Should I Add a Second Story to my House?

Horizontal expansion or add a second story to the house? In which direction to renovate?

Many bungalows or one-story homes around your neighborhood have been built mid-century. Their primary purpose was to fulfil the basic needs of occupants at the time when money was hard to come by, and mortgages were not a common thing. More often than not, the available space was not sufficient to secure proper comfort.

Now that money is so cheap, and almost everyone can take mortgages for renovations, it has become a sort of trend to borrow money for the purpose of improving. Creating a better living space, adding an extra bedroom, making the kitchen and living room larger or adding one bathroom or two have never been easier.

The question is: should you go horizontal or vertical?

Hard to say. In some cases, going horizontal is great; in many others, vertical is a much better idea.


Coquitlam architect
Coquitlam architect

Why Going Horizontal?

A horizontal extension depends on the plot size: you need to make sure there is enough extra land on the plot. If its size is limited or the codes are too restrictive, then a vertical expansion is the only solution.

Going flat is a better option if you want to avoid stairs. Also, a broader floor plan with rooms further apart allows for a variety of designs and good separation between private and public zones. Horizontal expansion is a better solution for ageing-in-place, as it allows more freedom of movement. 

Ground floor extension can also prove to be a more affordable alternative, depending on your current roof structure. It allows for a better connection between indoors and outdoors, and it’s possible to reconfigure the floor plan to design the ideal rooms with a lot of open-plan space.

Why Going Vertical?

First of all: you can get a better view without losing your backyard, and maintaining the house would be much easier and cheaper. Next, going up will increase the floor area’s square metres without having to worry about the surrounding land.  

Many people are indecisive because of the footing, not knowing if it can take the load of the upper floor. No need to worry about that. A structural engineer knows how to investigate and to help us to create a point load. There is more than one solution available; for instance, we can enforce only some specific areas of the footing as a support and build the upper floor on it. 

You will get a new roof and a new lighting system. In some cases, we come up with a higher ceiling on the main floor, which results in brighter, more airy space. 

Coquitlam interior designer
Coquitlam interior designer

What Is the Typical Cost of Adding a Second Story to the House?

It depends on the house’s footprint, how many stories we are adding, and the condition of the footing. On average, the price will start somewhere around $200k and can go up as much as $500k or more (remember, you will end up doing some work on the lower floor as a result as well).

What Is the Price of Adding a Room Over the Garage?

Supposing that the garage is not too old, we would still have to do full insulation. This kind of renovation can cost from $40k up to $80k.

Some Factors Can Drive the Price Up

Demo, adding stairs, rearranging existing space, reworking plumbing/HVAC/electrical, and such. In most houses, the electrical wire and plumbing have to be altered to meet the new code. That is the main culprit of driving the cost up.

If we remove the existing roof, the new ceiling will sit on the existing wall, which then requires enforcement. In some other cases, we end up gutting the wall to the stud and applying new insulation. I don’t see any problems with rearranging as it does not present a significant factor. 

Are There Ways to Cut the Costs And Add a Second Story to the House?

A short term cutting cost might lead to long term pain of paying more on utility bills or maintenance. I suggest the best way to reduce the overall cost is to have a reasonable design and approach that will minimize the damage. Think ahead of time. A good designer’s work goes a long way when it comes to saving the construction cost.

Is It Cheaper to Build Horizontally or Vertically?

Absolutely it is cheaper to build vertically, 90% of the time.

1- the land is more expensive than air; by going up, you keep your valuable yard to entertain and enjoy

2- curb appeal, the house stands out much more handsome, and its full value will appear when selling the property

3- in many cases, you gain a better view with the upper floor

4- since the footprint stays the same, it’s cheaper to maintain, and the utility cost will be less

5- you save on digging and concrete works – instead, you get a brand new roof for the entire house

Modern home Coquitlam
Modern home Coquitlam

Should I Expect to Face Issues While Adding a Second Story to the House?

Weight out on the existing floor, lack of skill with some contractors, surprise costs…

Education is essential. The client should be prepared for the unknown and have the mindset to control their temper for unforeseen cases. An uneducated and abusive contractor can cause big problems, so make sure to hire an experienced contractor that doesn’t make a big deal out of every single issue. There will be many unexpected situations, but a smart contractor will solve them rather than use them as an excuse for a rip-off.

Generally speaking, is it worth it to add a second story to the house? Does it make more sense to sell and purchase an existing 2-story home? 

