Welcome to part 2 of our series on how to plan and build a two-story addition. Here, we will shift our focus to planning your two-story addition. By now, you've set your goals, and you are ready to take the next steps. Now, it is time for the preliminary phase.
Part 1 - Dreaming and Defining
Part 3 - Design and Details
Part 4 - Construction
Part 5 - Completing Your Addition

In this journey of adding a second story to your home, the preliminary phase is where we lay the groundwork for your dream space. Before you start to pour concrete and raise walls, there are a few key steps to take to make sure your project is a success. In this post, we'll guide you through the importance of a good plan and how to address key concerns.

Before we dive into the details, let's revisit your goals and objectives for the two-story addition that you set in part 1. This phase is where your vision will start to take shape, making it a vital step on the path to your dream space. By the end of this article, you will know how to prepare yourself for the design and detail stage.

Inspect your property while planning to find weak points

Site Evaluation

Assessing the State of Your Home

Before you can build up, you must know what is beneath your feet. Start by inspecting your property and the current structures. Look for likely challenges, such as the removal of trees, adjusting utility lines, or issues with the terrain. The goal is to find and mend these weak points before they become costly problems.

Soil and The Foundation

The soil on your land can have a big impact on the foundation of your home. Testing the soil will help ensure the soundness and longevity of your new space.

Start with rough sketches of your proposed space

The Preliminary Design

Rough Sketch Your Design

It is now time to brainstorm ideas for the layout and flow of your addition. Start with rough sketches and floor plan concepts. Think about how your new space will blend with your current home and its load-bearing walls. You can also use the layout of the first floor as a starting point. These first rounds of sketches will help give life to your vision.

Function and Flow

One, you have a sketch that meets the needs of your family. Look for ways you can tweak that layout to create a better flow. Keep an eye out for dead spaces. This is also a good time to think about how it will tie in with your current space to form a harmonious flow. This is where your vision starts to take shape, and it's vital to make sure your new space will meet your needs and beat your expectations.

Make sure you drainage system and surrounding land is ready for your new addition.

Environmental Impact

Sustainable Building Practices

Consider materials that are eco-friendly and construction methods that will reduce your environmental footprint. Think about energy-efficient design choices that will help you save money in the long run. These sustainable practices are not only good for the environment but also for your wallet.


Make sure you have proper management of water runoff and drainage to stop erosion and protect natural features like wetlands and trees. Good drainage will keep your home and the surrounding land in top shape.

How much should you budget for the design and plan of your addition?

Architect vs Design-Build

When it comes to the initial site evaluation, design, and planning for your two-story addition, you have two primary options: hiring an architect or opting for a design-build contractor. Each approach comes with its own cost structure and considerations.

Hiring an Architect

Site Evaluation

When you work with an architect, you will hire them just for the design phase. This means you must hire a second contractor to do the site survey separately, as well as a company to do the soil testing.

Design and Planning

Architectural design fees often range from 5% to 15% of the total project cost. Then there are engineering fees, which are separate from the architect's fees and can add another 5% to 10% to the total budget.

The average design and planning costs for a $200K addition when working with an architect and other contractors separately is between $21.5K and $58K.

Cost Breakdown

Working with a Design-Build Contractor

Design-build contractors typically offer combined design and construction services, simplifying the process. The costs for design and planning are often integrated into the overall project cost, making it a convenient and cost-effective option. The overall project cost will depend on the contractor and the specific details of your project but can typically range from 5% to 15% of the total project cost.

The average design and planning costs for a $200K addition when working with a design-build contractor are between $10K and $30K.

As you wrap up the preliminary phase, you have now laid a great foundation for your two-story addition. You've assessed your property, defined your vision, considered structural elements, and begun to understand the regulations and costs involved. Armed with this knowledge, you can move on to the design and detailed planning stage. Stay tuned for the next article, where we dive deeper into the design process.

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