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The Lowdown on Adding a Second Story to Your Home

Some homeowners who live in a single story house consider adding on a second floor to increase the size of their home. This can be done for many reasons – family size expansion, increasing the value of the home, simply wanting more space, etc.

Doubling the size of your home's square footage can be a tempting thought! But it does come with a price, and adding a second story addition is a bigger investment and challenge than a lot of people might realize when going into it.

Because second story additions are such a huge project, it's good to have a clear sense of the process and the costs involved before making the choice to do it. Let's take a deeper look at the realities of adding a second story to your home and what impact it can have on your life and your finances.


First things first: You're going to want to know how much the full project will cost you before committing to anything. The good news is that this particular type of remodel won't normally involve any foundation work – the foundation of your home is already there and intact. That's typically the most expensive part of a remodeling project.

However, you'll need to have the foundation inspected to make sure it can hold the extra weight. Certain types of soil can only stand up to a specific weight load, so you don't want to overburden the ground and risk damages to your house or other unsafe conditions. Any contractor will make sure this is the first step in the project.

Another bonus is that, depending on the condition of your existing roof, you might be able to lift it off in one or two sections with a crane and reinstall it on top of the new addition. It's expensive to rent a crane, but not nearly as expensive as paying for an entirely new roof.

Also, remember that you don't have to take on the entire expense at once. Your initial investment can be for the basic structure of the second floor and the roof to make sure you can inhabit the first floor. After that, you can stretch out the finishes you add to each room on the second floor according to your budget.

Jeff Pelletier from Board & Vellum Architecture and Design in Seattle says that it's tough to calculate a budget for a second story. It will depend heavily on your location, the size and style of your house, the quality of materials and the company you choose. His rule of thumb? "You'll need $300,000 to add a 3-bed/2-bath second story and have it look decent." And, it's probably safer to plan for $400,000 – $450,000 after all the incidental costs.

However, he admits there are probably plenty of people who can do smaller homes for far less than that – especially in areas less expensive than Seattle. But he reminds you to keep in mind that "a well-designed second story addition to a home will live better, and appraise higher, than one slapped together for lowest cost." Legal Eagle Contractors offers up that $150,000 – $200,000 is a better estimate.


There are many reasons to consider adding a second floor to your home. Beyond the benefit of having extra space, expanding your home vertically is a better use of space than expanding outward into your lot – especially if your lot is small.

You can enjoy more space and still take advantage of your yard for gardening and outdoor living, and still have distance from your neighbors. It's also a great way to make more room for a family.

You can also take advantage of the construction project to heighten your ceilings on the first floor – this alone can increase the value of your home. At the same time, you can look at the layout of your home and decide to open up small rooms or merge rooms together now that you'll have more space upstairs. It opens up a whole new world of possibility.


Be prepared for a considerable timeframe on this project. Pelletier says that from the day you hire an architect to the day you start construction can be approximately four to six months or longer. The negotiations can take a sizeable amount of time, and that's just sorting out the details of the project. Then you'll probably want to allow at least five months for construction.

Legal Eagle Contractors say that homeowners should be aware that the project will absolutely turn your home upside down – and you'll have to find a place to live during the course of the project. That means giving up your house and renting a place for five months or longer.

Questions to Ask

There are some important questions to ask both yourself and your contractor before deciding whether or not to add on a second floor.

What is my budget?

It's a good idea to look at your budget and figure out how much you can realistically allocate toward a renovation project. Then you can start contracting local contractors to get a sense of the cost based on the size of your house, location, etc.

Make sure to ask what the extra cost would be to add on particular extras that you want, like a full bathroom, specific finishes and more. Consider whether you will be funding the project with existing funds or borrowing from a bank or mortgage company.

Is a second story within my zoning code?

It's a good idea to visit your local government zoning office to find out if you are permitted to add a second story. Many zoning codes have a limit for the height of a structure. A good rule of thumb is that if other houses near you have second stories, you should be able to build that high as well, but it's best to check.

How do I find a good contractor?

You can find good contractors in any area, but make sure they have proper licensing and certification in remodeling and construction. A good contractor will take the time to discuss the project with you in detail and gain a deep understanding of your needs and expectations. They should also be upfront with you about pricing and not tack on any hidden costs.

Do you have any tips on how to prepare to add a second story to your home? Share them in our comment section!

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