How to add another level to your home

Adding another level to a home requires some heavy-duty renovations. Here’s how to add a another level to your home the right way, plus how much it will cost, with expert advice from the professionals


Why and how should you ‘pop the top’ and add another level to a house?

There are at least four ways to expand vertically in a home renovation. One is to literally remove the roof and build a whole new upper level from scratch. Another is to lift the roof off temporarily, then put it back in place after the new level has been framed in. A third tactic is to expand an existing upper level across an existing one-storey structure, such as a flat-roof garage or porch. If you have the roof capacity a loft conversion is another option.

These options will cost approximately $200,000 to $450,000+

What the experts say about adding another level to your home?

Natasha Markham, architect

– The floor of your attic space was probably designed as a ceiling and may not be strong enough for its new purpose. Engage professionals early to assess potential issues.

– Adding a second storey is major, so think about where will you live during renovations. It may not be possible to remain in the house, particularly if you have children. Staying with friends or family will help your budget but may not be an option. Doing the project in stages may minimise time out of your home; however, the overall cost of doing this can outweigh the cost of renting. Talk these issues through with your team early to find a solution in advance.

Lee Branford, builder

– Adding a loft conversion is perhaps the easiest way to get an extra bedroom and bathroom. Not particularly disruptive, either, as most of the work can be done from outside.

– Ensure access to the loft is easy and that the conversion fits the style of the rest of the house. + The floor joists will need to be strengthened, which will raise the floor level, so make sure you leave yourself with sufficient ceiling height to stand. Additional support at foundation level may also be required.

– Plan for unforeseen issues that need to be rectified before planned work continues. Renovations often end up more costly than new builds as you never know what has been done previously until the work is exposed.

Nadia Sakey, House Doctor

– A typical loft conversion is usually more cost-effective than an extension. In terms of adding value, it is likely to be a very good investment providing it adds more accommodation than it takes away. (Remember, you need to make room for a full staircase and this will take up space.)

– Establish if the roof space can be converted cost-effectively. There needs to be plenty of headroom and the roof structure needs to be built of attic trusses or cut roof timbers.

– Some properties were not built to take the weight of a second floor and will need expensive steel structures added. However, it can still work out to be a good investment if planned well. A lot of value can be added to a property by adding space upwards rather than outwards onto valuable land and garden – especially if there’s the potential of a killer view.

“It is likely to be a very good investment providing it adds more accommodation than it takes away”

Alex Findlay, resource planner

– You’ll need a planner to check if the District or Regional Plans impose development constraints. If the site is in a heritage zone, protected view shaft or has a scheduled tree, this will affect the design.

– The planner will also see if there are any constraints which might need engineering input, such as a flood zone, a combined stormwater/sewer line, or an unstable site.

– We also check the property title to be sure there are no restrictive covenants – such as maximum heights, or restricted driveway access – that the architect will need to know about before designing. Planners then give advice on how a resource consent could assist in obtaining a better outcome for the owner and the design. This kind of pre-design advice normally costs $200-$400 plus GST.

John Bishop III, financial planner

– Beware that large-scale renovations require a lot of money but, unfortunately, in the current financial market there are more people wanting to borrow money than there is money available, so getting a loan is not a right, nor is it guaranteed.

– Other options for borrowing money include peer-to-peer lending (although this is a new lending platform and currently quite expensive), a family loan and second-tier lenders.

– Keep track of all expenses with a spreadsheet. If you don’t have a fixed-cost contract then ensure you have set aside a contingency fund for the inevitable unexpected.

More tips for adding another level to your home

-Most builders should be LBPs (Licensed Building Practitioners) registered to do major renovations; if not, they need to be working under somebody who is. Builders with big or small companies would be advised to be insured; ask your builder what insurance coverage they have.

-Usually for large-scale renovations it’s extremely difficult for contractors to give a fixed price. Most tradesmen will offer a rough estimate and then work would be done on an hourly rate.

-The Council sometimes requires the approval of neighbours for major work that does not meet the requirements of the District Plan, often for height or building coverage. Be a good neighbour; you may need their approval for a renovation one day!

-Utilise all the dead space, ensuring it is designed to house specific items.

-It’s an old cliché but whether you are examining the dead space either side of the fireplace for storage or about to embark on a major renovation, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is still true.

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