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Old 11-14-2007, 03:02 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Edison, NJ
Posts: 426
Second floor addition to ranch house

I am interested in learning more about building up on my ranch home. We have a small ranch with a full finished basement and are interested in learning about stories of adding a second floor. I will say that when we go to do the work we will get professionals involved and all the such.......what I am interested in hearing are stories from those that have gone down this path before. If we are interested in building up on our entire structure and adding say three bedrooms and one bath - what are your thoughts?

Do you know anyone who has done this? Have you done it? What was the budget/how much did it over run by? Did they have to vacate their house while the work was being done?

For the bare details........we live in central New Jersey and there are other homes in our area that are not ranches, so we could be moving up in our retail market so to say.

Any ideas/thoughts/suggestions are appreciated!

Old 11-14-2007, 03:09 PM
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 3,385
It's likely to be more work than it's worth. The structure of a single story ranch probably isn't going to be strong enough to handle a 2nd story - so you'd have to somehow add some type of pillars and beams.

Also, I wouldn't want to tackle the logistics of either raising your current roof or dismantiling your current roof, adding a 2nd story and then rebuilding the roof.

I could be wrong, but if you want to make a 1 story house into a two story house, you'll probably have to demolish your current house and start over.

You'd be much better off to add to your house on the same floor.
Old 11-14-2007, 03:13 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 27,076
We had friends that did the same thing a couple of years ago. They live in a town where the houses are packed in so adding a story was the only real option. I have seen the results upstairs and it looks good to me. They did have to move out for about 4 months however while it was being built so that is something to take into account.
Old 11-14-2007, 04:20 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: da UP, eh
Posts: 13,099
My brother did this to his house a few years ago. I don't know any of the financial details, but I can tell you it turnout out great. They added two bedrooms, a family room with a small office off it, and a small deck.

My brother did most of the work himself, with friends. He's a carpenter by trade and built not only the addition but the house itself.
Old 11-14-2007, 04:44 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 11,405
Friends of ours did this. They had a "one story" house (well, it had a full walkout basement) that they added a story to. I don't recall all the details, except that they were able to remain in the house pretty much the entire time - they lived on the ground floor. I don't know that I'd do *that* (stay there); I had pretty significant respiratory problems from the dust just due to a kitchen renovation, a few years back, and this would presumably be a lot worse.

The main problem they had was, for the "roof raising" part they needed something like 3 days of uninterrupted sunshine.

The weather forecast was wrong.

They had a lot of mopping to do.

They have been very satisfied with the results other than that :-)

Obviously they did a lot of homework beforehand and choose a good contractor. Presumably there were steps taken to ensure that the structural components of the house could handle a second floor; I don't recall whether they had to have anything done to strengthen beams or whatever.

This is the DC metro area and this sort of thing isn't all that uncommon - older houses in desirable close-in neighborhoods, and it's an alternative to a full-blown demolish-and-replace step. Our friends' result looks nicer than the places where you see a neighborhood of modest bungalows with a McMansion in the middle, also; it's much more in proportion to the other houses on the street.

Last edited by Mama Zappa; 11-14-2007 at 04:46 PM.
Old 11-14-2007, 04:58 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: south of the slot
Posts: 637
My childhood home had a 2nd floor built on top of a ranch house -- but that was done before we moved in.

It wasn't done very well, and likely done very cheaply. The exterior wasn't the same brick as the ground floor (heck, it was stucco). And the floorplan was so awkward that a subsequent previous owner renovated it to something more useful (based on blueprints we have of the house). According to our neighbors, it was impossible to get anything upstairs. And humans had to bend their heads down. Today, it's definitely a usable addition, but i feel it really sticks out as a sore thumb.

Of course, yours doesn't have to be the same way.

Last edited by alanak; 11-14-2007 at 04:59 PM.
Old 11-14-2007, 05:04 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: MN
Posts: 3,795
Contractor here. You need to really, really think about this before you do anything.

Personally, I would move to a two story house before I added another level. By the time you get done with the cost, the inconvenience, the constant mess, the cost, the hassle of having workers at your house all day, a dumpster in the driveway for 4 months, the cost, the architects, the general contractors, the subcontractors, the suppliers, the engineers, the inspectors, the bankers, and did I mention the cost?

