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JulieC 05-07-2008 02:12 PM

Building Out or Building Up?
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I have two plans I created for adding onto our 1970's 4-level split. Shown are renderings of the current house, the design with a 13'x10' addition to the front, and the design that builds up.

In both remodeling designs, the existing bathrooms, main floor (kitchen/living/dining) and existing staircases remain pretty much as is.

In the building out plan, the foundation is extended out 10' forward from the front two bedrooms (one on each floor), for a 260sf gain (130sf x 2)

In the building out plan, the footprint is unchanged. The roofs of the center and right sections are replaced, an interior staircase added to access the new over-garage and usable attic spaces. The area gained over the garage is 15'x24', and there is usable space in the attic, at least a nice bedroom's worth.

In both cases, the existing siding, roofing material and windows are to be replaced.

I am guessing ... totally, completely, guessing, that the costs of the two plans is about the same. Assuming similar fixtures and finishes, does anyone have an opinion about which costs less, or are they really about the same?

inspectorD 05-07-2008 03:24 PM

Best guess
Sorry, I have been in the game for a while now and I can't even give a best guess. There are way to many things unanswered. Structural modifications from the changing of bearing points to sizes of new beams. Plumbing and heating improvements and most of all finish of the exterior and interior.
I would draw the plans and get some estimates to get closer.

handyguys 05-08-2008 09:54 AM

Both plans are pretty involved. I like the concept drawings.

My concern is the cost to add on like you are considering will be significantly more expensive than a tear down and re-build. I could be way off. Additionally - Such an expensive addition for only a 260sq ft gain would seem to be out of line in most marketplaces.

lets say (numbers just for talking) - That the addition cost $200K and added 260 sqft That would be over $700 per sq ft. You could build a pretty darn nice house from scratch for $700/sq ft. Even if the addition only cost $100K it doesn't make sense. under $100 per sq ft is where you would want to be before things start to maybe make sense. There is NO WAY that you could do either addition for $26K which is $100/sq ft for 260 sq ft.

My guess is you would be between $100K and $200K for the additions.

I would be curious if you actually do move forward and get prices and build where you end up in cost and how far my guess is off. Promise you will post back and after picture and a cost?

JulieC 05-08-2008 10:42 AM

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Thanks, I will post back if/when we ever do this.

Handyguys, your numbers scare me! I do agree that spending too much (my target is $50-75k), it just isn't worth it. I have more details on the "out" version (slightly older version) here:, I came up with the "up" version recently, don't have it posted anywhere. I have a newer version of "out" that I was describing, the difference being it does not intrude on the garage space at all, but goes forward another 4'.

If I could do the out version for $26k, I'd jump on it. :lol While it is only a 260sf increase, it would completely change the livability of the house (info on the page linked above). Tearing down and starting over makes no sense is our area as there are lots of lots available, the real estate market here is going nowhere fast. Our current house/property (5 acres) is worth about $120k-150k more than available lots here. Our township and the adjoining areas require 2 acres minimum for a new house. The realty fee for selling our house would be about $15. We need to replace the roofing (guesstimate $7-10k) and siding (vinyl in bad condition anyway, guesstimate $10k) and probably windows ($5k) to stay or to sell. New construction around here for mid-range quality is about $100/sf.

I had been hoping that finding a way to keep the costs down, I thought these plans would do it by not touching existing plumbing, heating. Yes, additions do need heating, but these are both designed to have some passive solar heating (front is due south), and up would have a masonry stove in the new master suite. If that wouldn't be sufficient (say in the attic), radiant subfloor heating could be used. The only new plumbing in either plan is adjacent to existing plumbing and our fairly new (5 years old?) furnace could keep doing the good job it is in the existing house. Essentially, I left all the existing expensive stuff alone and the addition, with the exception of the master bath, is just basic space.

I "painted" the bathrooms obnoxiously different colors and took a cross-section snapshot to show where the only new plumbing would be on "up". The blue (lower-level, base elevation -37") and orange (current upper level, base elevation +5'7") bathrooms were redone 3 years ago. No changes to these needed. The green bathroom is the new master bath, base elevation 9'3". There is "dead space" (about 18") between the ceiling of the blue bathroom and the floor of the orange one, plus a bit of dead-space between the orange and green. I thought if it was all adjacent and the new was higher, a new tankless water heater for the master bath (old water heater would still service existing fixtures) would allow just cold water to and waste water back.

I hope this makes sense ... it is probably less complicated than it looks at first. Some smoke & mirrors to change the facade.

handyguys 05-08-2008 10:56 AM

I have a podcast going online today at 5PM Eastern Time at
(The link wont work until 5)
We are talking about whether to do a basement finishing project or not. We cite some numbers for different project costs. You may want to check out some of the sources linked to in the blog post that accompanies the podcast - you might find some info useful. Much of what we talk about in the podcast can be applied to many different large projects, not just basements.

glennjanie 05-08-2008 12:36 PM

Hello JulieC:
I first thought about the 'set-back' law that is in so many places but I don't suppose that would be a consideration on a 5 acre lot.

Building up is almost always more economical because there is approximately 20% of the addition already there. The foundation, the ceiling in the room under, and if the ceiling joists are capable of bearing the load, most of the second floor is there. Or the trusses over the existing part can be moved to the upper part for a savings. Of course, you need to make sure the existing part will bear the addition before you begin.

JulieC 05-14-2008 01:29 AM

Glenn, I thought about the setback as well. Our house is currently setback about 200' from the road. I couldn't find a setback requirement on our township website, just the 175' of frontage and minimum 2 acres, but there is a brand new development going in about 1/2 mile down the street (same township, same rules). The development's setback requirement is 70'. So, I should be good for at least a 130' bumpout. :) That might actually make my house uglier than a similar one that has had a couple really bad additions to it. I need to take a picture of it someday. It started essentially the same as my house. Then they added a detached garage in front of the attached garage. Then they added a 2 story addition on the far end of the attached garage. It is inspiration to me everyday to NOT do that.

Handyguy, it is way past my bedtime, but I shall try to download it (to my video iPod) tomorrow. Interesting list of topics, I will probably subscribe. Thanks! On a related side note, I replaced one of my nasty rusty basement windows last week with a nice new vented glass block one. By myself, with a little help from my mom wrestling the old frame out of place and setting the new one in place. I found that was a bit hard to do by myself, as I'd have been running in and out of the house all day. Only 4 more of those to go!

I have other addition options. I really am not looking for that much more room, but I do need at least another 100sf or so to add a master suite (convert existing bedroom + new space, or some combination). The house is a bit small for the 5 of us, but not horribly so. The $50-75k target is within reason for our area. For about $125k more that what we could get out of our house today, we could buy one of the McMansions we are surrounded by. We could do it, but we kinda like our 15 year mortgage. We also inherited some property (20 acres) adjacent to a state park that we would like to build our retirement/weekend home on. We can afford one McMansion or two reasonable houses. ;)

Sorry, I babble, nite!

rachael24 05-14-2008 07:15 AM

If I may ask...what software do you use for designing?

guyod 05-15-2008 09:55 AM

Another option... You could convert your garage to a master suite. this will be the most economical way. 1st floor suites are big now.. then you could add a pole barn for a couple grand for a garage.

JulieC 05-16-2008 06:01 AM


Originally Posted by rachael24 (Post 19027)
If I may ask...what software do you use for designing?

Punch Platinum

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