Stonehearth Remodeling

Is It Cheaper To Build Up Or Out?

Generally, building out is usually cheaper than building up for existing homes, while building up tends to be more cost-effective for new construction. However, the cost difference depends on several factors specific to each project. 

Keep reading to learn about the factors affecting the cost of building up versus out!

Building Out Is Cheaper For Existing Homes

A ground-floor addition is often more cost-effective per square foot compared to a second-story addition. This is because it avoids the complex and invasive process of removing or relocating major mechanical and structural elements. Generally, the cost for a ground-floor addition ranges from $140 to $180 per square foot, whereas a second-story addition can range from $180 to $250 per square foot.


Factors Affecting The Cost Of Building Up

The higher cost of building a second-story addition for existing homes is attributed to several factors:

  • Removing and replacing the existing roof
  • Adding structural support to the first floor
  • Installing a staircase
  • Potential foundation reinforcement
  • Temporary relocation during construction

Building Up Is Cheaper For New Construction

For new construction, building up is generally more cost-effective than building out. Building vertically is typically cheaper for new builds compared to expanding the footprint horizontally, which is why many apartments and condos are multi-story structures. 

Two-story homes are usually less expensive to construct than single-story homes of the same square footage, with a two-story house costing about $550 per square foot to build, while a one-story costs around $650 per square foot

The cost savings for building up in new construction come from several factors, including reduced foundation costs due to a smaller footprint, lower roofing expenses since the roof area is smaller for a multi-story building, and more efficient use of land, which is particularly valuable in areas with high land costs. 

Despite the general cost advantage, it’s important to note that actual costs will depend on various factors specific to each project, such as local building codes, site conditions, and design complexity. 

When considering whether to build up or out for new construction, it’s advisable to consult with a firm like Stonehearth Remodeling to get accurate estimates based on your specific plans and location. 


Advantages of Building Out 

Building out, or expanding horizontally, offers several advantages:

Simpler Construction Process: Building out typically involves less complex construction than building up. It avoids the need for reinforcing the existing structure to support additional stories, which can reduce labor and material costs.

Easier Access During Construction: Since the construction is at ground level, it’s generally easier for workers to access the site and transport materials. This can lead to a quicker construction timeline.

Minimal Disruption to Existing Structure: Expanding outward usually involves less disruption to the existing home. There’s no need to remove the roof or make significant changes to the existing structure, making it a less invasive process.

More Design Flexibility: Building out allows for greater flexibility in designing the layout of the new space. Homeowners can easily create open floor plans or add larger rooms without the constraints of existing walls and support structures.

Avoiding Stairs: For those who prefer or need single-level living, building out avoids the need for stairs, which can be a significant advantage for families with young children, elderly members, or individuals with mobility issues.

Potential for Outdoor Living Spaces: Expanding horizontally can include the addition of outdoor living spaces such as patios, decks, or gardens, enhancing the overall functionality and enjoyment of the property.

Enhanced Integration with Outdoor Areas: Building out can create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living spaces, making it easier to enjoy and utilize the yard or garden areas.

These advantages make building out an attractive option for many homeowners, particularly those with ample lot space and a preference for single-story living.



In conclusion, whether building up or out is more cost-effective depends on various factors, including whether the project involves new construction or an addition to an existing home. Building out tends to be cheaper for existing homes, while building up is usually more cost-effective for new construction. 

However, individual project specifics, such as local building codes, site conditions, and design preferences, play a significant role in determining the overall cost. For personalized advice and accurate estimates, consulting with professionals like Stonehearth Remodeling can help ensure your project meets your needs and budget effectively.


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