Author Topic: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?  (Read 14030 times)

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jenkinswt

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Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« on: December 16, 2012, 10:03:32 PM »
Ok  a few years ago I never would have considered this but now I am seriously considering it. We bought a older large square looking 2 story house that needed a lot of work in fact no one has lived in it really in probably 30 years. Its been about 2 years now living in it "roughly" I did gut the kitchen last winter, it still needs some more work but its alot nicer now.

We keep the upstairs door blocked off all the time, some stuff is stored up there like kids toys, papers, etc. but mostly not used because it needs all new wiring, insulation, windows, sheetrock, etc. There is 1 bedroom on the first floor and a real big area like a hallway in between the bedroom, bathroom and living room. We have been keeping the kids bunkbeds here. Not ideal but just making the best of it until its better.  I have figured up a few different floor plans that I think I can get 2 maybe 3 bedrooms on the first floor and still have the kitchen, bath, dining room, living room. It also has a nice sized enclosed front porch for extra space. So for the 4 of us less is more especially during winter.

We heat with wood and would like to go through less wood and just make it feel more comfortable all the time. Money is also a big concern. Now I am penciling this a few different ways but possibly gutting everything upstairs and blocking the entire roof down until its sitting on the floor, the other idea is to just tear it off and build back new but that seems real wasteful to me and expensive. The shingles are older and will be putting a metal roof on at some point but for now it doesn't leak.

A side note, labor isn't being calculated. I am a carpenter, my dad is a carpenter although he doesn't live close I might be able to get help. I also have access to farm machinery like a tractor with loader, possibly for getting stuff up and down and whatever.

So......what do you all think?

Build a new house in the back yard and use this one as a barn!?!?
Lower roof down
Get in demolition mode and rebuild with a new roof

thirteen

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2012, 11:11:01 PM »
A lot of unanswered questions arise but Is there water upstairs that needs to me removed.  Lowering the roof would be the hardest. Some of the walls on older hnouses are made of 2x4 18 ft long and go from the foundation all the way to the rafters?? I helped lower a roof with 4 poles we put into the ground. 2 on one end one in the stairwell, one on the other end with a beam going the full length of the roof with some cross braces. We used two tractors and a pickup all hooked up with cables. We had 4 people all directing the lowering. It worked out good but other than fixing 3 holes in the roof it set down right on top of what was the floor. About the same as you are planning to do. We did strip the floor off and redo some of the wiring and then insulated. We took the walls out of the second floor and built an addition onto the downstairs. We made it into a laundry room and pantry room (on the north side to keep it cool). We used 2x10's for walls in the pantry room and used the 2x4's off setting the inside and the outside then isulated the outside with 6in insulation and then used 4 in insulation on the inner walls. We ended up with a 12 x 12 pantry room and a 12 x 8 laundry room.
It was a hairy feeling working under the roof with no walls. Stupid but worked. It was a shingle roof not metal so repair was easy. the building was 20 x 36.
As for a new building I would use the foam blocks they use now if I could but they do cost $$. I know of a couple of houses that they did that and have a very low heating bill. They go together easy but you need to have a real good footing. If you heat with wood they ended up putting an incoming vent just for the fire. They are single story homes.
Does the house have insualtion in the walls downstairs. Is there a basement? Keep a few pictures of how you end up doing it. It is a god record and somethiing your kids can look at and say I helped dad buidl this part or fix this part. A journel kept by one of your kids would be a good record. Make a drawing of where the pipe and wire go thru the house as you change it . It is hard to remember right where this wire is or this pipe is 30 years from now. Best of luck. 
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Frank S

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 04:53:03 AM »
I've heard of raising the roof even done a few myself. But lowering?
 If the structure is sound I am having a little trouble getting my head around the reason
 Construction on the ground floor to make the best use of possible sq footage I can see.
 Blocking off the upper floor due to economics makes perfect sense.
 The loos of the dead air space for summer cooling does not.
 I would think is one were just out to reduce their heating & cooling expenses then just toss down 10 to 18 inches of insulation on the 2nd floor block off the stairway or lock the door and your done.
 Of course any electrical and water or gas needs be disconnected from the unused floor.
 Should you decide at a later date either you need the extra space or decide to sell the house nothing that was done could not be undone once the roof is dropped it is forever.
 But that is just my opinion 
I live so far outside of the box, when I die they will stretch my carcass over the coffin

