The prevalence of ranch-style homes in Atlanta, as well as cottages and contemporary homes needing more space, make roofs a focus for architects and contractors when it comes time for renovations. Some second-story additions stand out for their poor design, though.
With some homes, it looks like a box has been dropped on top, with no rooflines or architectural elements that fit with the existing style or move the architecture in a new direction. When planned correctly, redoing the roof can expand the living space and incorporate dormers, gables and decorative details that transform the home.
“Don’t count it out that your existing house is too Colonial or traditional,” said Randy Glazer, owner of Atlanta-based Glazer Construction. “By changing the roofline, we can change the total look of the house.”
Before you get started, make sure the permits are in place. Homeowners likely need a permit for projects, such as replacing the roof, that go beyond simple repairs or aesthetic upgrades, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
From blah to breathtaking
On Lake Blue Ridge in North Georgia, a fish camp built in the 1920s had a quaint stone chimney protruding out of a sloped roof but needed a serious update. The lake homeowners, who live in Atlanta, reached out to Roswell-based Handcrafted Homes and asked owner Judy Mozen to create more bedrooms upstairs, along with expanding the downstairs screened porch. They didn’t want the cabin to be torn down because they liked the main level’s floor plan.
Mozen built columns to support a new structure and raised the chimney, which still rises from the roof. Upstairs, she added a family room, three bedrooms and two baths, with lake views. Double gables add character, instead of a basic sloped roof.
Some homes she’s renovated had ineffective upstairs space, such as a lodge-style home in Atlanta that came with dormers and an oddly placed skylight. She removed the skylight and adjusted second-floor space to connect the two existing dormers with a gable featuring a big arched window.
When the windows of an outdated 1970s home in Atlanta began to leak, Handcrafted Homes helped solve the problem and transform the residence from its older contemporary look into a cottage-style home. The chimney was extended and the higher roof added volume, Mozen said and, with a new entryway featuring an arched top, it made the home more welcoming.
From classic Atlanta to French style
Atlanta architect Linda MacArthur designed the homes of two clients to accommodate more space and better connect the design to their preferences.
In a Buckhead cottage, where a second-floor addition looked like a blob on top of the first floor, a new roof was designed as part of a renovation that raised ceiling heights to 10 feet. To give the homeowner the French-country style she was fond of, MacArthur created a new exterior with a higher-pitch roof, gables, windows and shutters.
MacArthur and another client pored over a book of homes in the Bordeaux region of France to select roof features that could be added when redoing the upstairs, which had sloped ceilings that were low and confining, she said. They took off the roof in one portion and made it a full-two story addition with three bedrooms. A high roof pitch that swooped at the eaves and casement windows were also added to create the formal chateau look.
“We were trying to give her a little piece of France in Sandy Springs,” she said.
From ranch to … anything else
On ranch-style houses with flat roofs built in the ’60s and ’70s, adding a second story can give you an opportunity to make the home look taller and more substantial and elegant, Atlanta architect D. Stanley Dixon said.
“It gives it more presence,” he said. “We’ve done many of these throughout Buckhead.”
When planning to renovate a ranch, which typically needs additional framing to hold a second floor, MacArthur suggests that homeowners raise the 8-foot ceilings to 9 or 10 feet.
“Most people don’t want their house to look like a two-story ranch house when they’re done,” MacArthur said. “It’s a great canvas to be able to change and do something else.”
For a one-story ranch in Brookhaven, she reconfigured the layout to bring the kids’ bedrooms upstairs and a playroom looking out on a golf course through big windows in double dormers.
A new roof line allows people to create a complete addition to the second level, with more space and taller ceilings. Sometimes a dormer or two can make a big adjustment to the look of the home, whether you work with an existing roof or add a new roof. A dormer also could be added above an existing garage to bump up the space.
“Adding dormers to the roofline creates bigger spaces and makes the room feel bigger without ripping the whole roof off,” Glazer said.