impact, both initially and in the long term maintenance and operational costs, season to season.  Of course, a significant variable of which we have little control is the cost of the electric and /or gas to power the equipment. That being said, saving money up front on less efficient equipment may not save money in the long run due to fluctuating energy costs.

I have a septic tank, can I add on between it and the house?

This is a difficult answer to pinpoint without an inspection and understanding of how the septic is installed.  Unlike public sewers which tend to be more consistent in their installation, septic installations vary widely.  Depths of main lines, invert heights at the tank and leech field location, not to mention soil type all affect what could be placed and where in relation to the septic system.  Most builders would opt not to construct anything in the proximity of the private sewer system.  That being said, due diligence in locating and verifying the installation could allow for improvements to be made closer to this area than one might think initially.  When in doubt, spend a little bit of time and money to assure you know what is underground.  This is an expensive fix if a miscalculation is made.

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