7 Questions to Ask Before You Add a Second Story

Johnna Kaplan

Adding a second story to your home can have many benefits. More room and privacy means more space to fulfill those days dreaming of a starting a small business, or for elderly parents or grown children to move in without everyone feeling cramped.

Yes, you could move if you need a larger home, but if you absolutely love your location, a second-story addition can mean the difference between having to move or being able to stay put. And if you’re looking to sell or rent your home, either now or in the future, a newer-looking, larger house can be more attractive to future buyers or renters.

Even though adding a second story can sometimes be an ideal solution, it also has its downsides. Some of these are obvious, like potential structural problems and the high cost of a complicated renovation. But before you start asking financial or technical questions of contractors, there are some other serious questions you should ask yourself. Here are seven issues to consider before going ahead with a plan to build up.

1. Do I really need the extra room?

Perhaps you’ve been comparing your house to newer, bigger homes, and wishing that you, too, had some extra room. Or maybe you’re growing dissatisfied with certain aspects of your home and dreaming about starting over with a space you can design yourself.

The question to ask yourself here is whether you really do require more square footage. It may be that the problems you think can only be solved by building additional rooms can, in fact, be improved by making changes to your existing home. Instead of a second story, you might decide to look into incorporating a more livable design in the bathroom.

2. Can I build out instead of up?

If you have a large enough yard behind or beside your house, it may be far easier – not to mention much more affordable – to add a ground-floor addition rather than a second story. Other options to think about, depending on your needs, include turning a screened-in porch into a year-round room; refinishing a basement; or constructing a small, detached studio or guest house on your property.

3. Am I ready to find and work with experts?

Adding a second story isn’t as simple as hiring someone to fix a broken pipe (and in reality, even finding a good plumber can be quite a trial.) Before you take on a major building project, ask yourself whether you’re prepared to research architects, contractors, and/or builders, hire the experts you feel most comfortable working with, and work with them during the months-long process.

Also think about the other individuals and institutions you might have to deal with. For example, will a substantial change to your property require a permit from your city? Could it start a feud with your neighbors or a debate with your HOA? Will you be taking out loans from a bank? All these interactions might seem trivial individually, but together, they can be quite time-consuming and mentally taxing.

4. Will I move out or live with the construction?

Not all second-story additions require you to leave the premises for months on end, but some do. If you move out temporarily during construction, you won’t have much access to anything you leave behind. And if you’re paying for accommodations, those costs can add up quickly. If you stay at home, you may find that although living amidst the dust and the noise is possible, it’s very unpleasant, especially if you can’t use all of your home’s amenities, such as your stove or washer and dryer.

And as with all complex projects, the initial estimated time frame you receive may turn out to be unrealistic. Anything from bad weather to unexpected electrical, plumbing, or even personal issues can delay construction, meaning the time you spend away from your house – or living in a partially-finished house – can stretch longer than you planned for.

5. Am I forgetting hidden costs?

Sure, you probably know that constructing a second story isn’t cheap, but the costs might be even higher than you think, and they can come from unexpected places. An addition can mean that your home’s assessment will rise, as well as your property taxes and insurance premiums. And the work involved can damage landscaping, necessitating later repairs.

6. Am I ignoring possible negative consequences?

Adding an upstairs to your ranch might seem like a win-win situation – your house will look more modern and there will be more room for everyone. However, adding stairs to a formerly one-level house may create areas that are off-limits if you or someone in your household develops mobility problems in the future.

A bigger house also means that you’ll have more rooms to clean – or that your cleaner will need to bill you for more hours. And although adding a second story will ideally improve your home’s curb appeal, a new exterior that doesn’t blend in with your home’s original style or your neighborhood can have the opposite effect. Make sure to exhaust your options of livable design ideas for the exterior of your home.

7. Should I buy a new home instead?

Depending on many factors, including your location and the style of your home, adding a second story can be comparable – in price, added value, and disruption to your daily life – to selling your current house and finding another that better suits your needs. A new room above your garage is one thing; a full second story with bedrooms and bathrooms might be such a large undertaking that packing up and moving to a new house begins to look like the better option.

This list of potential concerns isn’t meant to deter anyone from moving ahead with a desired home renovation. Adding a second story can increase the value of your home, allow your extended family to live together, and give you the opportunity to design the perfect space for your needs. But before you sign any contracts, make sure you thoroughly research and consider every aspect of the decision to ensure that adding a second story is really the right choice for you.

Thinking of adding on to your home? Make sure you have the right home insurance that’s tailored to fit your needs.

Keep Reading: Should You Move or Remodel?

Leave a Reply

Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. At Extra Mile we do not have access to personal policy information, please do not include personal identification information. If you have questions or concerns regarding your policy, please log into your account at our customer service center or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.