Nobody can make a home of your house except you. You are the decision-maker when it comes to the future of your living space and your mental health. Hire the right professionals and lead the team to make it happen. Financially, the renovation you do in your existing house is more valuable than buying another one that could turn to be a sack of surprises. If there is a bit of spark in you, then have no doubt about enhancing an inspirational home of your own in the lot where you have lived and grew already.



By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)

Where to Start a Renovation: With a Contractor or a Designer?

“Remember that free advice, no matter from whom it is received, will bear the closest of examination before it is acted upon as safe. And, generally speaking, this sort of advice is worth exactly what it costs.” -Napoleon Hill 

If you only knew how many times I have heard from my clients that they asked a builder to give them a quotation or even a ballpark price for a remodeling job. It would have been an extension by adding a floor above the existing house or spreading existing footage to the yard. Sometimes it’s converting their unfinished basement to a suite, or anything like that. What do you think, how many times the received estimation was even remotely right?

Renovation professional
Renovation professional

When it comes to the game of guestimation, everyone has something to say, and everybody wants to give you free advice. In many cases, just like Napoleon Hill said, free advice is worth just as much you paid for it. It’s a risky game with your hard-earned money as the investment. Asking a contractor to give you a guesstimate quote without a clue about your plan, is not a good idea. To start a renovation without any professional input is even worse.

Don’t Trust Anything That Can Think, Until You See From Where Its Knowledge Comes

The best way to get a precise estimation is to hire a professional designer or architect familiar with local construction costs and building codes. What you’ll get is a professional opinion based on real knowledge, which includes checking the zoning and possibilities and potentials of your property. Remember, the contractors build whatever you tell them to build, and they are trained to produce well—but not to design. It will cost you more money and possibly a lifetime of regret, too, if you don’t take the wise direction.

Every property, as well as owners’ needs and the situation, is unique. If your idea is to ask questions and get free advice from a couple of contractors, and then hire one of them, be sure that he will eventually hire a professional to help him out. That way means you are heading to a long process, probably more expensive in the final outcome. 

Burnaby architect
Burnaby architect

If you hire a professional, make sure it’s a building designer, a home designer, or an architect. Sometimes an experienced interior designer can do the job as well. Start by asking them to prepare a report. It should provide you with the possibilities and scenarios that your property has to offer, together with your options based on the budget available. That kind of service is called Low-Cost Consultation, and its price depends on the project, ranging between $500- $1500.

Why Start a Renovation With an Architect/ Designer?

To make a simple comparison: the architects’ duty is to create designs that contractors will implement. Architect’s scope of work is a combination of artistry and engineering. Many of them will offer a whole range of convenient services, like building permit drawings for custom homes or renovation, city follow-ups for permit application, rezoning and subdivisions, and more. After that, contractors come to the scene to carry out the hands-on work defined by the architect’s plan.

You know what you want and need. An architect/ Designer will take those ideas to turn them into a design that meets the requirements. Moreover, he will know how to improve them. In the whole process, he will find solutions that can cost more or less, depending on what you prefer. The scope of the project can be small or massive, and the prices can change accordingly. This is exactly the place where the former game of guestimation becomes obsolete. 

start a renovation company surrey
Renovation Company Surrey

An architect or building designer must ensure to deliver a project that will not only satisfy your needs but comply with all building codes as well. He/she should also secure the appropriate permits for the project. The job doesn’t end there, as they will work along with contractors to ensure that the design solutions will be implemented according to plan. That means, by hiring an architect/ designer, you will secure the consistency of the whole remodeling process, having the same responsible person supervising the delivery from start to finish.

In short, an architect/ designer will upgrade the work of your contractors with industry credibility and technical expertise.

In the next blog we discuss more detail about: When Should a Contractor Join to Start a Renovation Task?

Meanwhile you can learn more about your project planning in the following links:

Project Planning Pack   
Ask The Expert   
Our Dream Team Directory  

By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)

Investing in House Construction/Renovation!

It is only natural that when you are considering building a new dream home, large addition or major renovation to your existing home, that the first question you ask yourself is, “How much will this investment cost me?” In general, such a question is hard to answer in advance. It can, however, present a necessary condition for proceeding and taking the first step—hiring an architect /home designer.

Crucial Investment Cost Factors

What you certainly need is some general understanding of how investment costs will determine what you can build within a given budget. These costs depend on numerous variables. To clarify, we will mention a major ones.

