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How to add a second floor to an existing house?

James Anderson

July 14, 2021

Expanding the floor space of your home can be an intriguing concept! It does, however, come at a cost, and adding a second floor is a larger commitment and effort than many people think when they begin.

But, can we agree that the ability to remain in the same community you've known for years or to continue enjoying a setting that can't be found anywhere else - it's priceless? 

However, adding a second floor is a large project, it's important to understand the procedure and expenses before deciding whether or not to proceed.

Let's dig deeper into the facts of adding a second floor to your home and the implications it has. 

Consider Your Current Situation 

During your house renovation, here are the most common ways to add another level. It boils down to your tastes, foundation needs for adding a second floor, and construction laws that will all influence how you approach your second-floor extension project. 

1. Using a modular:

A modular second-floor addition is designed and manufactured off-site and delivered to your existing home fully constructed.

2. Build from scratch:

Another alternative is to demolish the roof and start with building the second floor from scratch as a new level. However, consult a professional build company because the current frame of your house may not be up to code for adding the additional weight of another story. 

What You Need To Know Before You Start Adding Your Second Floor 

No matter if you want to add a second floor to add extra privacy for yourself, or if you have kids, you want them to have their room; there are a few things you need to be careful: 


The height of ridgelines on residences in your community may be limited by local building laws. Before you start drawing up the designs, talk to local city officials.

Avoid boxy effect:

If you double the height of a basic, rectangular house, it will look like a big box. That's why trim, porches, overhangs, roof pitches can help to balance it out.

Ensure that the structure is properly supported:

Because some house foundations aren't capable of supporting a multi-level building, you should always double-check the foundation requirements before adding a second floor.

A one-story house's rafters aren't usually sturdy enough to serve as floor joists for a second level.

Tip: Before you start planning the renovation, have a structural engineer inspect your home's foundation and structure. 

Take care of the windows:

The new second floor's window shape, placement, and size should match the old story so that openings line up or make appealing patterns on each external wall from top to bottom. 

How Much Will It Cost You? 

Well, it depends on your goals. If you plan on adding a significant amount of space, let's say; more than one room, but you have a restricted budget - the best alternative is to build up.

Because you will work on your existing foundation, the good news is that you won't have to do any extra foundation work, which is one of the most expensive parts of any remodeling.

But, don't forget to make sure the foundation supports the weight you will add. 

Building another story generally runs between $100 and $300 per square foot. But it can cost as much as $500 per square foot and this depends on the quality of materials and complexity of the project

However, you will be able to save more money on roof construction by removing the current roof in one or two major portions with a crane and reinstalling it on the new second floor.

Although renting a crane can be costly, it is significantly less expensive than constructing a new roof from the ground up.

Key Insight: Although if your roof is old then it is advised to replace it altogether. In most cases, you can only reuse the joists and frame of the roof and not the roofing material itself.

The entire second-floor addition cost for these types of house extensions could be roughly half that of a traditional ground-level addition of the same size if the additional rooms are simple spaces and affordable finishes are used. 

The cost of constructing a second-floor extension is typically between $100-$300 range per square foot. Depending on the quality of the materials and the complexity of the job, it can cost up to $500 per square foot. Rather than just adding a room, a second-floor addition usually entails adding a full level to your home.

And if you are adding a modular floor the cost may be around $25 per square foot.

It's usually not a good idea to add a whole room to a modular home because the structure might not be able to hold it. 

However, when it comes to your budget, It's a good idea to see how much you can spend on a makeover. Then you may start hiring local contractors to receive an estimate based on the size of your home, location, and other factors.

Make sure to inquire about the cost of adding on specific features that you desire, such as a full bathroom, specified finishes, and so on.

Consider if you'll fund the project with cash on hand or by taking out a loan from a bank or mortgage business. 

How Much Time It Will Take? 

Be aware that this project will take a long time to complete. For example, the time from hiring an architect to start building can take anywhere from four to six months.

