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How to do a Pop-top

A pop-top is when you add a second story addition to a one-story house.

As Colorado becomes more dense, popping the top of your house is becoming a popular project. Maybe you are wondering how these projects are done. If so, read on. These are the things I consider when designing a second-floor addition to a home followed by FAQ's.

 - Can you expand the main floor? Generally, one-story homes are easier to live in and maintain. So if you can, add your extra square footage on the main level. You'll want to consult local zoning codes to find what lot restrictions apply such as setbacks and maximum lot coverage. Expanding the main level is probably a better idea if your lot is large enough.

 - Where does the stair go? Code-compliant stairs take a surprisingly big footprint. Finding a place on your main level to locate the new stair can be a challenge, especially in a smaller home. The upper part of the stair will need to land in a place that works with your new upper-floor layout.

 - Have a qualified design professional (architect or structural engineer) evaluate your entire structure including the foundation. With the additional weight, sometimes the foundation needs to be strengthened or beefed up. Or you can make your new second-story's structural system separate from the existing one, coming down on the inside or outside of your existing house. This is where a creative architect (like me!) can help you envision what works for you and your house for the best results.

 - Does the family have a place to live during construction? You will want to move out rather than live in a house that is getting a second-story addition. Add this cost to your budget.

Poptop FAQ's

1. Is it more expensive to build up or out?

Up is usually less expensive because you eliminate the most expensive part of a project which is the foundation. However, a main-level addition can almost never be added without some remodeling of the existing spaces nearby and you should factor that into your budget.

2. Who is qualified to design a pop-top in the state of Colorado?

Local building departments make this determination but generally, you will need either an architect or engineer to design a pop-top in Colorado. 

3. Do I need to hire an architect or contractor who specializes in pop-tops? 

No. This is a fairly simple project that doesn't require a specialist. Hire the professionals that you like and trust that will offer you the customer service and quality you desire. Do your due diligence by interviewing, checking references, and seeing their work. In my experience, if a company only does a certain project type, the chances are high that you will get someone else's recycled project, not a custom solution for you and your home. 

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