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Moving on up: Is a second-story addition worth it?

Posted on Jan 26, 2022 in:
  • Build
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Q: We adore our Craftsman bungalow, but it’s starting to feel a little cramped. Is adding a second floor worth the investment?

A: Adding a second-story addition to your home is a big decision, and one we’re seeing more and more people consider as the Seattle real estate market makes transitioning to a larger home more challenging.

Adding a second story is one of the most complicated remodeling projects you can take on, and not for the faint of heart. Long permit wait times, labor shortages and product delivery delays are already making remodeling projects more drawn out and convoluted than they were before the pandemic. When you add in roof removals and complex structural engineering requirements (often on homes nearly a century old) you’ll understand why these types of projects scare off many homeowners. When it comes to additions, not all are created (or priced) equally. A simple dormer addition may be enough to expand the second floor you already have, and is more straightforward than a partial or full second-story addition, because the scope of the project is much smaller. When a client asks me if adding a second story or onto a second story makes sense, here are some of the options I suggest they consider.

Dormer additions: These are a great option when you already have stairway access to a second floor that’s cramped due to a sloped ceiling. By reconfiguring the roofline and adding windows, you’ll not only create enough height to add a bathroom or bedroom, but you’ll also bathe your new space in natural light. Design-build clients receiving both design and construction services for these additions can expect prices starting around $325,000.

Partial second-story additions: These additions are good for homes that may need a new primary suite added upstairs, or other small-space additions. Satisfying plumbing and sewer requirements for a new bathroom will always add costs and complications, but for most homeowners an additional bathroom will greatly improve their quality of life and increase the number of years they can stay in their home.

It’s worth noting that a significant amount of work is required on a home’s main level to incorporate a staircase into the space in a way that seems organic. These are challenging projects that involve long lead times and construction periods, but they are also incredibly rewarding once complete. Average 2022 pricing for partial additions costs around $650,000 for Seattle homeowners.

Full second-story additions: The ultimate space-creating project, a full second-story addition essentially doubles your living space. It’s not uncommon to add a full primary suite (bedroom, private bath and walk-in closet), two additional bedrooms, another bath, a laundry room and a staircase. This type of second-story addition will impact your home the most. You’ll need to plan on replacing siding, repainting and making sure the walls and foundation are engineered to support the new floor and meet current seismic standards. We’re seeing quotes for these projects starting at around $750,000.

Is “up” better than “out?”: Expanding your home’s footprint into your yard will usually be easier than adding a second story. But just because homeowners have yard space doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Sometimes, it’s not worth sacrificing what limited outdoor space homeowners have for a new primary suite or home office. The City of Seattle also limits how much of a home’s lot can be built. In the end, expanding your home’s footprint while trying to retain adequate yard space may not be worth it. Going up can maximize both square footage and green space. Many homeowners who choose a second-story addition pursue a combination of up and out, adding a small addition to their main level and then adding a larger addition on top of that, so they maintain their outdoor space while also gaining square footage.

Adding a second floor isn’t a quick project, and most reputable Seattle companies with the skills to tackle the work will have long backlogs. However, I encourage you to stay the course and embrace the vision you have for your home. Waiting 18 months before you can move into your new addition may seem too long, but if you want your investment to pay off, the wait will be worth it.

Teri McDermott is owner and CEO of CRD Design Build, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,600 members, write to


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