You’ve outgrown your existing home, but love your neighbourhood and have no interest in navigating the current real estate market. So, what are your options? Essentially, out, up or down.
“It really depends on the project and property,” says Blaise McDonald, from MAC Renovations. “If you’re maxed out on your footprint, it makes sense to develop the basement. The challenge is that in many older Victoria-area homes, the basements weren’t really designed to have people living in them.”
- Option 1: Out – If you have space on your lot and allowable footprint, one of the easiest solutions to achieving more space is an addition, McDonald says. This essentially amounts to new construction adjoining the existing home in a way that complements and enhances the existing facade and floorplan.
- Option 2: Up – While “up” could include developing unused attic space or even adding a second floor above a bungalow, in this case we’re talking about physically lifting the house to “essentially create a house beneath the house.” This benefit here is that you get an entirely new foundation and seismic upgrades that will see an older home through decades more living. However, while going up might be the only option, that upward addition will need to be tied to the ground. Changing codes mean ceiling joists may need to be upgraded, and that load path will follow to the ground level, often requiring foundation upgrades.
- Option 3: Down – When you can’t build out, the third option is simply digging down. In some of Greater Victoria’s older neighbourhoods, however, this can bring specific challenges. Municipal services could be higher than the new plumbing and electrical, for example. Other considerations include the surface the home sits on – Fairfield was built on a former swamp, for example, and even rock and clay provide their own challenges, whether it’s mitigating moisture or creating a firm footing for the home.
At the end of the day, when it comes to adding more livable space to your home, you have a variety of options, depending on your unique situation. However, “bylaws can be pretty complicated and vary from municipality to municipality and zoning to zoning,” McDonald says.
And because any renovation can reveal unanticipated surprises, it pays to do a little digging up front – before you dig your new basement.
From required parking variances to impacts on perimeter drains to foundation challenges, “a robust pre-construction process can dig out many of these issues,” McDonald says.
And the benefit to adapting what you have rather than moving or tearing down and building new? It’s often a more cost-effective solution, you prevent waste going to the landfill, and you stay in the home you love, and the neighbourhood you love – just with more space!