Bill occasionally corresponds via e-mail with a person who bought and lives in one of the houses we remodeled. In a recent e-mail, he posed a couple of questions that we thought worth sharing:
Q: I have several questions to ask, as I am going to order a complete reroof this summer. Do you know if the existing foundation will support a full second story? If not, will it support a partial floor in the attic for storage? I realize that you may not have explored this option while you lived here and/or may not remember the answer if you did.
A: A lot of sweat went into the renovation of Bill’s Craftsman bungalow in Alameda, Calif.’s East End. When he bought the home in the mid-1980s, the house was pretty much in its original condition. That proved to be both a plus and a minus — a plus because we didn’t have to undo a botched remodel, a minus because the deferred maintenance was substantial.
When Bill moved in, all the character elements were intact. The gum wood paneling had not been painted, the fireplace facade was original, and the house was structurally sound. On the other hand, the shingle siding needed replacement, and the brick foundation had to go.
The kitchen was of 1920s vintage, complete with the gas water heater stationed in the corner sharing the brick flue with the gas stove.
Over a couple of years, Bill, with substantial help from Kevin, renovated the bath, did a full-blown kitchen remodel, added a half bath and about 100 square feet of dining room off the back of the house, built a storage shed in the backyard and reshingled the exterior.
He also added a new electrical service, replaced the galvanized water pipes with copper, put in a new forced-air gas furnace, stripped and refinished the interior paneling, sanded and refinished the hardwood floors and replaced the brick foundation with a reinforced concrete foundation.
We’re sorry to report that the foundation we installed won’t support a second-story addition. The footing is too small, as it measures only 12 inches at the base. A two-story foundation requires a larger base. Our recollection is that at the time the requirement was 15 inches. We recommend you check with the city building department for the exact dimensions for today.
The good news is that if you want to beef up the foundation, you probably don’t have to remove what we put in. Workers can install a temporary wall to support the structure, dig under the existing foundation and pour a more substantial foundation.
You’ll probably have to do some more work on the foundation in the center of the house. Our memory is that the center of the house was supported by piers, posts and beams. Adding a second story will probably require a full-blown footing.
A remodel of this magnitude usually requires the services of a structural engineer, who will provide the specifications. In any case, making a single-story Craftsman into a two-story structure is a big job. The foundation is only the beginning of the work.
Getting the attic ready to use for extra storage is not such a daunting task, although that, too, may require some structural upgrades. We recall that the ceiling joists in the house are 2-by-4s supported by the exterior walls and the center interior bearing wall. We suggest you double the joists in the area you plan to use as storage. This will prevent the ceiling from sagging from the extra load you’re planning for it.
To double the joists, use carriage bolts to attach a new 2-by-4 to each existing joist. Bolts should be spaced about 18 inches apart. Make sure the new framing members are supported by the exterior wall and the interior bearing wall. Finish by installing a piece of OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood to make a deck. That should do the job, provided that you don’t plan to keep an elephant in the attic.
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