The Top Five Questions About 2nd Story Additions

IMG_2672Adding a second story addition to a one-story home is a bigger challenge than most people realize.   My remodeling company does a lot of this kind of work, but that alone doesn’t necessarily qualify me to be an expert in doing this complex type of addition.  What does though is that I have done this project at my own house and lived there with a wife and kids while it was torn asunder.

Nearly doubling your home’s square footage is extremely nice when it’s over, but it comes with a price.  We suffered all the ravages of turning one’s house upside down while living there during the construction – something I now will not allow my clients to do.   It taught me huge lessons about how stressful remodeling can be for my clients.   I have a deep, genuine sense of empathy about the upheaval and disruption that happens.  I find that homeowners love it when they work with a contractor who knows the challenges of remodeling first hand.

BELL_FRAMING_1ST_FLOOR_PROGRESS_PIC_4.27.16Second story additions are also technically complex projects, so it’s a good idea to have an idea about the process and typical costs, before jumping in feet first to get plans and estimates.

Second stories add significant weight to the original house, something its skeleton was not designed to hold up.  Detailed plans must be developed with and engineer’s input along the way.  The engineering cost can be over $1000.00 dollars, involving analysis of your slab and need for strategically placed underground piers inside and around the perimeter.   A similar analysis has to be done if your home is built on a “pier and beam” foundation up off the ground.  Critical structural details like beam sizes should all be spelled out in the plans before  you get any estimates.  An architect’s opinion about remodeling structural issues is not enough, and they are notoriously low on the cost of such projects.  The City – and your experienced remodeler will both need this information in order to pull permits.

The Top Five Questions:

Q1.  Do I have to do full 2 nd  story or can I do a partial one, like adding a new master bedroom and bath as second story space?

A.  You can do it either way.  You can also add a second story on a garage, but you often end up replacing the existing garage, slab and all.

Q2.  What do projects like these really cost?

A.  Every house is different but here are some typical ranges:  For a full 2nd story on a 2000 square foot house, the cost can range between $150,000 and $200,000.  For a partial 2nd story in the 500-700 square foot range, expect to pay $90,000 to $120,000, especially if there is a new bathroom upstairs.  People are often surprised to find out that a new two story, 20’ x 22’ garage (with living space on the 2nd floor) project, can cost between $100,000 and $150,000.

Q3.  Why does 2nd story work cost more per foot that adding new space on the ground?

A.  Several reasons: There is more demolition (of roof systems for example), there is a lot more interruption and re-working of the plumbing systems and A/C gear in your attic and walls; the addition of stairs in the house always requires significant changes in the downstairs space, a factor often overlooked in the beginning stages.

Q4.  Are there exceptions to the rule where I can  live in my house during the construction?

A.  Yes – With some partial 2n story projects, the work area can sometimes be isolated, leaving a working kitchen, bathroom(s) and some bedroom living space relatively untouched.  Also, you can almost always live in your home while a two story garage is being constructed.

Q5.  How do I find a remodeler who has the experience and skill to do this sort of project?

A.  This is no handyman project, that’s for sure!   You need a contractor with lots of experience knocking out structural walls and tying into existing mechanical systems.   The most experienced contractors in town belong to the Greater Houston Builders Association Remodelers Council and N.A.R.I.  Also, be sure he or she has certifications in remodeling and construction.  Instead of wasting time parading several contractors through the house, use your time wisely to ask the right questions over the phone first , to narrow it down to 1 or 2 companies to come do site visits.  Then select the one you think is the best fit for you, and negotiate the project from there.  A skilled remodeler can even help you cut some cost out of the project if need be.

A custom Builder I know says he can do my remodel and has given me a cheap price.  It seems too good to be true.  Follow your gut instinct.  Beware of custom builders who say they know how to do remodeling.  Remodeling is a different discipline with more skilled crews that are used in new construction.  Custom builders do not have enough experience knocking out structural walls and tying into existing mechanical systems, and perhaps more dangerous, do not know how to estimate and price these things.  This increases the chances they will run out of money and leave in the middle of the work leaving you with an expensive mess.

I hope I am not depressing you with this information.  These are the real facts about second story addition work.  It is always good to go into these adventures with your eyes open, armed with realistic information.  I have never regretted adding a second story to my home and there are many good reasons to build up.  I love and appreciate my house and the changes I made during the remodeling.  I know you will feel the same way, especially if you work with a skilled remodeler. Feel free to reply or call me if you have any questions about second story additions, or any other residential remodeling projects.


Legal Eagle Contractors is an award-winning full-service building and remodeling company for residents of Houston, TX with decades of experience in home and second story additions.