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Is It Cheaper To Build Up Or Out? [Mystery Resolved]

This article is for informational purposes. Always seek the advice of qualified professionals.

Anyone who’s thinking of expanding is always confused between building up and out. They wanna go for the cheaper option. But that’s not possible when you have no idea about which one’s the cheaper option. 

In this article, we’ll break down all the costs for you. So, now the question is-

Is it cheaper to build up or out?

Building up is basically when you build another floor taking out your roof. There’s an expense there for taking out the roof first. Building out requires you to dig up your yard and extend your side. Then there’s the cost of the foundation. Comparatively, building out has much fewer additions than building up.

Don’t be fooled by this short explanation. We’ve gone into further details in the article below. If you’re interested in knowing about them, read along!

What Is Building Up and Building Out?

When we’re talking about expanding or increasing the area of your house, there are primarily 2 ways. One is called building up or some people like to call it, vertical addition. And the other is building out also known as horizontal addition. 

When you’re building up, you can build yourself a whole other floor. Or you could just do a partial one. And when building out, you can extend a side of your house. 

People usually remodel their homes for reasons like increasing their home space. But there are always additional benefits to remodeling your home.

Well, let’s look at them in detail and try to understand what they incorporate-

Building Up

By planning on building up, you’re literally planning on taking your house to the next level. It’s completely obvious why people call it vertical addition. When you build up, your roof will have to be taken apart, either partially or completely. 

Either way, the result will be you having no roof over your head. Also, you’ll most probably have no water and electricity. They’ll have to be kept turned off for a few days if not until the renovation is complete. So, you’ll have to crash at someone else’s place. 

If your house has only one floor, you’ll be required to add a staircase. But if your house has more than one floor, there’s no need for adding a staircase.

Adding a staircase will take up space from any of your already used areas. You can do that if you have enough space there. 


Building up is the perfect option if you want more area with lesser cost comparatively. Let’s say that you have a 2,000 sq. ft. interior. If you add another 2,000 sq. ft. above, your main cost will be wood and labor. 

You won’t have to give up on your yard if you build up. So, if you need your yard, then building out is just the thing that you’re looking for. Also, the possibilities of receiving zoning restrictions decrease. 


The first thing that might cause you a problem is the height limit. There are limitations to house heights in most towns. If your house crosses that limit, then building up is a no-no.

The other problem is the staircase. A one-storied building is designed not to have a staircase. So, when you end up adding the staircase, it might look congested. Also, chances are the staircase will look out of place.

Building Out

Building out requires you to take up parts of your area. Now, this isn’t ideal for everyone. If you’re someone that makes use of their yard, it’s not for you. 

But if you’re not using your yard, building out is the right option for you. Your maintenance cost and time will be saved a lot. Besides, building out is much less destructive than building up. 

You need to build a foundation if you plan on making horizontal additions. You’ll have to do some plumbing if required. And install air ducts at the end just before you build the roof. Seal the siding to concrete properly or there’ll be consequences.

One important thing to keep in mind is to make sure the layout flows. This means, your new plan should match dimensions with your existing plan. If you can’t match them, your house won’t give you peace of mind. 


The first thing is you can get the ceiling height as per your demand. Maybe there’s a chandelier that’s very long and big that you want. A tall ceiling is perfect at that time. You also have an option for different variations of skylights.

The possibility of any disturbing noise coming from the upper floor is absent in a one-story building. Cleaning and maintaining are very easy as well. 


First of all, building out is quite expensive compared to the amount of space you get. Your yard size decreases and a fair amount of digging is required. Digging up the yard means you’ll have to maneuver around sewer lines and power lines. 

Which One’s Cheaper?

When you’re renovating or expanding your home, it’s important that you know their costs. Comparatively, building out is much less expensive than building up. 

The average cost of building out is $140 to $180 per sq. ft. Whereas, if you expand your house vertically, your average cost per sq. ft. could be $180 to $250. 

Let’s say that you want to build out about 500 sq. ft. Let’s also assume that you’ll be expanding by a perfect 25 by 25. Then, your expected costing will range from $70,000 to $90,000. Now, if you assume the same thing about building up, it’ll cost $90,000 to $1,25,000.

It’s obvious that building out is much cheaper compared to building up. But, let’s see where all the costing goes-

Cost of Building Up

The main reason why building up is expensive is because of the existing roof. Since you’ll be adding another floor or two, you’ll have to rip out your existing roof. That’ll take up a lot of your time. 

Also, you’ll most probably have to add new structures to your house. Or you can just reinforce your existing structure. 

The addition of a staircase is a must. Without a staircase, you won’t be able to go up if that wasn’t obvious already. Along with adding structures, you’ll also have to add footings for your new floor. 

Architecture engineers, civil engineers, and structural engineers will take up a big part of your expenses. Then plumbing, venting, heating, and AC installations are also there. 

Getting building permits could also be another pain. You’ll have to run to the city corporation for quite some time. And then, you might even have to pay for that permit. It depends on your area though. 

Since you can’t stay under an open roof, you’ll have to move out for a while. So, there’s the cost of rent or hotel unless you stay at someone else’s house. 

And lastly, there’ll be damage to your first floor. You’ll have to repair those. If your walls get dirty, which it will, use muriatic acid to clean the concrete walls.

Cost of Building Out

Your primary cost goes to putting up foundations. First, you’ll have to dig out the soil. Then you’ll have to place a foundation. And then overlay them with concrete. 

The addition of new plumbing works is there along with putting up new HVAC. You’ll have to take the pain of obtaining a permit here. We don’t have to get into the details on that again. 

And that’s pretty much all the costs of building out. 

Final Verdict

The cheaper choice here is to go with building out. Per square feet area building out costs are much less compared to building up. 

The drawback of building out is you won’t get too much new space. But, there aren’t too many new additions. So, a lot of costs can be saved that way.

Also, you don’t have to worry about tearing down any roof. You’ll most likely have to repaint once you’re done remodeling. You should use a primer that is ideal for old walls then.

That’s all we had regarding building up or out. We hope you find this article helpful.


Question: Do zoning laws apply to me?

Answer: Your neighborhood most probably has a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Read their conditions and restrictions to know about your zoning laws.

Question: How much can I bump out of my house?

Answer: The grade of your house’s floor needs to be of a better grade than your yard. Then you should be able to bump out about 3 feet deep.

Question: Will I need a foundation for every type of addition?

Answer: No, not for every type of addition. Unless you’re building up or out, you won’t need any foundation usually. 


Still wondering: is it cheaper to build up or out? Well, opinions can differ from person to person.

But with our detailed discussion, you can easily make your decision.

Good Luck!