electrondady1

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 06:02:13 AM »
it's not really clear ,
your kids are grown and you don't need the top floor any more?
if your are wanting to downsize why not make what you have marketable and sell it .
then buy a little bungalow

jenkinswt

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 06:26:34 AM »
Ok more info......kids are not grown, ages 7 and 5, both boys, great help. Upstairs has no plumbing, electrical, siding is junk, windows are junk, roof is good. Basically if I fix upstairs its like starting from scratch once I get done with all the gutting, etc that I did in the kitchen. Were just trying to make a smaller area to heat, we live in South Dakota so we get cold winters, not that concerned with summer cooling. We are not moving, we have a few acres here, some outbuildings, got it cheap on contract and its what we have always been looking for.

I couldn't long term just throw insulation upstairs and block off the door. I would need to replace windows, and siding up there. I had thought a little bit about resale value but I don't think it will be a big deal because it might actually make it a nicer house, easier to heat and we won't likely sell it down the road.

I'm open to ideas and haven't committed to the idea 100 percent yet! We have been talking about building something in the back yard as we got the money in spurts but I know how that will go.....slow! This is something I can see pulling off along with insulating the attic when done and also the basement floor.

thirteen

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 07:34:28 AM »
As a temp I would buy some plastic and seal all of the windows upsatairs by covering them. I would walk around with a candle and go next to all of the outlets, light switchs, and the windows downstairs sealing anything that was leaking air inside. You mentioned a basement. Get a good light and go around and see if it has any leaks. Insulate where the floor joist sit on the foundation walls normally that is not done in older homes and it leaks there sometimes. A can of foam insualtion works wonders to fill holes cracks. The house I'm moving into had all kinds of cracks where noone even thought of doing anything to seal them. One of my daughters measured all of the cracks and corners that leaked air inside and came up with a hole that was 28 in by 22 in directly from the outside coming in. We sealed them up and you could tell within a hour the difference in the heat.  Just a few more ideas 13
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bob g

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 07:37:12 AM »
hire an insulating crew to blow insulation in the floor upstairs, between the floor and the lower floor ceiling.

the floor joists are probably at least 2x6's and likely more like 2x8 or larger, this will be a very effective amount of insulation relatively speaking and much less expense than lowering a roof.

this allows you also to keep the upper floor for later expansion should you need it.  kids coming back home with their kids and such, or maybe rent out the upstairs later?

bob g
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madlabs

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 09:06:12 AM »
Keep it. As a guy who lives in a trailer the thought makes me cringe. Square footage is good and it will be a lot of work to lower the roof and re-attach it to the house. Save and deal with the top floor as you can.

Jonathan

zap

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 10:02:18 AM »
I'd keep it also.
If you seal the whole upper area with plastic you would have a very nice insulated bubble above your head.
I understand the exterior needs maintenance but if you have good sun exposure on the roof or on one or two of the walls then you could use the space as a very nice heat storage area.  I'm in Denver and even on a cold day my attic can easily get above 70F and my southern exposure isn't very good.  A few simple solar heat panels could possibly get the space hot enough to harvest some heat for the living area.

DamonHD

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 10:48:57 AM »
I think that insulating between floors, and generally treating the ceiling downstairs as your 'outside/roof' so making it as airtight as you can, is a good idea.

I've insulated in the void above our living room ceiling (and below the kids' bedrooms) because I want to control how heat gets upstairs, not just have it leak out.

http://www.earth.org.uk/superinsulating-our-living-room.html

Make sure that upstairs is weatherproof enough not to decay, and that you really don't have any odd water pipes running through it that could freeze and burst or just leak heat.

Rgds

Damon

taylorp035

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 02:08:22 PM »
From a heat transfer standpoint, you would be much better off just laying some insulation on the floor and sealing any vents that connect the upstairs to the downstairs.  Plus, you can always use the space like an attic.  I don't see any upsides to removing the upper story...

jenkinswt

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 04:11:00 PM »
Thanks for so many quick replies everyone and alot of great ideas! I have gone back and forth on this. My wife is positive that this is how she wants it and I think it would work out good also. I found a pretty cheap way to lower it. I know this seems completely stupid, in fact thats what I said the first time I heard of it but we don't plan to ever sell the property, don't want to go up and down stairs when we do get older and it would be a requirement to replace upper siding, and windows at the very least if it stays. I can get it lowered down without even putting holes in the roof except where I have to match the front porch and rear kitchen roofs but that will be minimal and they need new roofs anyways.

