5 Ideas for Increasing Your Philadelphia Rowhome’s Square Footage

5 Ideas for Increasing Your Philadelphia Rowhome’s Square Footage

The size of your family, as well as your overall dynamic, is unlikely to remain stagnant over the years, which means it only makes sense your home cannot stay the same either.

As your needs evolve, you may find yourself wishing for more living space, whether that be a larger kitchen, extra bedroom, or perhaps a specialty area. If you otherwise love your Philadelphia rowhome, then packing up and moving into a larger house may not be your best option.

You can add square footage to your existing home in a way that fits your lifestyle needs and future goals using a thoughtful design approach.

Adding Space to Your Philadelphia Rowhouse

By their nature, rowhomes present some unique parameters when it comes to remodeling and expanding. They are narrower than other single-family homes and you likely have shared walls on one or both sides of your rowhome. This means that you can’t build out in those directions to gain additional square footage. You must look to other options that primarily focus on going up or back.

The first step is clarifying the purpose of increasing your home’s square footage. Do you simply want more space indoors for your family to be able to spread out and have more privacy? Do you want to increase your access to outdoor living within the confines of your own property? Is there a specific room you need, such as a guest suite or a home office? Evaluating the current structure of your home and what exactly is causing discomfort or inconvenience for your family can help you identify the best solution.

Once you’ve nailed down the “why” of your expansion, you can focus on the “how.” Here are a few ways to add usable square footage to your Philadelphia rowhouse:

1. Building a Third-Story Pop-Up

third story addition with beige cement exterior and big window in Philadelphia by Bellweather Design Build

Third-story pop-ups are becoming a popular space-enhancing solution in expanding urban areas, like Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., especially if you need the extra room for a new owner’s suite (formerly master suite), large multi-purpose workspace with custom built-ins, or a bedroom for older children. However, adding a third story to a two-story rowhome may not be useful if your main struggle is a cramped kitchen or living room.

Constructing a third-story pop-up typically requires significant structural inspections and modifications to ensure that your house can support the extra weight. You may also have to completely remove the existing roof and upgrade the ceiling joists on the second story. Mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems will also have to be supplemented or modified.

You’ll need someone to research local building and zoning codes to ensure that your intended project is aligned with your home’s zoning designation, or else be prepared to apply for a zoning variance. For example, some Philadelphia zoning guidelines require anyone wanting to add a third story to a 2 story rowhome to set the addition back 8 feet to preserve the character and quality of light at the streetscape.

2. Finishing Your Basement

University City finished basement with kids playhouse in West Philadelphia by Bellweather Design Build

Finishing or converting your basement is another effective way to increase the habitable space in your Philadelphia rowhome. You may have unfinished, or at least under-utilized space with potential. With a complete makeover, you can transform your basement into a functional expansion of your home without substantially changing the exterior of your home or infringing on your limited yard space.

Not all basements have high enough ceilings to accommodate normal living areas, but you can achieve plenty of other uses with the right remodeling project. Create a playroom that gives your children the perfect spot to hang out and make noise without disturbing other household members or having toys clutter the rest of the house. A finished basement is also a good option for a remote office, home classroom, media room, home gym, or even a spa-like pool.

3. Expanding Out

Girls Bedroom with pink and blue canvas teepee and pink beanbag chair in Philadelphia by Bellweather design build

Bumping out, or expanding the back of your home on the ground level, is another option that may be available to you, depending on the size and condition of your backyard. This is ideal if you want to add square footage to a space already located on the first floor. For example, kitchen bump-outs are popular if you need more space to accommodate a growing family or changes to your daily habits and routines at home. You may also be able to expand your living room or complete a room addition via this type of project.

When planning a Philadelphia bump out, be mindful of zoning rules that may limit the number of square feet you can add on, dictate how far you can go past your adjacent neighbor’s rear elevation, and establish your setback requirements.

4. Enhancing Outdoor Living

modern farmhouse roof deck remodel with white couch in Graduate Hospital by Bellweather Design Build

Outdoor living spaces are desirable for numerous reasons. They enable you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Philadelphia from the comfort of your home. They improve your health and wellbeing by giving you a spot to take in the sunshine and fresh air. They also allow you to more easily host family gatherings.

When expanding your home's square footage, consider going with an outdoor addition, such as a porch or rooftop deck. You’ll wind up with a residential space that is conducive to everything from sunbathing in solitude or enjoying a drink after a long day to entertaining guests while looking out over the Philadelphia skyline.

Zoning regulations for decks are complex, so you’ll want to rely on the expertise of your Philadelphia contractor. They should be well-versed in local codes and how to comply with them when adding a beautiful rooftop deck to your residence.

5. Remodeling Interior

children's bedroom loft with blue walls and bunk bed in Narberth by Bellweather Design Build

Finally, remodeling the interior of your rowhome enables you to add square footage—or at least maximize usable space—without disturbing the existing footprint. One strategy is to build a loft, which not only provides you the space of the loft itself but also opens up space below. This is a viable solution if what you need is more storage space or an extra bedroom for guests or your teenager.

You can also reconfigure the layout of your Philly rowhome to incorporate space-saving solutions. For example, there may be interior walls that could be removed to open up the floor plan, or you could replace your existing staircase with a more compact spiral staircase. Your design-build team can help you explore creative options to augment usable space and improve the value of your Philadelphia rowhome.

Giving New Life to Your Philadelphia Rowhome

You may be starting to feel a bit cramped and uncomfortable in your current Philadelphia rowhouse, but that doesn’t mean you have to move and leave behind the neighborhood where you’ve set down roots. 

Our team at Bellweather Design-Build can work with you to devise an ideal solution for adding on to your home in a way that fits your home style, budget, vision, and unique lifestyle needs. We offer a full suite of design-build services to guide your project from the initial conception to the final walk-through in one seamless, rewarding process. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help increase your rowhome’s square footage

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