Modern Wooden Home
Condition at Construction Site Can Vary


The level of site preparation required and the ease of accessibility to the building site affect the final costs. For instance, if the project site is a sloped lot, on a cliff or has limited access, or if a stormwater management system is required—the project expenses will rise accordingly.

GroundWork and Project size

Before you can build a new home, the site has to be cleared, graded, and have the proper utilities installed. Removing any trees that might be on the way won’t come cheap either.

Furthermore, if the house you are building or renovating requires major groundwork, the excavation, stormwater management, concrete work, and waterproofing are costly.

This is where the size doesn’t matter. When you are building a small house, the cost spreads out throughout the square footage. I built a very large luxury house without basement and the cost of construction was just over $180/ sq.ft. where as renovation might cost over $300/ sq.ft.

Natural Stone Affects the Investment Costs Both Ways
Natural Stone Affects Investment Costs but Increases Overall Value

The quality of Finishing

The kitchen and bathrooms are among the most important areas of the house that people spend their money on. The floor finishings, exterior facade, and mechanical system have another major impact on the cost/ value of the house as well.

Including an attic or a basement in your project is a good idea, as sooner or later everyone needs some extra storage space. If you want them fully finished like the rest of the living space, get ready to invest more.

Also, stone or solid-surface countertops always cost more than laminate. There are range of different quality kitchen cabinets to choose from. These decision making can be done at the design stage with the help of your interior designer. Remember, getting advice from the builder/ contractor in advance won’t help you. They know what and how to build. Your design team is the one can give you suggestions to choose the right material to fit your budget and investment.

While high-quality materials raise the initial price, it’s good to remember that their value remains quite stable and durable over the years. In other words, if you find yourself selling your property, the universal quality will help make the transaction more fluid. 

Modern Kitchen Designer
Modern Kitchen Appliances


Appliances are a major investment within any project that includes a kitchen. Some homeowners spend as much as $20,000 on one premium appliance, while others pay less on their entire apparatus package.

Features and Amenities

It’s evident that a 3-car heated garage with a lift will costs a lot more than an unheated, simple 2-car garage. Pool and jacuzzi adds value and cost to the project. Home automation systems also require far more than manual light switches.

Design Complexity

If you want the design of your new home to include customized or crafted elements, like the extended size of doors and windows, and double-height volumes, expect significantly increased construction cost. The modern design features simplified forms and fewer decorative motives. But a complicated roofline, with multiple trusses combined together, will certainly increase the price.

Flat roof or shed roof might add slightly to the cost of the construction, but the value of beauty can bear more worth than the cost.

Seashelt House Extreior
Seashelt House Exterior

Contractor Availability

Before you start with the project, it’s good to have some insight into the local contractor scene. Do regional contractors and sub-contractors have a backlog? When it comes to estimating investment cost and risk, a subcontractor’s backlog can provide valuable insights, as one of the critical indicators of a successful workflow. Otherwise, you can be left guessing if a contractor struggles to meet schedule commitments, or is at a higher risk to default.

Investment Cost Guidelines

While explaining the impact of all potential costs, we often use the analogy of purchasing a new car. There are $25,000 cars on the market, as well as $125,000 cars. What they have in common, above all, is four wheels, the number of passengers, more or less the same trunk space. Also, both will get you to your destination in about the same amount of time. The difference is in the design, beauty, power, strength, and all the fine extra features such as metallic paint, rear-view cameras, heated seats, and so on. 

A highly practical person will look into the features first, and expect a home that satisfies the function, above all. But you are a type who finds a purpose in aesthetics, and your priorities are focused on benefits, then you’ll probably be drawn to premium options when you build or renovate a home.

Each project presents a unique set of problems and solutions. For that reason, it’s very challenging to develop an accurate construction cost estimation before an architect has prepared design studies. However, you can get a sense of construction costs based upon the portfolio and data from our completed residential projects. 

Therefore, as a starting point, we have created a basic budgeting chart regarding the project size. There are three proposed tiers of finishes and features to serve as guidelines. Moreover, these figures describe the standard construction budget ranges for custom residential projects in urban/suburban areas of large Canadian cities.