If we ever need the extra space I could see an addition on the side of the house. We have 2 years of living in the space as a 1 story and thats without any renovations that will give us more space. I'm a big fan of the "Tiny Houses" but need a small house more than a tiny house. When I was going to build a new house I drew up plans for a 600 sq. ft. floor space with 150 sq ft. loft and it was an open floor plan. So basically 750 sq ft and this would be my dream home! Just trying to give everyone some more perspective because I know I started out asking for opinions but I have been doing alot of researching today and feel pretty convinced on this now. Right now I have about 750 sq feet for the first floor and I think around 140 for the kitchen, and 175 for the enclosed front porch. So without considering the basement I have 1065 sq. feet of usable space well over my "dream house plans"

I hope I haven't offended anyone by asking for opinions and then doing a 180 and telling everyone I am ignoring most everyone and doing it my way!! I am thinking of starting this in a few months weather permitting and will take lots of pictures and will be glad to share unless everyone is just plain disgusted by the thought!

dnix71

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 05:39:17 PM »
You all missed a big one here. If you live in an area where it snows a lot and don't live upstairs you risk a major snow/ice buildup on the roof.

If you are not going to use the upstairs at all and not heat it, then the roof needs to be lowered or at least make sure the slope is severe enough to guarantee it will shed ice and snow. If you insulate at the first floor and seal the upper section the upstairs will rot from humidity.

jenkinswt

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 06:04:23 PM »
Thats a good point, I didn't consider that. Its not a steep pitch roof probably 4/12,  the roof is also a pyramid shape. It has 2x4 rafters and 2x6 ceiling with some bracing between the two. I don't know if its because its built so solid or because its tall and the high winds usually blow the snow off but its sat empty for along time and I heard about 15 years ago they had some real deep snow. When I bought it there was no heat, and someone had recently put a new electric service to the house with just a breaker box and one outlet. I have done a lot of wiring since then. The plumbing is also all new.

southpaw

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 07:07:20 AM »
You all missed a big one here. If you live in an area where it snows a lot and don't live upstairs you risk a major snow/ice buildup on the roof.

If you are not going to use the upstairs at all and not heat it, then the roof needs to be lowered or at least make sure the slope is severe enough to guarantee it will shed ice and snow. If you insulate at the first floor and seal the upper section the upstairs will rot from humidity.
I've lived in an area where it snows a lot all my life and snow on the roof is a good sign, it means your attic insulation is working. there are hundreds of old unheated farm houses which have withstood  winter snows for decades.
Lowering the roof won't change the amount of snow on the roof. The thing that would make the most sense to me would be to insulate the floor on the second level and treat the second storey like a big attic. Make sure there is ventilation to eliminate condensation problems.
I don't know why there would be any need to replace the windows on the second floor, they could be just boarded up either from the inside or outside. As far as the siding is concerned if the second floor siding needs to be replaced the first floor siding must be in a similar condition. Spending hundreds of man hours and material to lower the roof just seems extreme compared to the cost of replacing a few hundred extra square feet of siding.
Southpaw
 

thirteen

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2012, 09:55:53 AM »
If you do spend the money for new sideing be sure and wrap your house. They resided my house last year and it cut my power bill down $38.oo per  month. The other thing is how often does the property tax assor come by and on my place they come by once every five years. But mine is back in the sticks so they ask if anything major has been done. As always just some landscaping. If you do lower the roof will that effect the taxes. Or better yet they do not need to know of the alteration of your home. Just something to think about. Be sure and keep records of what you spend on the house so if you sell it, I think you can still cut any capital gians taxes using the money spent on the house. But that might go away with this new taxing they are doing. Just a idea or two.
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spottrouble

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Re: Turning a 2 story house into a 1 story house, is it crazy?
« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2013, 01:11:35 PM »
Hmm, I'm thinking you need a few hobbies to utilize that upstairs space ;). I live in a 4 story monstrosity, I only use 2000 sq ft on the bottom floor for living area, the rest is workshops and storage, I even have 2 airplanes stored on the second floor, plan to add a full woodworking shop next year. In my world there is no such thing as "too much" space. Its not unusual in the winter for me to go a whole week without leaving home, all I need is food.