The discussions themselves can take a long time, and that's just figuring out the project's technicalities.

Then you should expect at least five months of construction time. You will need to find a place to live while it is being completed. This entails moving out of your home and renting a residence for at least five months. 

8 Tips For Adding A Second Floor 

So, we cover the options of how to build a second floor to your house and how much it may cost you. Here are the 8 tips you must consider when adding a second floor. 

1. Your current ceiling and may not be robust enough to act as a floor for your new story. Early on, enlist the help of professionals to examine any potential problems.

2. Consider where you'll reside throughout the renovations if you're adding a second floor. It may be impossible to stay in your home, especially if you have children. Staying with friends or relatives can help you save money, but it isn't always possible. 

3. Ensure that access to the second story (the new stair set) is simple and that the conversion blends in with the rest of the home's design. Further foundational support could also be necessary. 

4. Prepare for any unanticipated concerns that must be addressed before the planned work can begin. Renovations are generally more expensive than new construction since you never know what has been done before the work is exposed. 

5. Some homes were not built to support the weight of a second floor, necessitating the addition of costly steel constructions. However, if well planned, it can still be a beneficial investment. Adding room upwards rather than outwards onto precious land and garden can add a lot of value to a home, especially if there's the possibility of a great view. 

6. Contractors typically find it difficult to provide definite pricing for large-scale improvements. The majority of craftsmen will provide an estimate and then work will be done on an hourly basis. 

7. Take advantage of any available dead space, making sure it's tailored to hold specific goods. 

8. Choose a licensed builder; if they aren't, they should be working under someone who is. Contractors with large or small businesses should be covered; inquire about your contractor's insurance coverage. 

Extra Advice: It's a good idea to check with your local government's zoning office to see if you may build a second floor. The height of a structure is often limited by zoning rules. If other nearby houses have second floors, you should be able to build that high as well, but it's always wise to double-check. 

Mistakes To Avoid When Adding A Second Floor 

A home remodeling project rarely runs smoothly from start to finish, especially one as substantial as adding a second floor.

Prepare for the frequent mistakes that occur with building up to assist avoid costly setbacks and unpleasant shocks. 

Miscommunication with the builder - When a builder isn't upfront with the homeowner or there's a miscommunication, the homeowner's expectations may not match what is provided by the builder. 

Not having a strong foundation - A single-floor home's foundation may not be strong enough to sustain another floor. So, better hire a structural engineer to assess the existing house to see if it's robust enough to support the increased weight before you start building.

If not, beams, walls, the slab, and other supporting parts may need to be strengthened or rebuilt, thereby increasing the project's cost. 

Not keeping the moisture out - Although your contractor should have the area covered with tarps to help keep moisture out while the roof is removed, there is always the chance that rain or snow will compromise the interior of the property.

Not making good plans for the new staircase - A second floor is only functional if it can be reached easily, which necessitates the usage of a staircase.

This can be difficult if the first-floor layout does not allow for enough open floor space to accommodate a staircase. To save money and save floor space, some homeowners choose to build the staircase outside the house. 

Benefits Of Adding A Second Floor 

  • You can have more space while still having distance from your neighbors and using your yard for gardening and outdoor living.
  • Adding a second floor, is also a fantastic technique to make more space for a growing household.
  • You can also use the building project to raise the ceilings on the first floor, which will boost the value of your home by itself.
  • At the same time, you can assess your home's layout and determine whether to open up small rooms or combine rooms now that you have additional space upstairs.
  • It introduces a whole new realm of possibilities.

The Bottom Line 

Choosing a contractor to work with is by far the most essential decision you'll make during this process, so choose wisely. Adding a second floor is a big job that requires a lot of skill and precision. You should check out the company's reputation.

You may find reputable contractors in any area, but be sure they have the necessary remodeling and construction licenses and certifications.

A reputable contractor will spend the time necessary to thoroughly discuss the project with you and obtain a thorough grasp of your requirements and expectations. They should also be honest about pricing and not tack on any extra fees. 

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