how to get idea of cost of adding second story

crl_January 28, 2007


We're moving from CA back to the DC area this summer and will be buying a home. One possibility is to buy a fairly small place with the intent of adding on. Most likely we'd be looking at buying a singe-story place around 1500 square feet and adding a second floor. (Probably going from 2 to 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom to 4 bedrooms and 2 to 2 1/2 baths, possibly some reconfiguring on the first floor to get a more open floor plan.)

Anyone have experience with this and have a cost ballpark for us? I know the details will make a big difference, but we are looking to figure out is this a $100,000 job, $200,000, $400,000. . . . We need to know whether it's worth our time to look at houses like this and talk to contractors.

Thanks so much for any insight!


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My experience is barely relevant; I live in a small town in the midwest, not a big city near the coast, and I tend to do my own work on my house rather than hiring a contractor. One thing I do know is that prices vary greatly from one region to the next, so you should be careful to get guesstimates specific to the area you plan to move to. Another is that the new construction part of the project will be easier to predict than the possible reconfiguration of the first floor. Hopefully someone else on this forum will have recently done something, in the DC area, similar to what you're contemplating, but you might also call some builders in that area and see whether they have rules of thumb that could help guide you.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 7:14AM
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I live in a midwest small town, and I know the contractor was new in town, needing work. But if it helps to start. We added 500 sq ft (2 BR 1 BA, large closet), stairs, new roof for 40,000. But the job ended after the sheetrock. We are doing all the floors, trim (stipped old woodwork and doors), painting, etc. We had some structural issues, had to place beams in 3 areas to hold the weight of the addition and the stairway was new also. Maybe if you tripled the cost.... and then figured flooring/tile, installation... it would at least give you a down and dirty remodel price?

I don't know if any contractor will give you a ballpark figure without seeing a house. I found that they were extremely reluctant in that area. Hopefully, you can find somone that has done it. Also there are one or two shows on cable that show couples buying houses and doing major remodeling, and there they give actual figures. For the life of me I can't think of the show's name, sorry. Also, DC is one of those areas that even the contractor's price will vary depending on which side of the beltway you live on. Sad, but true (we used to live there). Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 9:41AM
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I am going through this exact thing currently. After much speculation and generalizations I just took the next step. That is having a plan actually worked up. This involves a financial committment in inspections and drawings. But you need to have definitive plans for exact material and labor bids/quotes.

In my area there are general calculations like 125sqft offered up by builders as a "quick rule of thumb". But that is not specific to your home. And there can be big differences from one home to another in the cost of retrofitting what you are describing.

I have had terrible luck with every architect I have ever dealt with. I'm praying this time is different (this one cost more). I beleive for the average guy they are the deal maker/breaker.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:57AM
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Thank you all for your help!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 5:43PM
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Catherine, unless you are moving back to an area where your Dad is a builder and your brother is an electrician or you are quite rich, I think doing a big remodel in a new area is a nightmare. Pick a house you like, in an area you are comfortable and just plan to do all the million things you have to do in a house you just bought (painting, gardening, new carpets, etc.) but we just finished a major remodel on a house that was built for me originally;there were surprises, unexpected expense and delay, and my husband was the G.C. There was no way to calculate the expense accurately on a remodel & that would be even more true for you because the weather in D.C. has to be factored in.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 6:28PM
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I live in the DC area and I moved here from SoCal about 4years ago. I am in the process of a remodel (drawing and permit approval stage). The going price in this area for a remodel is anywhere from $180-$250/sq.ft.

I disagree with marge727 on this. Many homes that I found in the area were built very poorly in terms of layout. Size was another issue, many homes were just too big but so poorly designed that you would drive yourself crazy trying to stay organized or even heat and cool these beasts. Living in the DC area, you will find a variety of homes from 100+ year old homes to new construction. I suggest you pick a great neighborhood and work with an architect. Sometimes, you think you need more space than is really necessary. My home is a ranch style house and has about 1700 sq.ft and my new addition will add 160sq.ft. The house is missing an entry way that is important for storage and transitions through the space.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 2:22PM
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Thank you all so much for the information and thoughts! While I would love to find a house that meets our needs without remodeling, in the right school district, walk to transit, etc.; it just may not happen. Especially since we will have a somewhat narrow time window for purchasing (can't carry rent here and mortgage there for long and need to have a residence for the school year). Ultimately the house can be changed, but the location cannot. . . . So we're trying to explore all options and stay flexible.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 5:41PM
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Depending on the age of your kids, you may find it impossible to add an entire second story on your house and actually live in your house. But, you can always use price per square foot quoted to you by builders, and then add all the extras. For example, the price per square foot they will quote you does not include residing the bottom part of your house. Likewise, it will may include a one zone central air system, but creating a second zone for the existing house will probably be another $9K.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 5:49PM
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Since you mention redoing the floorplan on the first floor, presumably redoing the kitchen, I would estimate the cost of your job at $350K ($225 new second floor, minimum, $75K extras like central air, renovating first floor, $50K kitchen).

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 5:52PM
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I'd say $300 - $350 sounds about right. We're going through it now without redoing the Kitchen and downstairs bathroom plus we added a garage. Wee shoppe off the top of a cape and made it a colonial.

We're living in it and it's pretty INSANE!!!!

Good luck. I think if we started over we would start with a house that could get by with a lot less structural work and more curb appeal and minor construction maybe windows a roof, siding, a portico etc.. More interior design.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:30PM
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Thank you all so much! (We do have a plan for being out of the house for the actual remodel--summer vacation and various relatives being key.)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:57PM
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homepro01, would you be willing to share your architect's name?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 11:05PM
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We do this type of work, but we don't cross the bridge to VA anymore. We wouldn't even attempt an estimate without seeing the site and having a general scope. That said, the numbers mentioned by others seem reasonable.

In MD you don't have to have an architect for residential projects. I believe that is true in VA also. Typically a designer will cost a bit less (even with the engineer stamp).

If you like, I can give you some names of reputable designers or architects we have worked with. As always, ask for and check references.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 2:23AM
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Check your email.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 2:41PM
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I'm sorry, your message did not come through. I think there is a glitch with the board as I am only getting about half the replies to this thread in my mail box, even though I subscribed. Would you mind trying again? You can send directly to CRLewers @ aol . com (without the spaces, of course) if you'd like. Thank you so much!


I'd love those names! E-mail me or post here, whichever you'd prefer. Thank you!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 11:35PM
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