As urban areas become more crowded, and homeowners seek to maximize space in their existing homes, vertical additions, also known as “pop top” additions, have surged in popularity. This type of home renovation involves adding an additional story or level to an existing home. But before you start imagining that extra bedroom or a swanky new loft, you have to ensure your home’s foundation is up to the task. Here’s a guide on how to prepare your home foundation for such a venture.
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Understand the Importance of the Foundation
The foundation is literally the base on which your home stands. It’s responsible for bearing the entire weight of your home. When considering a vertical addition, you’re going to be adding a significant amount of weight. This means your foundation has to be strong and stable enough to support this new load.
Start with a Professional Inspection
Before making any decisions, you need to have your home’s foundation thoroughly inspected by a licensed structural engineer. A structural engineer or foundation expert will check for cracks, sinking, or any other damage that might compromise the stability of your foundation. An experienced foundation repair contractor will also ask to see the home’s original architectural plans – this will inform the addition build.
You will also need to inspect for historical changes: It’s also essential to find out if your home has undergone any previous renovations or alterations. Past projects may have already stressed your foundation, which could impact its ability to handle a new addition.
Address Existing Issues With the Foundation
After the inspection, if issues are identified, you must address them before proceeding with the vertical addition. In fact, you will probably not even get a permit for your addition until your foundation passes a thorough inspection.
Any cracks or weaknesses in the foundation should be repaired. This might involve epoxy injections or, in more severe cases, underpinning sections of the foundation to give them added strength.
You will also need to waterproof your foundation. Water can be a foundation’s worst enemy. Ensure your foundation is properly waterproofed to prevent any future water damage. This may involve adding or improving drainage systems around the base of your home.
Underpinning – Often a Necessary Step Before Building Additions
Underpinning is a method used to strengthen an existing foundation, allowing it to support more weight. It involves digging underneath the current foundation and pouring new foundation segments, effectively deepening and strengthening the foundation.
Assess the need: Not all vertical additions will require underpinning, but it’s often recommended to ensure the foundation is more than capable of supporting the new load.
Choose the right method: There are various underpinning methods, such as mass concrete underpinning, beam and base underpinning, and mini-piled underpinning. Your foundation expert will recommend the best method for your specific situation.
Account for Building Codes and Zoning Laws
Before starting any work, familiarize yourself with local building codes and zoning laws. These codes might have specifications for how vertical additions should be constructed or how tall a residential building can be. Ensuring you adhere to these laws not only keeps you in compliance but also ensures the safety and longevity of your home addition.
Don’t Try to DIY This Particular Project
While DIY is trendy and can be cost-effective for certain home projects, preparing a foundation for a vertical addition isn’t one of them. This process requires precision, expertise, and specialized equipment.
Once your foundation is deemed ready (or after the necessary preparations are made), working with architects and designers can help bring your vision to life. They can create plans that both match your desires and meet structural requirements.
Additionally, hiring experienced home remodel contractors ensures that the addition is built correctly and safely. They will handle everything from sourcing materials to the actual construction.
Plan for Contingencies
Even with thorough preparation, unforeseen challenges can arise when working on a home’s foundation. It’s wise to set aside an additional 10-20% of your budget for unexpected expenses.
This ensures that you won’t be caught off guard by any surprises, even if you don’t have to worry about foundation repair. Sometimes a home’s framing may need additional support, or you may notice sagging in a first floor ceiling after the addition has been completed.
A vertical home addition can be an excellent way to increase the space and value of your home. However, its success heavily relies on the strength and stability of the foundation beneath.
By following the steps outlined above and collaborating with professionals, you can ensure that your “pop top” addition is not only beautiful but also safe and durable.