Tiny New Englander Grows Two-Fold


These clients are both working professionals, he is an electrical engineer and extremely capable to build just about anything. He bought the 1860’s 1-3/4 high New Englander in 2016 as a “fixer-upper” and he has renovated this 956 sqft home on his entirely on his own. We started working together in May 2020.


The lot is long and narrow (58’ x 150’) in the West End of Portsmouth, NH. The house is situated to the left of the property and right on the sidewalk within the front and left setbacks. We received a variance on this project because the lot is non-conforming.


With New Englanders, there are two good options for additions – the side or the back. Since the lot was already non-conforming, it made sense to do the addition to the side. (Note: If we had decided to go straight back the entire addition would be non-conforming and right on their property line. This never would have passed through the Board of Adjustment). We could easily do the addition off to the side and still comply with setbacks leaving 15 feet for parking. This also leaves a beautiful private and large backyard.

Once we knew exactly what the footprint would be, the existing roofline determined what the addition roofline would be. We have a full foundation connecting to the existing basement structurally reinforcing the existing stone foundation wall. The first floor is simply expanded the living square footage of the living and dining room. The second floor is a master suite with a walk-in closet, a bathroom in the front, and a bedroom with a laundry closet. There will need to be a step up into the master suite in order to have a flat first-floor ceiling height because the new building codes require a thicker floor system.


True, it has been a year since we started working together and what a year! The design process went quickly but the permitting process did not! The city was incredibly backed up for variances due to covid and quantity of applicants and still is. Once through the variance the permitting process also took a few months, issuing the foundation permit first so that they could pour. Now that the decking is on the first floor, the framing can begin.

Tying into an existing older home is not for the faint of heart. Our new building techniques and code requirements make everything difficult. Typically, we step the addition in a foot giving us a bit of “grace” and a wall to tie into, but the goal of the addition was to expand the living space with a smooth transition. So, while it will be tricky, I have full confidence that it will be just fine.

Watch our Instagram as we continue to shoot the project through the construction phase.


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