The allure of creating a home addition space without encroaching on your backyard made “popping the top” all the rage for homeowners. More so, this means adding a vertical addition to your home, a trending solution in residential renovations.
Building up could be your answer if you love your current neighborhood and dread moving but crave more space. Furthermore, in this article, you’ll understand the process, challenges, and design considerations of creating your dream home through a vertical addition.
Understanding the ‘Pop Top’ Process
A “pop top” renovation involves removing your home’s roof and adding a new level. Moreover, this type of renovation can be complex, but proper planning can transform your living space and substantially increase your home’s value.
According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report, the average return on investment for an upscale master suite addition, which could include a pop top, is about 54.7 percent. While not the highest return on investment, the value lies in the improved quality of living and the potential to make a home meet long-term needs without relocating.
Indeed, you can enjoy some key benefits by popping the top of your home and enjoying the new addition. Some include:
- Increased Living Space
- Enhanced Property Value
- Energy Efficiency
- Avoiding Relocation Costs
- Aesthetics and Curb Appeal
- Neighborhood Consistency
Ideally, we now know a “pop top” addition to a home is a construction project by adding a new story or partial second story to an existing single-story building. Typically, you can do this by removing the existing roof and adding a new one at a higher level. This type of home addition can offer several benefits, depending on your specific needs and circumstances.
Step 1: Feasibility Study and Initial Planning
Before any construction begins, a structural engineer or architect should conduct a feasibility study. Moreover, this critical first step will determine if your home’s foundation and framing can support the additional weight of a second story or if they require reinforcement.
The American Society of Civil Engineers provides guidelines for evaluating existing structures. The process may involve soil testing and examining the current framing to ensure the structure can withstand the load. Modifying the existing foundation can cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the extent of reinforcement needed.
Furthermore, according to Victor Luviano of Arise Constructions, a foundation repair contractor in Denver, the fix could be as simple as adding bracing to the foundation or installing additional I beams, or you could have to use tiebacks or helical piers before you can even consider building on top of your current home. In every situation, your structural engineer has the final say – after all, you won’t get a permit without their plans.
Step 2: Design Considerations
Designing the addition requires careful consideration to ensure it blends with the existing architecture. The vertical home addition should meet your spatial needs and maintain your home’s aesthetic integrity. Consulting with an architect with experience in ‘pop-tops’ is crucial.
According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, architects can help homeowners see potential design solutions and maximize space in ways they might not have considered. Consider how the new space will flow from the existing layout when designing a vertical addition.
In addition, it’s also the perfect time to improve the overall energy efficiency of your home by choosing modern, energy-saving windows and insulation methods. As reported by Energy Star, energy-efficient windows can lower household energy bills by an average of 12 percent nationwide.
You may want the vertical home addition to blend into the floors below, or perhaps you want to make an artistic statement by adding contrasting materials (like contemporary aluminum or brick).
Furthermore, get a 3D rendering of the project before you sign off on a contract. You will also need help from your architect regarding the layout of the new floor plan. Many homeowners place a master bedroom on the new top floor, complete with a spa and custom closet design. Ideally, this is all well and good, but you should rely on a professional to allocate space for you based on the preferences you have communicated.
Step 3: Permitting and Zoning
Navigating the permit process is an integral part of planning a vertical addition. Every jurisdiction has different zoning laws and building codes. For instance, some areas may restrict how high you can build.
Furthermore, the International Code Council (ICC) provides a model on which many localities base their building codes, but it’s essential to verify with local code authorities. Permit fees vary widely but typically cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Step 4: Construction and Project Management
Actual construction now begins with the removal of the existing roof. The renovation will likely involve a period during which your home is exposed to the elements. A reputable contractor will plan this phase carefully to minimize exposure, often using a temporary cover until the new level is weather-tight.
During construction, the existing home may be unlivable for a period. You may need to plan for temporary housing during this phase, which can be a significant part of your budget.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
After the structure is up, it’s time for interior and exterior finishing. In this phase, your vision comes to life through material choices, paint colors, and fixtures. Integrating the new construction with the old is essential to make the addition seamless. Attention to detail in the finishing phase turns the home addition into a coherent part of your home rather than just an extra room tacked on top.
Challenges and Considerations When Popping the Top
One of the main challenges in a pop-top renovation is ensuring the weight of the new addition is supported correctly. Moreover, this might mean reinforcing existing walls and foundations or adding structural elements that can detract from open-concept designs on the lower floors.
Incorporating a staircase to the new level can be challenging, as it needs to meet building codes and fit within the existing floor plan. Furthermore, this might consume valuable square footage or require reconfiguring existing spaces.
Vertical additions are far more complex than traditional additions, and you will need to live elsewhere while the project is underway. However, if you live in a townhouse you love or risk giving up valuable space in your yard by adding an addition, the project may be worth it. Please speak with an experienced contractor who has undertaken pop-top projects before and listen to their advice.