Second Story

Second Story

by Richard Connolly

Globe Correspondent

It was a sea of toys for two little boys and not even Christmas yet. As such, one could not help but wonder how many times each year Santa came to their house.

The working parents who owned the six room, four-bedroom, single family, raised ranch enthusiastically celebrated at home all the holidays and their children’s special events. The grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and playmates who joined in were crowded but content.

Finding additional space in the house would always be a problem. A lower level family room was underutilized because it was removed from the traffic flow. On the opposite side of the family room, the bedroom that was converted to an office was no place to entertain, the computer games notwithstanding.

The last time the garage had housed a car no one seemed to remember. Garden tools, a lawn mower, grill, and sundry odds and ends covered the floor, which was nearly impassable.

Diagnosis “Space Desperately Needed” seemed highly accurate.

A raised ranch, in particular, is a difficult house to redesign. Nearly all have the same floor plan: living room and two bedrooms in front, a dividing staircase, and a dining room, bath, kitchen, and third bedroom in the rear.

There is also the aesthetic issue of not creating a box on a box, of making the house look as though it always was something other than a converted raised ranch. Getting to the second floor invariably means eliminating a bedroom while adding the cost of a new staircase.

Although not a limitation, if the house is not connected to town sewerage, adding bedrooms can result in a major upgrade to the septic system or a reworking of the floor plan.

The couple decided that the only answer to the space limitations of the house was to add a second story with four bedrooms and a ceramic tiled bath and extend the rear dining room, thereby making it large enough for family gatherings.

An upgrade to the septic system could be avoided by converting one bedroom into a staircase and eliminating the dividing wall and closets between the left front and rear bedrooms. The resulting space would be one huge family room with stairs to the second floor.

The original fourth bedroom, the home office, was made into a simple room by removing its closet, a mere technicality.

With a new mudroom off the kitchen, an enclosed porch, and enlarged deck, the house would work well into the future for a growing and changing family.

Only the price stood between dream and reality.

The couple hired a design professional and a structural engineer to plan for the transfer to the first floor walls the added weight of the second story. The existing center beam would be left untouched.

When all the bids were returned, the homeowners realized that the cost of the work was more than they wanted to spend. By doing only the second story and the interior and exterior painting themselves, they were able to bring the project within their budget.

The work had to be planned carefully and done in phases.

In about a day, the existing roof was removed. Two days later, the new second floor deck was installed and covered to protect against the weather, which was by then the beginning of winter.

Thereafter, the walls, ceiling, and roof of the new second story were completed, the chimney raised, and the building made tight. The slight water damage that did occur to the first floor ceilings was easily repaired later.

In the interim, the family lived comfortably with very little disturbance or inconvenience.
Several months after starting, one toddler’s bedroom was taken to install the staircase to the second floor. He bunked with his Mom and Dad.

His brother’s bedroom had openings made in the walls to allow for the heating, electrical, and plumbing systems to be extended. A large new window was also installed and covered temporarily with dark green plastic.

The master bedroom was also affected when several windows were removed, their openings re-framed, and new windows added.

All the original siding and windows, the front and rear doors, and the weather beaten rear deck were removed and replaced. The house looked brand new.

Things were changing quickly, except for the toys: they were still within easy reach.

The entire second story was completed before most of the work on the first floor. The family moved into sparkling new quarters with huge bedrooms and plenty of privacy. Dad did all the painting, and a very good job, too.

Now that most things were out of the way, the work on the first floor could proceed smoothly. The electrical heating system was replaced with forced hot water by gas. The electrical system itself was upgraded.

Thereafter, walls and ceilings were repaired to look like new.

Much of the existing hardwood flooring in the original bedrooms was removed, relayed, and blended perfectly with the new.

By late spring most of the work had been completed, and all that remained was minor touch up. The homeowner painted the outside, trim only, because the red cedar clapboard had a factory applied finished with tinted nail heads.

The family looks forward to years of happiness in its newly remodeled home, celebrating as always with relatives and friends each special event.

Now nearly twice as large as the original, the house has plenty of elbow room and storage space. The cost of the dream was almost $143,000; reality was cheaper at $103,000.

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