HOMEWORX – Build It On Up Addition Vs. Relocation | By: Mark Wexler #living
In the June issue of Village Living Magazine, I briefly touched on how some homeowners are shying away from selling their abodes in Toronto, despite the fact that property values are shooting through the roof. The reason, I explained, is simple: virtually all low-rise Toronto homes are worth more now than they were even a few years ago, so upgrading substantially in many cases isn’t possible, regardless of the increased budget you’ll have from the equity you’ve gained. But that doesn’t exactly mean you’re stuck in your current living space as it is. There are ways to get more out of your home.
While my last column focused on flood proofing, I’m now going to drill down into how homeowners are expanding their dwellings—and what you should consider when doing so.
One common way to build out a home is through a rear extension. This is fine, but if you’re going to create more space in your house (and really, who couldn’t use more room to stretch out?) there are other options. Don’t forget you can also expand many houses upwards—something people tend to forget, because most single-family dwellings they see are two storeys tall.
A lot of streets in Toronto allow for a third floor—I’ve noticed this is possible on many side streets off St. Clair West and Bloorcourt Village, for instance. This is a great way to increase the number of bedrooms you have. While adding a whole new floor might seem like a drastic project to undertake, in my experience it actually costs less to do than constructing an addition onto the back of your house. The reason? You’re not throwing money into excavation, let alone the footing, foundation and concrete that comes with it. With an added level, you’re paying for framing, plumbing, and electrical work, but this typically doesn’t require the funding groundwork does.
Obviously you can look down to your basement for expansion, but I don’t recommend it in most cases. You’re often better to go with the ground floor or top floor extensions I’ve mentioned. There are numerous reasons for this. For starters, basements—even finished ones—aren’t the brightest places. Just think, if you could set up your home office anywhere, where would it be? Probably not underground. Beyond that, there is the expense to think about.
Take, for example, underpinning. People with low basement ceilings often consider this, but because of the price, you’ll get more value out of main-floor work. In case you aren’t familiar with it, underpinning is when you have a basement deepened to create more headspace. However, in doing so, you’re compromising the footing and the foundation. Thing is, century-old homes don’t typically have more-solid concrete footings; they’re made of gravel. You’re weakening your home’s structure for some extra headspace.
Basements aside, keep in mind a well done addition increases the value of your home: an extra $300,000 in hand today likely won’t get you a vastly superior house in your desired area, but that money can go a long way when it comes to improving your home. A renovation basically pays for itself.