Sitting room home addition by Twin Brook Construction

Should You “Build Up” or “Build Out” When Renovating Your Home?

Do you love your house and your neighborhood, but feel like you have too little living space or that there is something special missing to make your house perfect? If so, an addition could make your existing house the home of your dreams. But how do you decide to build up or build out?

First Things To Consider

Some factors will make the decision for you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your neighborhood have restrictions on the height of your home or the amount of “setback” from your neighbor’s property? Contact your municipality to learn about the zoning laws. If adding a second (or third) story will exceed legal limits, then you will need to consider building out. If your lot isn’t large enough to accommodate setbacks along the property line, then you will need to consider building up.
  • Are there other things you would like to add to your property like a pool, garden, or shed? If so, you may not have the room to also build out, so building up would be the better option.
  • What is the purpose of the addition? Family rooms and kitchens are traditionally located on the ground floor. Bedrooms are usually (but not always) located on the second floor. Sticking with traditional placement of rooms will positively affect the resale value of your home.
  • Are you planning on this home being your forever home? If so, you may want to consider the ease of single-story living if mobility issues develop in the future. 

If you’re still not sure if building up or building out will be the best option for you, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Building Up

Building up can be less expensive as it requires less material and labor because there is no need for excavation for a new foundation. However, the walls and ceilings below will likely need to be torn apart to add structural support and to feed the electrical, plumbing, and heating lines. And since the roof will have to be removed, you and your family will need to find another place to live for a few months, which you will want to factor in when considering costs.

Another thing to consider is that stairs will take up about 80 – 120 sq. ft. of living space. On the plus side, if your zoning laws allow for the extra height to your home, you will be able to leave your yard as is, or available for other projects. One way to make building up less disruptive is to consider adding space above a garage, porch, or sunroom.

Building Out

Building out generally costs more because of the excavation work needed to add a new foundation. You will also have to work around existing power and sewer lines. Since you will need to consider the legal property line and setback from your neighbors, the placement of your addition could be affected.

On the other hand, building a ground floor addition generally makes things easier in the short and long-term. In the short term, your family will be able to live in the house while construction is happening with little disruption other than some dust and noise. In the long term, there will be easier access to the gutters, roof, and outside walls for maintenance and your living space will be more accessible to family members or friends with mobility difficulties and safer for children. There will be no noise from the stairs or second story, and you would have the option of adding skylights.

Other Options

If you want to add living space, but building up and adding a new upper floor or building out with a ground floor addition seems like a larger project than your budget or living situation will allow, you could consider adding a prefabricated sunroom or converting your attic into a bedroom, playroom, studio or family room.

In warmer climates, a sunroom can be used year-round, while in cooler climates, it would still be enjoyable for three seasons. Converting your attic would give you that additional upper floor living space, but would eliminate the need for your family to relocate for several months, and would be less disruptive and less expensive. You could even add dormers for additional space without having to add an entirely new floor.

Call Us

Whether to build up or build out can be a big decision, but whichever you choose, Twin Brook Construction can make your home renovation dreams come true! Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help you reach your home renovation goals and have the home that you’ve always wanted.