Q: My husband and I want to add a second story to our Cape Cod-style home. I've heard about using a prefabricated addition. How feasible is that?
A: You're probably thinking of what's commonly called modular construction. This is how it works: A complete addition—including roofing, floors, insulation, plumbing, and wiring—is built off-site to your specifications while your contractor constructs any necessary components to join the addition to your home. For a second-story addition, for instance, your contractor will build a stairwell, then, just before the addition is shipped, remove your home's roof, strengthen the joists as needed, and install plates to set the unit on.
When the addition arrives, it will take the crane operator and crew about a day to set it in place and weatherproof it. Subcontractors will connect the new and old heating systems, plumbing, and wiring, and then your contractor will complete the finishing details. Keep in mind that your foundation, framing, and footings will need to handle the additional weight of a second-story addition and that main-level additions may require extending your home's current foundation. Plus, you may need to increase the size of your furnace as well as the capacity of your electrical system. Please note: You'll need the assistance of an architect experienced with modular transitions.
So what's the payoff? Modular additions are typically ready in about a third the time of stick-built ones and can save homeowners big money. For more information go to www.buildingsystems.com.