What’s the best way to add space to your home? Should you build up, down or out?

construction site

Deciding on the right way to expand your home can be a very hard decision to make. It is important to understand what’s involved in the design and construction process and what affect your decision has on project cost. Your best bet would be to involve the services of a licensed architect to help you to better understand the considerations to make and the best solution for your particular needs.

At some point in our lives many of us outgrow our homes. That might be because there’s a baby on the way or younger kids that now need their own rooms. It may be because the house is older and was not build with a true primary suite. Whatever the reason, you are left with managing the little space you have, moving out to a new home, or expanding. If the latter is your choice and you’re wondering how to make this happen, there are essentially 3 choices. You can dig down, pop out or build up. All three solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. Here we’ll discuss these three scenarios so you can more easily choose the best solution for you.

Digging Down

Images and impressions of a dank, dark, stale basements are from a bygone era. Instead, clever designs and high-end finishes create an ambience which makes for a cozy, intimate, and safe atmosphere for family and friends to gather.

For homeowners, this offers an opportunity to create or transform a basement into a practical living space. This can be especially valuable for those of us in Culver City and the Los Angeles area, as lots are small and space is at a premium. From playrooms to home cinemas, bedrooms to offices, home gyms to your very own bar, the options are endless.

In order to make this happen construction crews will need to dig around the property, disturbing flowerbeds, outdoor play areas and patios, for example. However, this could be an opportunity for you to build back better. If that is the case, this is the perfect time to create extra living space, and your dream backyard, in one fell swoop.

If you live in a city like Los Angeles, planning and zoning constraints might prohibit you from building up or out as you would like to. In such scenarios, your best bet would be to dig down to create a basement. In Los Angeles the square footage used for a basement does not count towards your maximum allowable square footage if certain requirements are met, allowing you to increase the size of your home beyond what is otherwise allowed. What a bonus!

The challenge with this option is bringing in natural light and air flow to a subterranean space. Any good architect, design-build firm, or construction company knows this and will offer solutions that work with your site specifics. They will also ensure that the space is properly waterproofed and that the existing house is properly supported while the basement is constructed. Your new basement should be finished to be cohesive with the rest of the house and the stair that connects the new area should be carefully planned and located.

Digging down Pros:

  • Perfect solution for tight neighborhoods
  • Great for secondary spaces you don’t want on your main floor
  • You can retain your yard space
  • Bonus square footage

Digging down Cons:

  • Expensive and complex
  • Requires extensive waterproofing and shoring
  • Less natural light and ventilation
  • Digging up the yard, including plants and patios

renovation site

Building Out

If you have enough yard space and would like to leave most of your home untouched, the build-out option is a great choice. This new area of your home can be created without needing to affect much of the existing house. A firm like LETTER FOUR in Culver City, licensed for architectural and general contracting services, can help you achieve this. It’s easier than digging down or building up. You won’t have to deal with adding a staircase. With good architectural planning and design, you can create extra space for your primary suite while leaving important rooms like the living space intact.

Building out can also change the look of your home from the exterior and improve curb appeal. Unlike building up or down, building out involves takes up a portion of the existing yard space. While there is this trade-off, building out is the most affordable option of the three.

Building Out Pros

  • Avoid major structural changes to the existing home
  • Easily accessible, no staircase required
  • Great for creating more space for some rooms while leaving the others untouched
  • Least expensive

Building Out Cons

  • Takes up yard space
  • Potential missed opportunity for views

Building Up

Growing families need more space, which makes the idea of building up an attractive one for many homeowners. By taking your home to the next level, you can increase the square footage of the property while preserving the backyard space. This idea becomes an attractive one for Culver City and Los Angeles area residents, adding space to the family home without the need to leave the neighborhood. A new second story addition to your home is a great choice as it maintains yard space, offers more natural light and ventilation, and better views. This option also allows you to significantly change the look of the home with massing, rooflines, and materials.

The first step once you’ve hired an architect or design-build firm is for them to create drawings and a 3-D model of the existing house. Most existing homes were not engineered to support a second story and meet today’s strict code requirements. As such, your contractor will need to open walls and floors below to structurally reinforce the existing home and prepare it to support the new story. You also have to find the right spot for a staircase. This means you might have to partially remodel the existing floor, which results in additional cost. If you love your location and building up seems to be your best option, hire a great, licensed architect and general contractor to help you make it happen.

Building Up Pros

  • More value added to your home
  • Better lighting
  • Better views
  • Maintains yard space

Building Up Cons

  • More significant structural upgrades
  • Typically requires extensive work on the main floor
  • More expensive

In conclusion, whether you’re trying to build up, out or down, these modifications all come with a price. Your decision on which option is best is often determined by your budget and location. Regardless of which option you prefer, the first step is to find a great licensed architect or design-build firm like LETTER FOUR. We’re here for you!  We’re a local, full-service design and construction firm, who will provide our honest, expert opinion on the best choice for you and your family.

Reach out to us and say hello! We look forward to hearing from you!

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