Is It Cheaper To Add On Or Build Up?

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If you are in need of more room in your house, you may be pondering whether building an addition makes more sense than building up. Some several considerations and constraints will have to play a part in your decision. Not only those relating to budget but also those related to how much land you have and whether your city will allow you to build out. Another way to look at this project is by analyzing the particular space you need. If what you need is, for example, to expand your kitchen, a room that is generally located on the ground floor, building more space on the second floor will not work. Let’s have a look at some considerations.

Up or out? That is the question. You need space, and you want the most for your money. Your home site might make the decision for you. If you don’t have much of a yard to the sides of your home or behind it, up might be the only way to go. Local zoning laws also come into play. The cheapest solution depends on various factors, as each situation is different.

How much does it cost to add on to a house? That depends on many factors, including location and if you’re building up or out. In this article, we’ll explore what’s cheaper, as well as the pros and cons of each option.

In many real estate markets, it’s hard to ignore the state of constant construction. Everyone seems to want to build things up all around them. This is especially true of homeowners who want to add more value to their property or add some extra space. The thing is, adding onto a house and building additional rooms isn’t exactly cheap. Planning for a new look for your house? Look no further!  MJS Construction Group  is here to help in your home builders.

To make things easier, people often add a little strategy to their building. That’s why they tend to look at the cost of building upwards, versus building outwards. The problem is, it’s not always easy to figure out which is cheaper. So, what’s the deal? 

What Is Involved In Building An Addition?

In order to build an addition and thus increase the footprint of your home, your contractor will have to present a plan to the city to get the necessary permits, if needed. Then, excavating equipment will be brought to dig up the area where the additional foundation will sit. It won’t be until the new space has walls and a roof that your original exterior wall will be torn down and both areas will be linked.

Are There Advantages Or Disadvantages To Building An Addition?

Advantages include the fact that you may continue living in your home while this construction is ongoing. In cases of small additions, foundation work might not be needed.

Disadvantages could be that you will end up with a smaller backyard and that you may encounter problems with your city if a zoning variance applies. Your addition infringes upon the property line setback. You may also have to deal with floor-area-ratio limits imposed by your city.

What Is Involved In Building Up?

Building up offers you several options to gain that much-needed additional living space. You may go all out and plan to add a second story to a one-story house, or even a third floor if your home has two. You may also dormer out a section of your existing floor space if you now have a pitched roof. Or you may convert your garage, sunroom or porch into living space.

Are There Advantages Or Disadvantages To Building An Addition?

The main advantages are the fact that you will not be giving up a single square inch of your backyard but also that you will not face problems with zoning restrictions related to setbacks or floor-area-ratio limitations.

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The disadvantages include the fact that many cities and towns have an established limit as to how tall a house can be. Also, a second or third story will eat into your existing floor space when a staircase is put in. You may also have issues with additional structural supports needed to withstand the weight of the new space.

Some many issues and limitations will end up shaping your decision when it comes to adding more living space to your home. That is why you should rely on a construction professional to help you decide what works and is feasible and what isn’t.

Why Should You Expand Your Home?

Ask any homeowner who’s currently doing an addition onto their home, and they’ll probably give you a different reason for wanting their expansion. There’s no one-size-fits-all reason to expand a house. Some of the more popular reasons include:

  • Expanding the family- Many home addition projects get their start from having another child or deciding to make the switch to a multigenerational home. 
  • Increasing property value- Bigger homes are generally seen as being more desirable and can command a bigger price tag.
  • Getting a home office- If you work out of your home, you might want to get a room that’s entirely dedicated to it. This is one of the few ways to make an expansion into a tax advantage for you.
  • As a treat- Sometimes, people want to expand their homes because they’ve always wanted a dedicated room for themselves. Who wouldn’t want their hobby room?
  • Keeping up with the neighbourhood- Let’s face it. No one wants to be the tiniest house on the block. If everyone else is expanding, it’s safe to say you might feel the pressure to do so, too. 

Is It Cheaper to Build Up or Out?