Price out and go look at some houses in your area that are comparable to what you want. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Last edited by fisha; 11-14-2007 at 05:05 PM.
Old 11-14-2007, 06:40 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 20,022
Someone about a mile from where I live just did this a couple of years ago. I don't know them personally (although they are a friend of a friend), so I can't answer some of your questions. I do know that they really liked their house, the location, and the property they owned, so to them it was worth the cost even if they would have done better to just move into a bigger house. I have no idea what it cost and no idea about budget overruns or things taking longer than promised. They re-did the exterior of the home at the same time, and if you looked at the house, you would assume that it had been built as a two story and not as a ranch. You really can't tell that the top floor was an addition. It came out very nicely.

I know of another person that did the same thing several years ago, but they did it because they couldn't get approval for an addition onto their house (I forget the reason for the restrictions). They got approval for a "new roof" and kinda slyly added the second floor while they were replacing the roof.
Old 11-15-2007, 12:22 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Edison, NJ
Posts: 426
Thanks for all the comments!

See - we bought our home a year ago, and love the area/school/property/neighbors/etc. We fit into our house as we stand now as a family. We would have liked to buy a two-story home, but could not find one in our price range with what we wanted. Now that we are here I'd hate to have to leave this house - we really like it. We would like to have more space though - and have bedrooms on a 2nd floor.

So that is why we are thinking of dealing with the addition.

I'm wondering if anyone has a ball-park cost........are we talking like $100K, $150K?

We do have a full basement with a full bath that we could "live" in while the work is being done if we had I'm sure we'd like to avoid living in a hotel for months on end.
Old 11-15-2007, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by brewha
The structure of a single story ranch probably isn't going to be strong enough to handle a 2nd story - so you'd have to somehow add some type of pillars and beams.
That's why this is sometimes done as a "raised ranch" - the entire house is jacked up off the ground and a new first floor is built. The original house becomes the second story, so there are no issues about the frame having to hold extra load, and weather issues are somewhat mitigated because the roof is left alone.

Of course, you do have to ensure that the foundation is up to the task of holding the extra weight. This is definitely a time to engage a structural engineer.

Then you get into questions like do you build steps to reach the front door, or do you remove the door entirely, using a new entrance on the ground level?
Old 11-15-2007, 08:25 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,207
Do your current setbacks allow adding to the footprint?Between a two story addition(s) and shed roof dormers you might get the space you need.
Old 11-15-2007, 10:16 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
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Another contractor offering 2/100 $. Provided that the PE or SE blesses the design, as gotpasswords noted, and you're not building something way out of place for neighborhood comps, it's your money, so spend as you like.

This would be an ideal job for SIPs or other panelized construction methods. Add any members to the existing dwelling to handle load path transmission, perform any major interior utility roughing without rendering the dwelling unliveable, and then use a crane to cut loose and remove the existing roof rafters/sheathing/shingles, stand exterior walls as large assemblies, then stand the roof trusses, and sheathe it. Assuming nothing goes terribly sideways, with proper planning, you're back to being dried in in a few days.
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Old 11-16-2007, 01:12 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 1,672
I design additions to homes and have done numerous second story additions. First, remember the need for stairs to the new second floor, which means sacrificing space on the first floor (I am assuming you are not planning to push the existing building's walls out). Sometimes this means doing in one of the existing bedrooms, in which case you are starting off at a deficit, room-wise.

If you want to add three bedrooms on the top floor, consider two baths. One for the master bedroom and one to be shared by the occupants of the other two rooms. Also consider putting a laundry on the second floor. It is where dirty clothes wind up and clean ones go back to. Schlepping laundry up and down the stairs is no fun.

Try to locate the stairs in the most central part of both floors, as you will cut down on the size of hallways, which are pretty much wasted space. Also, a centrally located stairs is safer in the event of fire. You don't need windows in a stairwell, so save the views for the rooms that need them.

Here in Southern California that size of an addition such as I described could be at least 700 square feet, including hall and stairwell. It could be a bit smaller, or hugely bigger, depanding on money. Also, here constuction costs are running around $225 to $250 a square foot, or much more if you are looking to be on the cover of Sunset Magazine. But remember your costs are going to be more than the material and labor involved in the addition. There will be demolition costs on the first floor, architect's and engineer's fees, plan check and permit fees and many other unplanned sources of financial distress.

Sorry to rain on your parade, but better that it happen now than when you are committed to the project and have started investing huge sums of cash, and the stucco hits the fan.

Good luck!
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