Second Story vs. Ground Level Addition: What’s Best for Historic Homes?

Remodeling a historic home can be an exciting challenge for homeowners. When it comes to expanding your unique space, though, which is better? Adding a second story or a ground-level addition? Here, we share comparisons to consider when considering a second story vs. ground level addition to your historic home. 

Why Renovate a Historic Home?

Historic homes can present a lot of challenges for homeowners and builders because of their ancient (and sometimes fragile) structures. But the benefits of renovating them can often outweigh the cons, allowing homeowners to craft a unique dream home. Benefits like:

  • Increased square footage:

    Historic homes typically have smaller living spaces, so they may not fit modern needs

  • Improved energy efficiency:

    Older homes may not have energy-efficient upgrades like central heating and cooling, smart thermostats, double-paned windows, and much more — all of which are necessary for cutting costs and energy consumption

  • Enhanced character:

    Historic homes have unique characteristics and features that aren’t often found in new homes. The good news? A renovation doesn’t have to take away from your home’s unique charm; it can enhance it.

Restrictions When Renovating a Historic Home

Before you get started with your home addition, first check to see if you can actually renovate your historic home. In many places, it’s illegal to add square footage to a historic home in order to preserve the structure’s integrity. 

Next, consult with a company like Factor Design Build to understand all of your options before remodeling your historic home. Our architects and designers will be able to give you better insight into what’s possible, what’s not, and other things to consider before you remodel your home. 

Once you’ve checked both of these must-dos off your list, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of a second story vs. ground level addition. 

Second Story vs. Ground Level Addition 

Benefits of a Second Story

Adding a second story to your historic home is a huge undertaking, but one that may be worth it in the long-run. That’s because it can provide tons of benefits. Let’s break them down:

  • You don’t have to sacrifice outdoor space.

As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor space is absolutely crucial for homeowners. A second-story addition lets you retain all of that additional living space (and eventually upgrade it!).

  • A second story may actually cost less.

Foundational components for ground-level additions are very expensive, so the cost to build a second story may actually cost less. This is especially true if a house is built on terrain that is not flat.

  • You’ll have more privacy.

Ground-level spaces are typically more open and have a lot more traffic. A second story can help create more separation between different areas of your home, allowing everyone more privacy — especially those who work and school from home.

  • You’ll have better views of your surroundings.

Adding a second floor can unlock site lines you never knew were there.

Benefits of a Ground-Level Addition

The benefits of a ground-level addition may not be as long as above, but it’s a benefit that can make or break your entire historic home remodel. That’s because a ground-level addition is undeniably less intrusive than a second-story one. Most preliminary work can be done while living in the house, minimizing the duration or need for any potential temporary living arrangements. On the other hand, building a second story requires moving out entirely before the project can start and likely staying out until it’s close to finished.

Factor Design Build is Your Historic Home Renovation Partner

At Factor Design Build, we can help renovate and transform your historic home with our true design build approach. Whether you want to make small enhancements or build entirely new additions, you will have the same team to plan and execute every single step. From initial inspections to architecture to design, our experts will act as your renovation partner throughout the entire process, creating a seamless and successful experience for you and your family. Contact us today to see how we can elevate your historic home.

Denver Historic Home Remodeling: 3 Things to Expect

Denver has grown exponentially since its foundation as a gold mining town in 1858. While much has changed since then, many of the homes built in the late 19th and early 20th century still stand today. Distinct character makes it easy to fall in love with Denver’s historic homes, but living in one does present a unique set of challenges, most notably a lack of usable space. Historic home enthusiasts can have the best of both worlds – the charm of a historic home and modern-day amenities – when they use the right design build team for their historic home remodeling project.

What is a Historic Home?

