Use it Or Lose It- Maximizing the Space and Efficiency in Your Current Home

Dear Jim:

We have an older home and are looking to carve out more space. With our growing family, an older daughter now back home, and the possibility of my Mom moving in with us, we either need to add on or move. We love our home, community, and neighbors, and would prefer to stay put. What are our options?

This is a common question in my business. Fortunately, most homeowners have options for gaining additional space and making their homes operate more efficiently in the process.

Up or Down, In or Out.

The most obvious question is, “where do we additional space?”.  If you add up you typically gain more light, a view, and warmer rooms. Rear additions are more straightforward projects if you have the available yard space. One potential downside to additions is running into design review and neighbor input. If you add a basement, they are typically cooler, quieter, feel more separate, and are easier to permit. Basement projects involve major structural and foundation work, and usually require replacement of the home’s utilities. Since the infrastructure is often in need of replacement anyway in older homes, redesigning the lower level can allow for adding more efficient systems which use less space. And occasionally your home’s existing floor plan can be modified as the simplest option.

Eliminating a second-floor unused deck allowed space for a new addition
Eliminating a second-floor unused deck allowed space for a new addition

What is the most Cost-Effective?

Basement jobs and second (or third) floor additions are the most expensive projects but can literally double the size of your home. They can dramatically increase your home’s value and can be a game changer if you need a lot of space. Rear additions are usually more cost effective, but you need enough lot size to meet code requirements. If you have existing spaces that can be reconfigured, interior changes are usually the least expensive. Adding a half bath to a closet or splitting up a large room to add an office are examples. We have remodeled homes where we added a bedroom and a bathroom to the current space just by moving a few walls and doors around.

Dig Deep!

Upgrading and moving furnaces or water heaters out of basements to crawlspaces can create more useable floorspace. There are many options to explore depending on your budget, the creativity of your design team, and your current floor plan. Your next step would be to start researching contractors in your area who can assist you to dig out your home’s hidden treasures to create more space!  

A full basement in a former crawlspace adds 1200 square feet of new space
A full basement in a former crawlspace adds 1200 square feet of new space

Conversations with Your Local Contractor is a new feature by Jim Gardner of Jim Gardner Construction Inc. (with articles finessed by Lisa Gardner).  If you have residential, homeowner questions OR ideas for

an article you’d like Jim to highlight, please send an email to

Jim is a long-time Piedmont resident and has been doing structural repair and basement renovation in your neighborhood since 1983.  To schedule an estimate or for more information please go to our website at

Jim Gardner Construction

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