This is a tricky question that often has a lot to do with the price of real estate and labour in your area. In most areas, building outwards is significantly cheaper than trying to build upward. This is because building upward requires more work, more materials, several permits, as well as the help of a structural engineer.

Because of the extra labour and materials required with building upwards, the only time you can safely assume it’s cheaper is when you’re dealing with extremely high-priced land. Even then, you still might find yourself asking others, “Is it cheaper to build a second story or build-out?” 

If you can buy land to build out with, do it. There are only a handful of areas where buying land can become a significant issue, and most of them are cities. So, if you have a house in Brooklyn or Manhattan, you might be better served by building upwards. 

Why Is Building Up So Expensive?

It’s all about stability and safety. Simply put, it takes a lot more effort to make sure a home stays stable with several thousand pounds added on than it does to add another room on solid ground. Not all homes are sturdy enough to expand upwards without additional help, while there are no such concerns when building out. Looking for dual occupancy? Look no further! MJS Construction Group has you covered. 

Extra Labor

Because building up means that you’re tacking on an extra room or two to your first floor, there’s a good chance that you may need to add structural support to keep your home stable. You also will need to have a structural engineer check out your home to see whether or not you will need to do any additional repairs. 

Moreover, it’s important to realize that building up also means removing the roof and parts of the home that are already there. Since this is more involved than your typical outward move that may require demolishing a wall and removing siding, your labour costs will also increase.

Extra Materials

No matter what your extra room will be used for, there will be certain things that you will need to buy that wouldn’t be necessary for outward expansion. For example, a typical first-floor expansion will not need stairs, additional support beams, or materials that involve adding extra sturdiness to your flooring. 

When you have an upward expansion, you’re going to need those things. With regular outward additions, all you have to worry about are the basics—like electrical wiring and plumbing. This makes building outward a lower-cost endeavour in most cases.

Permit costs

No one likes to think about permits, but they do have to be considered when working with a remodelling project. Since there is an inherent risk with building upwards, most cities will require additional permits and inspections to make sure that everything is safe. This, too, adds on money to your price tag. 

How Much Easier Is It To Expand Outward?

Barring any major permit obstacle or a lack of land, most people find expansions outwards to be a far easier type of renovation to work with. Here’s why:

  • Less money needs to be spent- This is the biggest thorn in most peoples’ sides, by far. You will need to spend more on labour, stairs, and other materials if you want to build up. If you can get a better deal expanding outward than upward, why wouldn’t you take it? 
  • Planning is more straightforward- If you dislike having to jump through hoops to get stuff going, then building out is almost always the better choice. Even planning how you’re going to be able to add additional structural boosters can take a while!
  • Fewer repairs need to be made- When you build up, you often have to repair the wear and tear that occurred on your existing structure before anything else can be done. This usually eats up both time and money.
  • Expanding upwards usually takes longer- Because of all the added work (structuring, roof removal, etc.), opting for an upwards expansion can take several months longer than an outward expansion. 
  • Attaining permits is usually easier, too- Townships are well aware of the issues that come with building up instead of building out. As a result, permits are often harder to attain, with some areas going so far as to ban building up entirely. 
  • Most people have enough land to add an extra room or two- It also comes down to availability. In most cases, people have enough space to build out. This means a lot less hassle. 

How To Choose Your Expansion Style? 

The perks of building out are very real, but building out isn’t for everyone. Even if it is the cheaper option, there are certain moments where building up might be a better option. For example, if you don’t have the land or building out would turn your home into an eyesore, upwards is a better choice. 

At times, building outwards won’t be feasible. For example, if your township has a law that bars the use of additional land for home expansions, building upwards may be the only way to get the extra room you want. 

“Up or out?”

As home addition contractors, we are often approached by homeowners seeking an answer to this time-honoured question. When adding on to your home, should you build horizontally or vertically? In other words, should you build a ground-floor addition or add a second story?

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As with many home remodelling matters, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this question. Whether building out or building up will be best in your circumstances depends on a variety of factors, including:

The size and shape of your property. 

If you do not have space, you need to build horizontally or don’t want to give up your yard space, and your best bet is to build up. Building up allows you to save room for other projects, such as pools, gardens, and sheds.

The type of addition. 

