One of the big selling points when we purchased our bungalow in 2016 was the completely bare and unfinished attic. Not only did we have front row seats to any water, rot, or pest damage, we also had… possibilities!
In case you didn’t know, the classic Chicago bungalow is a one and a half storey brick structure that is long and narrow, to accommodate a rectangular city lot. They have low-pitched roofs and full basements. Typically the basements and attics were left unfinished for a couple of reasons: to give growing families space to expand or simply to provide a utilitarian place for chores outside of the domestic living space (think laundry, food storage, fuel storage for the furnace, etc). Come to think of it, my attic in the summertime would be a great place to dry clothes…
But then there are those…that burn themselves into your memory.
It’s safe to say that when most bungalow owners grow into their attics, they renovate tastefully; you can take a look up and down any street in the belt and I’m sure you’ll see that not everyone tampers with their roof lines or disrupts the streetscape flow to finish out their extra floor for more square footage. But then there are those…that burn themselves into your memory.
They rip off their entire roof and add a full second floor. That’s right…
It’s gruesome. It’s tasteless. It says, “history and architecture be damned.” If I’m being honest, you may as well move to the suburbs if that’s the kind of space you want. One is pending in Portage Park for 415K after a year on the market. This Frankenstein amalgamation of detailed brick bungalow bases and builder-basic 1995-era wood-frame, vinyl-sided boxes is… appalling to say the least. But let’s not forget, people are paying money to do this to their bungalows. And some contractors are more than willing to do the work.
This brings us to the Chicago Bungalow Association.
They launched their campaign to #StopThePop as a hashtag on social media nearly two years ago, in an effort to spread awareness and educate homeowners about delicately modernizing their vintage homes. Their suggestions were (and are still) simple. And now to illustrate that fact, they’ve launched an amazing effort: The Bungalow Expansion Project. Through the efforts of the CBA, Northlight Architects, Liska Architects, and AIA Chicago, you can now download plans here for finishing out your basement, updating your heating and/or plumbing infrastructure, adding dormers or tasteful second storey additions, or even expanding your kitchen… all with cost estimates and example blueprint plans.
These expansion plans aren’t meant to replace the necessary steps of getting permits or consulting with an architect before you begin a remodel project, they are meant to help bungalow owners make informed decisions when it comes to expanding their historic spaces.
Maybe you want to hire an electrician and a plumber, but you’re comfortable with doing the drywall work or installing the fixtures yourself, you can do that!
In my opinion, these plans are a game-changer because having a defined set of outcomes takes a lot of the guesswork and mystery out of planning a renovation (how much is this going to cost, what do we really have space for?). Not to mention, images can help when you’re communicating with an architect or contractor and you don’t necessarily know their terminology or the best way to communicate what you want.
For those of you that looked at these plans and were hit with a lightning bolt of reality (i.e. sticker shock) don’t worry… this really is just a framework and they more than leave room for people who are DIY savvy. Maybe you want to hire an electrician and a plumber, but you’re comfortable with doing the drywall work or installing the fixtures yourself, you can do that! I personally enjoy doing finish work in a space, so I might opt to save on the cost of having someone do it for me and instead put that money into dormers for my attic. The plans offered by the CBA will go as far as you need them to, AND there’s enough variety in these concepts that you can pick and choose what fits best in terms of the scope of your future project and the contemporary function of your bungalow.
Unless you need a Frankenstein house, then you’re on your own.