Historic homes will embody distinctive characteristics, construction techniques, and other factors that make them unique. To officially be considered historical, a structure needs to meet the criteria put forth by the National Register of Historic Places. Examples include: 

  • The building must be 50 years or older
  • The structure must be associated with a significant historical figure or event 
  • The house must yield important information about a specific time in history

Your town or neighborhood may also have additional requirements for official historic designation. 

While many people prize historic homes, many older homes are just as charming while posing similar remodeling challenges as historic homes.  

Before Your Historic Home Remodeling Project 

When it comes to remodeling Denver homes, it’s imperative to know if your home technically qualifies as historic. Homes with historic designations require special permitting, a process with which design build firms are thoroughly familiar. Older homes that don’t technically qualify as historic may not need to adhere to the same rules and regulations.   

You also need to know if your home is located within a historic district. Even newer homes built in historic districts may be subject to review with the Landmarks Commission if modifications will change the external structure’s appearance.

Research the facts and obtain required permits before any remodel even begins. Failing to do so could result in a lot of wasted time, energy, and resources. 

Challenges of Remodeling Denver Historic Homes 

While historic and older homes are full of charm, they may also come with some downsides. These can include cramped rooms, outdated bathrooms and kitchens, or lack of closet space. Homeowners may start to look for ways to modernize, but in ways that still retain the house’s unique essence & feel. 

Balancing the need for updates with maintaining the home’s integrity can be difficult without an experienced professional’s help. Electrical and plumbing issues are not uncommon in older homes, nor are foundational issues. This can particularly apply to homes constructed of brick, as many historic Denver homes are. Asbestos and lead paint are other potential hazards you may encounter. These are issues that require special attention and precautions. 

Permitting is another challenge, regardless of the type of permits you may need to obtain. You already learned that exterior modifications for homes in historic districts are subject to review. Official historic homes may require additional review from boards, associations, or other entities. Additional zoning ordinances may require your Denver home remodeling to be done in a particular way or even using specific materials. Without proper research and planning, you run the risk of rejection and may have to start the process all over again.   

Factor Design Build Historic Home Remodeling  

With so many potential challenges and regulations associated with remodeling a Denver historic home, hiring an experienced firm can save you a lot of time and hassle. It can also ensure your remodel retains the home’s original essence. 

Factor Design Build founders Josh Fiester and Kent Simpson collectively have over35 years in residential and commercial construction, including work on older and historic homes. The whole Factor team brings hundreds of years of architecture, design, contracting, and construction experience to the table.  

Their expertise means they know how to avoid pitfalls and how to accurately estimate time and budget, so there are no hidden fees or unexpected add-ons. With Factor Design Build’s fixed pricing model, construction challenges are addressed up-front, so you aren’t faced with any surprises. And the return on investment is immense, especially for your overall efficiency, pleasure, and quality of life. Contact Factor Design Build to get started today.


Design Guide: Embracing Form & Function of Mid Century Modern

So you’ve got your heart set on a mid century modern remodel? Maybe you have a mid century split level home, or perhaps you have a few pieces of furniture or art you find inspiring. No matter what your influences are, we are here to give you a guide to mid century modern design. We will talk about some of the critical features of mid century modern design and let you know how Factor Design Build can help with a remodel to create the mid century modern home of your dreams.

Read more


Tips For Winterizing Your Colorado Home

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Denver is in for some crazy winter weather full of ups and downs. Whether you believe in the power of the Almanac’s abilities in meteorology or not, it’s important to make sure your home is prepared for winter. Freezing and thawing can wreak havoc on both modern and historic homes. What are some of the best ways to winterize?

Read more

, , , ,

Create Style and Beauty in Any Space With the Addition of a Fireplace

Adding a fireplace to your home adds warmth and coziness to your home and outdoor spaces. Especially in cold Colorado winters, a fireplace adds style and interest to any space, while the energy efficient warmth of a gas or wood-burning fireplace gives the whole family something to gather around and enjoy a nice night in.

