Alteration or Addition?

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Alteration or Addition?

Post by PNut »

I am going through the process of rehabilitating an old home that had been changed quite a bit over the years. We are proposing moving one wall of an existing addition two feet in order that we can lower the roof lines of the additions that were added over the year. The purpose is to expose more of the historic part of the house...I'm having a discussion with our local Historic Preservation Commission as to whether this is an alteration or an addition--the difference in definition will make a difference in what I'm allowed to do...Anyone out there with a comment? Any Architects? Thanks.


Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by Steve »

PNut, I am the chair of my local Historic Pres. Comm. and to give you an answer I would ask you one question: Does the wall moving increase or decrease the footprint of the building? In my opinion an increase of building is an addition, a decrease is an alteration. This based on not seeing the project. Steve


Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by richie »

I'm fully qualified as I saw an architect on TV once.

Are you making things larger or smaller, if smaller, it's easier to pass off as ultruistic, if it's larger, you're motives may be suspect.

If the way it looks now is really, really awful, and you can display (measured and detailed) benefits, it may help get you allies.

Defined benefits include "exposing decorative soffits", and "resolves damaging problems with rainwater drainage" (have your damage reports ready)"

Purely stylistic promotions like "it looks better" don't hold a lot of water - it may be historically accurate for your house to look goofy.

If the subject wall is over 50 years old, you've got a hurdle to overcome (it'll likley be considered "part of the historic presentation" of the home").

Another problem is if the wall isn't on the rear-facing exposure of the house. If the change is viewable from the main street, it's more significant than a rear-view change.

So... if you're enlarging the house (who cares how much?) it's likely an addition. If you're reducing it, and it's not an old part of the house, and it looks better, and it fixes problems, and it's in the rear, I'd let you call it whatever you wanted.


Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by HB »

I'm even more qualified than richie cause I worked with an architect ...once.

If you add square footage, your adding so its an addition. If you change it in some other way it's an alteration.

Barbara Schwarz

Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by Barbara Schwarz »

And I'm more qualified than Richie or HB since I work for a group of Architects ..... daily.

HB's description is the simplest: "if you add square footage, its an addition. If you change it in some other way it's an alteration".



Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by Heidi »

And I'm more qualified than Barbara because I am an architect (okay, so I haven't actually finished my exam but that is a whole other story). I would agree that it is an addition if you are adding square footage. Although I agree with Richie that it is all about explaining what you are doing and why to the Historican Preservation Commision. The more photos and drawings to emphasize your point the better. Last month I had to go in front of the Cambridge Historical Commision for a project. The exterior work on our project only included a handicap ramp so we passed without a problem but I got to watch a lot of people get rejected. One woman was trying to lessen the pitch of her roof (so she could have a full height 3rd floor). I'm not sure if they called it an alteration or an addition but it was rejected (and they were staying well below the height requirements for the neighborhood). It seemed like this commision was tough but if you could show that you were making something better or highlighting the original features of the house they were accomodating. It may also be worth while to see if you could get someone from the commision to come out and look at the house with you before you have to present to the full committee. Then you should be able to get a better read on the situation.


Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by stan »

I hope I'm not too late to weigh in here, but.... The previous answers are correct, basically. If you add to the footprint, that is definately an addition, but remember, an addition is also an alteration because it alters the original structure. Likewise, a change in the original structure, such as adding a window, or changing facades is often interpreted by preservation boards as additions, since it adds to the structure's features, content, and/or complexity. As for the comment about "removing something to make it better"... Well, that is an arguement that will not stand up before any preservation board, and you will be better not to try using it. What they are concerned about is the HISTORIC structure, not your opinion of what is better. Just because you think that removing something improves it doesn't mean the preservationists will agree. As for the wheelchair ramp mentioned in the one response, most preservation agencies (all that get public money) are required to make allowances to upgrade structures to meet the ADA standards. They often make suggestions on how to build the ramp as to not impact significantly on the historic structure, but they rarely turn down reasonable plans. As for your particular problem, this is something you will have to work out with the controlling agency, be it a local or state agency. While they are all following the same basic rules (Section 106 of the HP Act) these agencies vary so much on interpretation and enforcement that getting advice from someone outside your state, or someone unfamiliar with the particular agency you are working with, may not be of much help in the end. Most of the preservationist people are very helpful, I certainly try to be, but you may run into rules and regulations that to you seem completely inane. However, you have to remember, if they start bending rules for you, they have to bend them for everyone, and given some of the ideas I have seen presented to preservation committees in the 16 years I have been doing this, I am sure you don't want everyone's changes approved.


Re: Alteration or Addition?

Post by PNut »

Just a short note to thank all who contributed...Much food for thought!

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