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What Homeowners Must Know About Adding A Second Story To A House

by Adam on September 12, 2023

The available space on a property does not always allow you to build out, but you can still increase the square footage by adding a second story to a house. But before you start calling around to see which home builder is best for your second floor addition, take a look at this introductory information.


Is it better to add a second story to a house or build out?

Adding a second story to a house versus a standard room addition depends on the amount of available space for building. There is usually room above a structure, but there is not always enough room to build onto the side or back of a house. So a second story allows most property owners to utilize untapped atmospheric real estate.

Can I build a partial second story addition?

If you do not need all the space of a second story, you can opt for partial second story addition. This will add living space above your home similar to standard room additions but does not repurpose any existing space. Just be aware that you will lose some space on the first floor of your new staircase.

How long does adding a second story to a house take?

On average, adding a second story to a house takes six months to a year. A partial second story addition can take as few as three months or as many as five. The exact timeline of a project depends on the size and ambition of the building. In recent years, the volatility of supply chains and unseasonable weather have added unexpected delays to building.

Does a second story addition require remodeling on the first floor?

When you are adding a second story to a house, there has to be some way to get from one story to the other. This requires an interior staircase. If there is no room for stairs in your existing floor plan, then you will need to remodel the first floor to make this accommodation.

Can I live in my home while adding a second story?

Yes, in some cases, you can stay in a home while the second floor addition is built. But this is mainly for partial second story additions, where some of the home is not affected. However, with the amount of dust and noise created during the renovation, it is unlikely that the environment will be livable while adding a second story to a house.

1. Adding A Second Story To A Ranch House

When it comes to building dream homes, you don’t have to start from the ground floor. You can aim a little higher by adding a second story to a house. And in the case of adding a second story to a ranch house, this is often one of the best approaches to building.

Not every single story building is a ranch house, but every ranch-style home is characterized by being a single story home that is wider than it is deep. If you own a classic California ranch home, one of the best ways to go about creating more living space is by adding a second story.

However, in many neighborhoods where the default building plan is a ranch house, a second floor addition might be off the table. Certain neighborhoods have specific building codes that prevent building two story homes and will not allow adding a second story to a house.

2. Losing Space To Stairs

With new construction (building from the ground up), you can accommodate for the space needed to build a second story staircase. But adding a second story to a house requires stairs to be a post hoc consideration for your building. This results in a minimum of lost space and potentially the need to remodel a portion of the bottom floor.

You can limit the amount of space you need for stairs by using a spiral staircase design rather than a single gradual incline. However, you should be aware that spiral staircases are more difficult for those in poor health to navigate. If you get sick or as you age, navigating the house can get tricky.

3. Second Story Addition Costs

The cost per square foot is often higher when you are adding a second story to a house versus building out. As we have already covered, adding stairs is an additional consideration with additional costs. And in some cases, adding a staircase can necessitate remodeling the first story.

Additional costs come from the difficulty of roof destruction and the additional complexity of tying in existing electrical, plumbing, ventilation, etc., which can require extensive reworking of these systems. But an experienced home remodeling contractor will be able to navigate this type of planning.

For all of these reasons, it can sometimes be twice as high per square foot when you are adding a second story to a house as opposed to building out.

4. Adding Space With A Second Story

With a second story, you are potentially doubling the square footage of your home. But what are you going to fill that space with? Is it just more bedrooms? Are you adding bathrooms? Besides the number of each particular room type, you need to consider how large each needs to be.

For bathroom remodeling, it is good to consider who is expected to use it. If you would like multiple people to share a bathroom, making it larger allows each person to have space for their hygiene products and potentially two sinks to freshen up simultaneously without bothering one another.

5. Partial Second Story Addition

You don’t need to build an entire second floor. You might not benefit from all that space, or the project might not fit into your lifestyle for some specific reasons. Luckily, a partial second story addition is still on the table to add space while without taking as much time and money to build.

But with a smaller second floor addition, you really have to make a choice as to how you want to use the space. For example, a second floor kitchen remodeling project is not the best use of space if that is going to be your only second floor addition.

If you do not have space to build an ADU (accessory dwelling unit), but that is all the space you need, a partial second story addition will be perfect.

Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind that not every local contractor is experienced with second floor additions. Adding a second story can be a tricky building project, and you need a remodeling company that knows what they are doing.

If you are ready to start adding a second story to a house, contact a local contractor who has the experience you need.

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Call us: (408) 343-8386