Read more


Factor named 5280 Home of the Year

Modern Design combined with Traditional Features transformed this Cheesman Park estate



At Factor Design Build, one of our biggest passions is to breathe new life into an old home. And that is just what we did with a Cheeseman Park estate this last year. We were thrilled to learn that 5280 Magazine loved the completed project so much they gave us the award of 2018 Home of the Year: Traditional. Check out the feature article complete with photos.

In the highlighted project, Factor Design Build teamed up with interior designer Beth Armijo to completely renovate this 8,000 square foot estate. Built in 1912, this Italian Renaissance-style home had shockingly only housed three families in the last 100+ years. But in those years, homeowners completed a number of DIY renovations and other updates that were not consistent with the period of the home. The 5280 articles jokes,

“her third level, last updated in 1972 [was] every bit the Brady Bunch set sprung to life.”

What did we have to do to turn over 100 years worth of aging into a functional, beautiful, family-friendly space? To start, the design build team took the home mostly down to the studs. For such an old house, it had a surprisingly open layout. In fact, one living space was so large, the family even decided to split it into two areas that were more comfortable.

After reimagining the floor plan, the team brought in more light with new windows, brought in updated plumbing and electrical, and modern heating and cooling. The team updated flooring, in some cases using Italian marble for a stately look. Once many of these essentials were in place, the team had the challenge of creating finishings that matched the existing, true-to-period 

finishings. Matching these details took incredible attention to detail, and our woodworking team knocked it out of the park. They made sure original and new components matched seamlessly.

One of the most stunning features of the renovation was the addition of pocket doors that echoed the design of the original, historical windows behind them. The team commented that this was quite the feat since the custom-made doors were 1,000 pounds each and 10 feet tall. Nonetheless, the effect was beautiful. Now where there was once one overwhelming living space, there are now two cozy spaces separated by pocket doors with custom glass matching the window silhouettes. This allows the areas to be as connected or closed off as the homeowners want them to be.

Other details that stayed true to the period were the clawfoot tub in the master bath, custom radiator covers, and reuse of the existing crystal chandelier. This chandelier had previously hung in the dining room and had 10,000 crystals that needed cleaning. After each crystal was carefully cleaned and the home was completed, the design team placed the chandelier in the entryway of the house.

Interior designer, Beth Armijo, took our vision to the end with clean, modern design. She used many of the families existing pieces and adding elements that flowed from room to room. You can see more of the exquisite interior design in the photographs in the 5280 article.

For a family needing to take this well-loved and outdated home and turn it into a functional and warm space that suited everyone, a renovation from Factor was just what they needed. We are so thankful that the homeowners, and 5280 Magazine, appreciates the work and we were honored to be a part of such a significant project. If you have a renovation project that would benefit from the seamless teamwork of the Factor Design Build team, please contact us today.


7 Key Considerations for When You Want to Remodel Your Home

If your home is starting to feel too small or if the layout doesn’t fit your lifestyle anymore, you may start considering a home remodel. Remodeling your home is a big decision and there are a variety of considerations to consider before taking the leap. Here is a guide of questions to ask yourself to help decide if a remodel is right for your house and your family. Read more

, ,

9 Signs It’s Time for a Bathroom Remodel

Is it time to remodel or redesign your bathroom? Learn the tell-tale signs that your bathroom is no longer functional and outdated.


Are your bathroom design and features outdated? Is the space and storage no longer functional for your family’s needs? It might be time to consider some updates or even a full remodel but first you want to ensure you are making the right decisions. If you notice any of these 9 tell-tale signs, it’s time to talk to a professional.  

Read more

, , ,

Adding A Second Story Pop Top

When Considering an Addition to Your Home, Look Up!

Building upward with a custom design for a second story pop top could be your best option if you need more space. Consider a pop top if you love your home and your existing neighborhood, and really have no desire to move, but need more room. Whether your family is growing or you need a home office, sometimes adding on horizontally, isn’t possible.

