It could be because of your growing family or you just need more space for entertaining guests, but adding a second storey to your property is a milestone for most homeowners.
Many renovations require more than just a great idea and a fun Pinterest board. Adding a floor to your house needs careful planning, design and construction before anyone could put up a DIY picture frame.
Here is the process, broken down in seven steps you can follow to add a second storey to your home. I’ve also included advice on the one aspect of adding a second floor that almost all home owners struggle with the most.
1. Set a working budget second for storey additions in Sydney
You may think that second storey additions cost less than a ground floor addition, but it would still be considered a
major expense. The cost of adding a second storey will vary obviously, but will typically fall between $1,850 and $3,300 per square metre.
Again, it’s a working budget because the final amount will depend on the quality and price of construction materials and inclusions, and if you need to construct reinforcement at the ground floor for it to be able to carry the load of the extension.
2. Check out rules and regulations for second storey extensions
In Sydney and most parts of the country, your second storey extension needs to comply with local council regulations and the local neighbourhood plan. You may visit your local government zoning office to know if you are permitted to add a second story.
Your local council will most likely require a Development Approval (DA), plumbing approval and or a “siting variation” to build within the boundary setbacks of your property may be needed.
Also, depending on where you live in Sydney, your second storey may also need to satisfy additional building standards – for example if you are living in a designated bushfire-prone area.
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) is a uniform set of technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings and other structures throughout Australia. The BCA is given legal effect by building regulatory legislation in each State and Territory. Any provision of the BCA may be overridden by, or subject to, State or Territory legislation. The BCA must therefore be read in conjunction with that legislation.
At this phase of your renovation project, it is essential to seek the help of an experienced home designer. He or she should be familiar with your local council in order to guide you on the building requirements for your second storey extension. Having an expert on home design will make the experience much easier.
3. Get your second floor designed
After knowing building requirements, you now have a better idea on the limitations of the renovation project and what’s exactly achievable.
You can now ask your home designer to make a floor plan design. This is an essential step to your home renovation because it will allow you to determine the function of your new second storey space. Will it be for a new home office? Then maybe you want to put that room near the side of the house with most natural light. Do you want to have a toilet and bath? What about insulation? It can get really cold in Sydney during winter and really hot in the summer. Ask you home designer to factor in all of it to your floor plan!
Make sure you are happy with the draft before you sign it off. You can ask your home designer to provide you with a 3D version of the draft if you think this will give you a better idea of how your second storey would look like. The design drawings and construction plans will help you understand what is realistic, in case you may have to sacrifice some parts of the house to create enough space for the stairwell or if you have to add some provisions for plumbing and heating.
4. Plan for construction
Some second storey projects construction work can be isolated, leaving essential parts of your home like the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom unaffected and available.
However, there are often instances where it will be best for you to move out. This is where an experienced home designer can help you plan beyond just the construction itself.
If you can, plan your project in such a way that you will not be living in an exposed home during winter. Nobody likes to freeze, so winter is usually the worst time to add your second storey if you intend to stay in the home during the project. .
Work with your designer and builder to schedule when the best time to vacate the home will be and for how long. It is usually a good idea to give some allowance for the duration of this phase. Nobody can control the weather, which can easily slow construction by a week or more at times.
It is better to ask your contractor how long you’ll need to be away from home with some safety margin. Then you can go to find a comfortable place to stay for the duration. This could be a hotel, short-term rental, or the home of a very good and accommodating friend or relative.
5. Hire a good builder
Most homeowners have no builder or contractor on their speed dial. You can ask your home designer to source for a reputable and experienced builder who can help you with your second storey project.
Alternatively, you can also choose to find the builder yourself, but note that most homeowners usually struggle with this step because with the plethora of choices out there, it is almost impossible to know which one is right for your project. The risk is that your home designer and builder need to be able to communicate and (ideally) get along. This is not always the case, unfortunately, as both parties need to have a similar sense for quality and reliability.
Since you will be living with the results, I highly recommend that you do not select your builder primarily based on the cheapest price. There is a good saying that the joy over a quality product will outlast the joy over a cheap price. Nowhere will this be more true than when you add a second floor to your home.
There are home extension builders who specialise in or have extensive experience in building second storey additions. Set a meeting with them, with your home designer in tow, and ask to inspect some of their previous work. You can also speak directly with one or more of their previous clients.
Some questions you can ask your potential contractor:
- How many projects are you working on at the moment?
- How long does a project such as mine typically take you to complete?
- How big will your team be?
6. Begin construction
The design and function of a second-story addition will have a ripple effect on the rest of your home. Make a checklist with your home designer and contractor on the essential stages of construction. This will give you comfort as the construction moves from phase to phase and you can see how the project as a whole is really progressing.
The construction usually begins with your builders linking the electrical wiring, plumbing and sewerage lines to the upstairs level. After that, they will put up the “skeleton” or frame of the second storey and then build the new roof’s trusses. When the walls and roof construction has been done, then the builders will begin the internal fit-out, cabinetry, painting, tiling and so on.
7. Handover and final inspection
The moment you have been waiting for – your new second floor is ready. After several weeks or more of construction, the final step on your second storey project will be a comprehensive inspection. Note that at key stages of the construction process, a council certifier and engineer will inspect the second storey extension to make sure it’s on track.
But for the final comprehensive inspection, there are certain things you must do as a homeowner.
First, provide the inspector with copies of basic contract documents (things like drawings, specification, schedules of finishes, etc.). It will help him or her understand what the builder was required to construct. The last thing anyone needs, at this late stage, is a dispute over a reported omission that turns out to not be in the contract.
If you have specific concerns about the building, this is the time to let your inspector know. He or she can give you an unbiased opinion about the seriousness or otherwise of a perceived problem.
With a pre-handover inspection, the whole house gets inspected from top to bottom. Your consultant will check the entire exterior and roof and carry out a room by room inspection of all finishes, fixtures, fittings and appliances.
If the construction is deemed satisfactory, your second storey will get certification.
Adding a floor to your house requires a lot of effort, commitment and resources. Done right, it can add a lot of value to your home beyond just living space. Be sure you have the right team of experienced professionals to support you.
After all the planning and construction has been done and you are now enjoying your new second storey living space, you can give yourself a pat on the back that you did your renovation project the best way possible.