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Is It Cheaper to Build a Second Story Or a Basement


Building Up or Building Down? Is It Cheaper To Build a Second Story or a Basement?

You need more space, but where do you want to add it? Not all homeowners have the option or the preference to build out. They may live close to their neighbors or they may have outdoor landscaping that they want to keep in place. For these homeowners, the options then become building up or building down: adding a second story or a basement.

Both basement additions and second-story additions are intensive projects, and they each have their own pros and cons. It can be hard to know which is the right answer for you, but cost is a major factor for any homeowner. In today’s blog, we’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each project, especially in terms of cost, so you can come away truly knowing whether it’s cheaper to build a second story or a basement.

How Much Do Second Story Additions Cost?

Like most projects, the cost of your second-story addition depends on the size of your home. It is measured by square footage, so smaller homes will have less expensive second-story projects than larger homes. Averages will also vary in terms of quality. Typically, second-story additions cost between $100-300 per square foot, which means a 1,000 square foot second addition could cost anywhere between $100,000-300,000. This is without high-end additions that could add to the cost. With all the additions and features you’d like to add to your second story, it could be as much as $500,000 or more.

It’s a steep investment, but remember everything that needs to be done to make your second story possible. That’s adding in new HVAC and plumbing, modifying the first floor to make room for the second story, reinforcing the foundation, and the construction of the second floor itself. And the result is essentially doubling your current space. Still, you can always opt for a partial second-story addition or a second level of your garage to add more space for less money.

Advantages of Building Up

  • You get to keep your yard. Sometimes the amount of space you have in your yard is just as important as the amount of space you have in your home. It offers your kids space to play or you space to garden or work on favorite projects. It may include a pool that you just installed and don’t want to lose. When you build up, you get to add space to your home without losing yard space.
  • No worries about property lines. Another issue in building out is that you might run into legal troubles with regard to property lines. But property lines don’t go up, so you can build up as much as you like and know that you’re safe to do so.
  • Reorganize your living space. It can feel a little cramped when everyone’s bedrooms and living spaces are on the same floor. When you add a second floor, you can have the bedrooms upstairs while the entertainment spaces are downstairs…or you can keep the kids downstairs while the adults get privacy upstairs.

Disadvantages of Building Up

  • There are still zoning laws. You might not have to worry about property lines, but there are zoning laws to adhere to. Make sure that you check out the zoning laws for your area so that you don’t make your home too tall.
  • You’ll have to add a staircase going up. A staircase is an added expense, but it’s also likely to cut into the living space of your first floor, which can be a pain especially if you have a smaller space.
  • It’s a big, disruptive project. The ceiling for your first floor will need to be removed in order to create the second floor, and work will be pretty constant. Most homeowners find second-story additions unlivable, so you’ll likely have to find temporary arrangements while your home is being worked on.

newly remodeled basement

How Much Does a Basement Addition Cost?

Basement additions are less frequently talked about than building up or building out. Many homes have unfinished basements that need to be remodeled, but what if your home doesn’t have a basement and you’d like to add one? Complete basement additions costs vary depending on whether you want a finished or unfinished basement.

Unfinished basements are fine for storage and cost about $10-25 per square foot. Finished basements, for livable spaces, cost between $30-100 per square foot. For an average home, you can expect to pay around $35,000-200,000 for a finished basement addition. This includes waterproofing, flooring, walls, and electrical wiring. Other choices that come down to the preference of the space could cost you more. You may also save money if your home has a crawlspace or partial basement that can be converted into a full basement.

Advantages of Building Down

  • The cost is lower. Building down is typically cheaper than building up, and in some cases, might even be cheaper than building out.
  • Safe space in the event of storms. In the case of heavy, dangerous storms, you can have the safety and security of a basement to protect yourself and your family.
  • More space and more privacy. Basements are also a little more private, making them perfect for an in-law suite or a den where you can enjoy some privacy. They also tend to have less sound penetration than above-ground spaces.

Disadvantages of Building Down

  • There’s typically less lighting. You can install windows in basement spaces, and when done well, those windows can light the area in a smart way. This will add to the cost of the addition, of course, and you’re still limited since much of the space is below ground.
  • Installation stalled by adverse weather. If the ground is too cold or too wet, it’s hard for the installation crew to get started, so this project depends on the time of year and could be delayed by inclement weather.
  • Not possible for every home. Some homes have solid rock in the foundation or are prone to floods, making basements simply impossible.

At the end of the day, building a basement is more cost-effective while still adding the same amount of space. But it might not be possible for your home, or you might prefer the advantages of building up. Whatever you need to add space to your home, MBC Remodeling has you covered. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you or get started with a free consultation.


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