Whether your home is fairly new, or you have an older historical home, if the foundation is solid and the structure has great bones, the designers at Factor Design Build can find the perfect solution for you. We specialize in custom home additions in the Denver area.

Read more

, ,

Remodeling A Historic Home:  Combining Elegance and Functionality

Historic homes possess a certain grace and sturdiness that is sometimes hard to find in a modern home. From solid building materials to intricately carved details, the elegance of a historic home is hard to match. Historic homes are not a clean slate, and turning an older home into something that you love takes a keen eye for design and an experienced construction team.

Read more

, , ,

Tips for Planning a Successful Home Addition or Remodel

Making the decision to remodel or add on to your home can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. But never fear, Factor Design Build is here to help you every step of the way. Here are 9 tips from our experts to get you started.

Read more

, , ,

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Features Factor’s Impactful Work on a Forever Family Home in Golden

Factor Design Build Featured in Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine

The Factor Design Build team was proudly featured in Colorado’s leading home design and interior decorating resource, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles in an article entitled, “A Fateful Family Home in Golden.” The piece highlights Factor’s expansive renovation work on a mid-century style house in Golden’s Applewood neighborhood. The homeowners decided to make the move from their well-loved spot in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood upon discovering their family would grow from four to five in the coming year.

Read more

, , ,

Design Tips for Bathrooms of Every Size  

From Small Powder Room to Luxurious Master Bath: Design Tips for Every Bathroom in Your Home

Depending on when your home was built, if you’ve remodeled, or the layout of your house, bathroom sizes can vary wildly. But whether you’re looking to maximize space, create openness, or capture the feeling of a luxurious spa, these expert design tips  make your bathroom beautiful and functional, whatever its size.

Read more

, , ,

Four Reasons Why Remodeling Now Makes More Sense in the Long Run

Investing in a remodel is a venture that benefits your quality of life for many years to come. From simple, money-saving upgrades and layout refinements to full-fledged additions, there are a variety of avenues to pursue when embarking on a remodel. While it may seem like a lot of work on the front end, keep in mind these reasons why remodeling your house now makes more sense in the long run.

Read more

, , ,

4 Key Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering Building a Home Addition

After much research, you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to start planning your home addition. When everything is said and done, adding onto your house will give you more space, improve your quality of life, and enhance the resale value of your property. Before moving forward with your home addition project, consider these key questions.

Read more


4 Things to Consider Before Remodeling a Historic Home

Historic homes are known for their rich history and charming character. They may have unique design elements and interesting details that are irreplaceable, like long, winding staircases with hand-crafted handrails and big, dreamy porches with high ceilings and wide floorboards. However, this character often comes with hidden challenges, especially when you’re remodeling a home that may be more than 100 years old. If you’re thinking about a historic home remodel, here are four things to consider before you start.

1. Check your city’s historic home requirements.

Depending on where you live, your city or county may have extensive rules and regulations about remodeling historic homes. Start your research here first.

Find out how your property is classified, and what changes you will be able to make to the home. Depending on your home’s age, location, and history, it may be designated as a “landmark,” or it may just be in a historic district. Either way, this is critical in planning your home renovation. The property designation and city requirements will help shape the boundaries for your renovation.

Once you have hired  a team of professionals with historic home renovation experience, find out if they’ve had experience working with the city or county where you’re located. They’ll need to navigate the city’s design review process, and if they’ve worked there before, it will make it easier to navigate your project within the city’s rules.

Check your city’s historic building rules here:

2. Check Your Home for Any Structural Issues

Structural issues are common in historic homes  and can be very costly to fix.The foundation may have corrosion, moisture damage, or an uneven slab. To find out if your home has structural issues, look for cracks in the foundation. If you see stair-step cracks or vertical cracks, you may have a structural problem. Consult a Structural Engineer if needed.

historic home remodel

3. Check Your Home’s Plumbing and Electrical Systems

In historic homes, the electrical wiring and plumbing may need major upgrades. Find out the age of the plumbing system, and find out what materials were used for the pipes. Different kinds of pipes last longer than others. Brass and copper pipes usually last 50 years or more, whereas steel pipes may only last for 20 years. Depending on the kind of pipes your home has, you may need to upgrade so that a pipe doesn’t break and cause major damage. Also, make sure you check for roots in your plumbing system. Root damage can wreak major havoc if undetected.