Some rooms—such as the kitchen and living room—are better suited for the ground floor. When deciding whether to build up or out, you should consider whether your addition would be more convenient to have at ground level or up a flight of stairs.

Zoning laws. 

Depending on your location, your county may have certain requirements that restrict how close you are allowed to build to your neighbours or property line. However, local ordinances are also likely to place restrictions on how high you may build up. In the Mid-Atlantic, most jurisdictions limit the allowable height of residential homes to 35 feet.

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It can be hard to predict for certain whether building up or building out will be the more expensive option. Building out is often more expensive because it requires excavation work, as well as the construction of an additional foundation and basement. However, in certain circumstances, building up may be more costly, as it may require more support system work in addition to foundation work.



If you decide to build up, be aware that you will almost certainly have to vacate your house for up to six months. That’s because your builders will have to remove your roof in order to add on a second story. You should factor in the cost of finding temporary living quarters and dining out when determining whether building up is right for you. 

A Look at the Two Different Processes

Are you still torn? To further aid you in your decision of building horizontally or vertically, let’s take a look at the general process of each one.

Building out. 

When you decide to build out, you and your contractor can work together to design a home addition that suits your needs and tastes. Once you have a plan you are pleased with, your contractor must submit the plans for permitting approval. Once plans are approved, your contractor will typically begin by excavating the yard in the area where the addition will sit and installing a new foundation. Then your contractor may start work on the construction of new walls and the roof. Finally, your contractor will open up the existing exterior wall and join the new and old structures.

Building up. 

Much like building out, building up will require that you and your contractor submit design plans for approval. Once you obtain your permit, your contractor must remove the roof before beginning construction of the second-story addition. They may also have to retrofit the structure down to the foundation to ensure it’s strong enough to support an additional story, which could require removing siding and disturbing existing walls. 

If you are considering building a home addition, it’s a good idea to consult with your contractor about the best strategy for your unique property and situation. Whether you decide to build up or out, your contractor can help you design and build an addition that adds space, aesthetic appeal, and value to your home.

Ground Floor Extensions

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Provided that you’re not planning to remodel your kitchen or the old bathroom at the same time as adding on the extra rooms than in the vast majority of cases you should be able to remain in your house while the new extensions are being added.

Assuming there is no need for you to vacate your house during the construction of your ground floor extension, it doesn’t mean it won’t get a bit dusty and noisy at times! It is a construction site and so will be subject to the same sort of conditions you would associate with building a new home.

The good news is that in most cases the work will occur during daylight hours and during the normal workweek (unless you and you builder make some special arrangements for work to be carried out outside normal “tradie hours”). So unless you work from home, have a pre-school child who sleeps during the day, or you are a shift worker, the noise is unlikely to impact you too much. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best dual occupancy selection to make your house a dream come true.

First-floor Additions

Whilst, in general, the comments about noise and dust equally apply to first-floor additions, the good news is that in many cases their impact in terms of time can be far less. This is because work is conducted on top of your home (rather than at ground level).

After the roof of your house is removed (in the area where the second story is to be built) the floor for the new addition is laid. On top of the new floor goes the wall frames and the roof structure for the second storey. Windows, external wall cladding and roof tiles follow.

All this work occurs outside your existing home with the builder’s tradespeople accessing the new second storey by ladders and scaffolding. This is known as getting your new addition to the “lock-up” stage whereby it is protected from the weather. Until lock-up is reached, access to the new addition is achieved by external means, so the impact of noise and dust inside your house should be minimal.

Following lock up the internal work begins. In many cases, even then the level of noise and dust may not be too bad until the latter stages where an opening is created in the downstairs ceiling to accommodate the new staircase. When that time comes to a little patience with the noise and dust is required.

Is it cheaper to build up or out? Well, for most of us, the answer is that building your home outwards is going to be the more affordable option. However, having it be the cheaper choice doesn’t mean that it’ll be the best possible solution for you. 

Like with any other major remodelling decision, determining whether you build up or out is a very personal choice that needs to be weighed heavily. So, while the price is a factor, keeping in mind local laws, land availability, and permits can be just as important. 

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