There’s no doubt about it: building a second story addition to your home is a challenge. Many homeowners don’t actually realize the magnitude of such a job, but seasoned professionals know what’s involved. Of course if it’s done right, it can be well worth it. Often times you can nearly double your home’s square footage with a second story addition.

If you ask a professional contractor about adding a second story to your home by yourself, most will caution against it. They have seen what headaches such a process can cause for a homeowner. It can turn into a nightmare very quickly. 

That’s why hiring a contractor with experience and knowledge about second story additions is crucial. This is simply not a good choice for a DIY project. Contractors who have performed second story addition jobs know the challenges involved and will keep everything moving on the right path with minimal disruptions.

That being said, as a homeowner you should know a bit about the process of adding a second story so that you can plan things out properly. You should at least be aware of the costs involved and shop around for plans and estimates.

In this article, we cover some of the most common questions homeowners have when it comes to second story additions. Hopefully these will set you on the right path for a successful home improvement project.

 1.   How much does a second story addition cost?

Obviously it depends on the house, but a typical price range for a second story on a 2000 sq. ft. house ranges anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000. Keep in mind that partial second story add-ons (ones that have less square footage) can range from $150,000 to $200,000. That’s because many of the costs are similar whether you are adding one or several rooms in your second story addition.

Similarly, a two-car garage with loft will run from $150,000 to $200,000. If you’re adding rooms for an apartment above a garage, it’s possible that the garage itself will need to be replaced. A garage with a living space above it is very different structurally from a simple garage.

Many home builders / renovators charge $250 to $400 per square foot on average, this will vary based on finishes, the room you're working on (kitchens typically having the highest costs) and the craftmanship and experience of the company, for additions you'll also have to factor in these costs plus the costs of demolition, permitting, engineering, etc. 

2. Can I add only a partial second story, such as an extra bedroom?

You absolutely can, but remember that the cost won’t scale down evenly. You’ll get more out of your project if you add multiple rooms and spaces.

3. Why do second story additions cost more than additions on the ground level?

There are a few reasons for this. First, there is more demolition work involved in a second story addition (the roof, for example). Second, you’re going to be looking at a lot more work on re-doing the plumbing and HVAC systems in your walls and attic.

Finally, you’re going to need to add stairs to the lower floor, so that’s an extra cost right there. There might also be more modifications needed to the ground floor, adding to the costs.

4. Where can I live in my house during the construction of a second story addition?

Any remodeling work will produce a lot of dust, and if you’re doing a full addition you won’t likely be able to live in your home while it’s underway. However, in the case of a partial second-story project, you can isolate the work area to keep dust and some noise in, leaving your living area (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom) safe to use.

If you’re having work done on your garage, you’ll most likely be able to still live in your home without issue.

5. How do I find an experienced remodeler for this project?

It’s no secret that this is not a job for a handyman. You must hire a contractor with specific experience in knocking down structural walls and working with existing mechanical systems. You need to ensure they have the right certifications in construction and remodeling. 

Asking the right questions is key when you’re shopping around for a contractor. Don’t have every contractor you’re contacting visit your home - ask questions over the phone and narrow down the candidates that will visit in person. home renovators

After that, you can choose one and negotiate the price. If they are skilled they will be able to find ways to bring the costs down if needed.

If they give you a price that seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Follow your intuition and be wary of custom builders that claim they can do remodeling. Remodeling is a very specific and complex field involving skilled crews. It’s not the same as doing a new construction.

There are many sites like Homestars, and even Google where you can see the work and reviews of contractors in the city, ask friends, family and even your agent for referrals as well as they can typically speak personally to someone's workmanship. 

6. How long will a second-story addition take?

For a full addition, the short answer is about 6 to 12 months. This can vary considerably depending on the amount of foundation work the project involves, the weather, and the availability of materials. You can also run into snags and need to change your plan midway through the project, so that can add time as well. A partial addition can be done in 3 to 5 months.

7. Will my home’s foundation be able to support a second story addition?

There's a good chance it can, but at the very least, it’s going to need some reinforcement. A second story addition will obviously add a lot of weight to the house, and its frame was not originally designed to carry it. You’ll need to develop detailed plans with an engineer’s guidance and reinforce the slab. An architect’s input is not enough for this type of project. Before you get any estimates, make sure to map out structural details like beam sizes.

Here's a video that's a good... Foundation.... For whether you may or may not be able to add a second story addition. 

8. Are there height restrictions to second-story additions?

There usually are. Depending on whether your development is in Calgary or one of the surrounding areas, this will vary, you might even be prohibited from adding a second story altogether. It’s absolutely crucial that you clear your plans with the city or municipality before you start your project. It’s best to do this yourself, before you’ve committed to a remodeler, or ensure they can assist you with these steps if you're not able to yourself. Make sure you check out programs for first time homebuyers as well.

9. What if there’s no room for a staircase on the ground floor?

Typically floors above the ground need to be accessible by proper stairs of a certain width and depth, and with enough headroom above. The stairs will need enough room to spread out, which some homes may not have on the ground floor.

One solution is to install a spiral staircase. They can even be a more affordable option than regular staircases. However, they could be more difficult for kids and seniors to use.

Another option is to have the second floor access be outside. This brings its own disadvantages, but it will leave the ground floor relatively intact.

10. Will work need to be done on the ground floor?

This will depend on the project. It’s possible to create an addition without removing the ceiling, drywall or joists. It will depend on the structure of your home and specifically how the air ducts are laid out. You might need to also update windows and doors in order to match the second floor’s style. If your stairs are going to be indoors, then you’ll definitely need to have that work done on the ground floor.

Second story additions in conclusion

This is definitely up there on the complex scale when it comes to home renovations and remodeling. One of the best starting points it exploring the city of Calgary secondary additions page, you'll get a good understanding if your home is allowed to undergo this work which is one of the first hurdles you need to overcome to get the process started, you'll also discover the fees associated with permitting of your work. 

Posted by Cody Tritter on
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