We felt trapped, but all the while we simply needed to look up. Our home was quickly becoming cramped with a growing family. The prices of larger homes and associated tax base were beyond our reach and our small lot really couldn't accommodate lateral growth. In our favor, we had built up a good deal of equity since purchasing the home and loved the neighborhood.
One day I poked my head through a removable light into the attic, and for the first time realized it was like a cathedral of raw lumber. Not only that, but any windows placed in the west wall would yield incredible views. A solution to our housing crunch seemed obvious.
We had a three-bedroom, two-bath home with approximately 1,600 square feet of space. Aside from the master bedroom and bath, one bedroom was a shared office and the other was sleeping headquarters for our two boys. We had a third child on the way. The living room and family room served as toy centers and social space. The dining room was home to random projects and occasionally used for meals. We lived in the kitchen.
I am more or less illiterate with a hammer, and the scope of this project required a contractor anyway. We found someone who lived nearby and had already done great work in the neighborhood. He was optimistic about the available space, and stated that, if it wasn't for windows, he could add two bedrooms and a bath without touching the roof line.
As existing walls and the ceiling would need shoring up, most of the house would be affected by the work, and we were required to move out for seven months. Time was split between staying with a family friend and parents; to make a long story short, we nearly lost our minds.
The space taken up by the new stairway was partially absorbed by eliminating a bedroom closet and moving a bedroom door. Thus one of the downstairs bedrooms technically became a den. The new floor space was greatly enhanced by placing the upstairs bathroom in a dormer section, leaving the main footprint for two bedrooms and the landing. A bay window in the west attic wall opened up a gorgeous view of hills, and the landing proved large enough for a home office.
The final cost was close to $200,000, with the largest share of expenses going toward framing, tear out, and the HVAC system. We were strongly advised to add a separate HVAC system to avoid one floor being constantly too hot or too cold. This proved sage advice and has also lead to significant savings on energy bills.
Our credit and savings were stretched to the last penny (and then some) by the project, but the immediate benefit of family living space made this a unique investment. The increase in equity of our home was close to the amount invested while the property tax assessment increased by less than half of the cost. And we still had a backyard!
Just 24 hours in our semi-new home made all the sacrifice worthwhile. Our three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,600-square-foot home was now a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,300-square-foot house with a den and bonus room. Even if some money was lost on the venture, we had a place to grow and share and build years of memories. In the long term the investment should pay off on all fronts. As more time goes by, I cannot imagine taking any other direction than up.
- Home & Garden