Similarly to the plumbing, the electrical system also has a limited lifespan. Most historic homes have wiring that’s unsafe due to the wire’s insulation. The insulation is only estimated to last 70 years, whereas modern wiring should last at least 100 years.

4. Estimate Asbestos Removal for a Historic Home Remodel

Another problem area in remodeling a historic home is managing the asbestos removal. Almost all homes built or renovated in the 1940s through the late 1970s have some amount of asbestos in the insulation, or in other building materials, according to This Old House.

The costs associated with asbestos abatement vary greatly, depending on the home’s size, and difficulty to remove the asbestos. Either way, this is an important issue and cost to understand early in the process.  

Now that you know a few of the potential issues with a historic homeremodel, let us know if you’d like to learn more about how Factor Design Build can bring your historic home back to life.


Before and After: 9 Changes that Transformed this Family’s Home

Boulder professionals approached Factor Design Build about remodeling their North Boulder home to improve the lifestyle of their family of five. The residence’s overall design aesthetic was dated and tired, space in the kitchen and two upstairs bathrooms wasn’t being utilized to its fullest capacity, and poor construction of the sunroom made it an unusable space.



The kitchen was too cramped, preventing two people from working simultaneously within the allotted space. The center island was too small, so the couple and their three daughters could not sit down to eat together, and limited drawer space was not enough to keep up with the needs of the large family. The kitchen’s constricted layout also limited access to the family’s gorgeous backyard and patio space.


Kids’ Shared Bathroom
All three girls shared one bathroom. Interior dividing walls made it so the bathroom couldn’t hold two of them comfortably, let alone all of their stuff.

Master Bath
The master bathroom was also a constricted space. The toilet did not have its own separate room, the bathtub in the rear of the space closed off any extra functionality, and the finishes were outdated and unwelcoming.

The sunroom was too cold in winter and too hot in summer, making it an impractical space for the family to enjoy.



We worked with the homeowners and our in-house design team to create an inspired space that fit within the family’s budget to enrich their quality of life at home. We totally redesigned the kitchen from the ground up. We added a 12-foot-long island to accommodate the whole family and installed a new wet bar. To minimize clutter, we opened up multiple unique work spaces and added a custom walnut display wall for the kids to hang their artwork. Finally, we updated all the finishes, such as antique brass pendant lighting, customized butcher block and Ultracraft cabinetry, to match the homeowners’ taste and style.


Kids’ Shared Bathroom
Our goal was to make the kids’ bathroom light and full of color. We removed the old tub and replaced it with an oversized shower, complete with plenty of nooks and storage space. We omitted some interior walls in order to install an oversized vanity, ensuring plenty of cabinet space so the counter could remain clutter-free. We hung a long custom-framed mirror above the vanity. We selected a durable floral patterned tile that sets the tone for this fun space! Anthropologie mint-colored cabinet knobs round out the space with a welcome pop of color.


Master Bath
The master bath was adjacent to sorely underutilized office space, so we incorporated some of the excess space to make the master bath a more functional room. We added a large shared vanity and freestanding tub to allow a more comfortable space. We installed herringbone tiled floors and rift-cut oak cabinets to create a brighter and more attractive interior.


To maximize the usability of this space, we enclosed the ceiling of the sunroom and added two new remote-controlled skylights. We also replaced all the old windows and sliding doors, making the room more energy efficient and improving the aesthetics of the space. Finally, we installed West Elm pendant lights to complement the natural light within the space.