House QualityCost Per SF
DELUXE $500 and up
Initial Investment Cost per SF
1,500 SF$375,000$570,000$750,000+
3,000 SF$750,000$1,140,000$1,500,000+
5,000 SF$1,250,000$1,900,000$2,500,000+
7,500 SF$1,875,000$2,850,000$3,750,000+
Initial Investment Cost Guidelines


  • MDF painted interior doors
  • Double-glazed vinyl-clad wood architectural windows and doors
  • 2 ¼” wide stained hardwood flooring in living areas; also ceramic or porcelain tile flooring in mudroom and bathrooms
  • Stock painted kitchen and bath cabinets
  • Granite or solid surface countertops
  • Stucco, wood or cement board siding exterior finish
  • 30-year architectural asphalt shingle roof, together with aluminum K gutters, and downspouts
  • Master bathroom with double vanity, toilet, and shower
  • Conventional heating and cooling system


  • Solid core painted wood interior doors
  • Double-glazed metal-clad or wood architectural windows and doors
  • 4” wide stained hardwood flooring in living areas; ceramic or porcelain tile flooring in mudroom and bathrooms
  • Semi-stock painted kitchen and bath cabinets
  • Granite or solid surface countertops
  • Stucco, wood or cement-board exterior siding together with rainscreen installation
  • 40-year architectural asphalt shingle roof with standing seam metal
  • accents; aluminum half-round gutters and downspouts
  • Master bathroom with double vanity, separate tub and shower enclosures, electric mat heated tile floor
  • Conventional heating and cooling system with air filtration and humidity control
  • Stone patio for outdoor seating/dining


  • Solid core stain-grade wood interior doors together with glass lights
  • Wood-clad cathedral ceiling with exposed wood trusses in the family room
  • A mix of stone and wide-plank wood flooring in living areas; also luxury ceramic or porcelain tile flooring in mudroom and bathrooms
  • Double-glazed metal-clad or wood architectural windows and doors; also large expanses of glass
  • Custom stained or painted cabinets with integrated appliances
  • Built-in outdoor kitchen with grill
  • Custom master closet fit-out
  • Stone, marble or solid surface countertops
  • Stucco, wood or cement-board exterior siding together with a rainscreen installation
  • Brick or stone exterior
  • Cedar shingle or slate roofing; copper gutters and downspouts
  • Master bathroom with individual vanities, separate tub, and glass-lined shower enclosure, together with luxury tile, radiant heated tile or stone floor
  • Luxury plumbing fixtures and faucets; thermostatic controls
  • Heating and cooling system with air filtration, also humidity control
  • Geothermal wells for energy-efficient heating and cooling system with energy recovery ventilators
  • Emergency generator
  • Stone patio for outdoor seating/dining with firepit
  • Home automation system linked to the smartphone
  • An outdoor recreational facility such as a pool or sport court
24th Ave. Surrey BC House
24th Ave. Surrey BC

How We Help With Your Initial Investment Cost Estimations

Hopefully, this guide sheds dome light on an initial forecast of your prospective construction budget. As soon as we’re hired, we will closely collaborate with you. Above all, we’ll explore the relationship possibilities between the project scope and the available budget and research all possible solutions. We also collaborate in monitoring the budget, all the way throughout the design and documentation process. 

By creating an in-house estimation and design/construction schedule during the initial phase of a project, we also establish control before spending too much time on the design. Once you approve the design studies, we engage a specialist to perform a more extensive preliminary estimate to align with the initial budget assumptions.

On larger projects, we often keep a consecutive design development estimate, revisiting subsequently as the work progresses. Major thresholds include wall and roof assemblies and the structural, mechanical, and electrical systems. These estimates at various milestones will provide you with the construction budget information you need, helping to make better, more confident decisions.

That’s Not All

This information is intended to be used as an initial guide. Its purpose is to provide you general pieces of information, but you should never forget that every property and every client are unique. Each feature has its own value, so the way it affects the construction budget changes accordingly.

In other words, don’t fall into a trap to assume that these initial square foot figures represent your entire investment price. In fact, these are often topped with architectural and engineering fees and landscape costs. Along comes interior designer, followed by various soft costs.

Modern House Project
Modern House

For More Information on Investment Cost

We offer our clients surveilance and control over their project scope and budget. Keeping the proper balance throughout the entire project duration brings happier, more gratified clients. So, are you about to embark on a new dream home, substantial addition, or renovation enterprise? Then start by booking a consultation with us for helpful and informative advice.

We will meet with you, hear what you have to say, discuss your options, and provide a report to get you started on the right track. Our range of service covers everything from building permit drawings, to construction consultation and project management.

Soon you will discover that correct information and proper knowledge bear the highest long-term value.

By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)