Renovating up instead of out is an ergonomic choice that thousands of families make across Australia every year. It is a space-efficient endeavor because it allows the family to keep their backyard sizeable and avoid encroaching on the neighbouring properties. Second story renovations are often chosen by families who need more space but do not want to leave their neighbourhood.

Adding a second story is also an opportunity to gain a better view of the neighbourhood and surroundings, which is a particularly popular decision in areas close to natural landscapes such as the beach or the bush. The division between an upstairs area and a downstairs area is also more pronounced than one between an extension and the rest of the home. This makes an upstairs renovation ideal for families with older children as it can provide some space between the parents and children who are trying to become more self-sufficient.

Before and after: second story extension success

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However, not all families will have the option of adding a second story to a house. Your ability to build a second story extension will greatly depend on the type of home you have. Modular homes, for example, can often have second stories added with very little difficulty. Adding a second story extension to a brick house is a very different challenge than adding a second story addition to a timber house. This means you will need to determine the foundation of your home and whether this structure can support an additional story.

Standard practice is to hire an engineer who can assess the strength of your foundation and determine whether a second story is on the cards for you. If your home does not have the structural support to install a second story, this is not necessarily the end of your project. Some houses may be able to support a second story with a little renovation. Strengthening your home’s foundation is possible and could mean that a 2nd story addition is achievable for you. However, this is likely to bump up the price and you will want to make absolutely certain that all renovations are done by experienced professional contractors.

Considerations and process

There are many considerations that should be weighed accordingly when considering installing a second story addition. Before even considering a structural renovation, you should double check the zoning codes of your area. Your area may prohibit houses above a certain height from being built. It is a good idea to research the rules or visit the local government zoning office as early as possible to make sure that you do not begin a project in vain.


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The first thing to consider is your home and its structural condition. Having your home evaluated by an engineer will usually go one of three ways. The first is ideal: the engineer determines that your home has all of the structural requirements to support a second story. Hooray! You can begin making more plans.

The second is more likely: the engineer will find certain weak points that will need renovations to fortify if you wish to continue with the extension. This is a common occurrence and you will have to decide if you are willing to budget for the additional cost of strengthening your home foundation on top of the extension construction.

The third potential outcome is by far the least desirable. The engineer may determine that your home simply does not have the structural framework to support an extension. Renovating your home into a two story building becomes an impossible (or impossibly expensive) affair. At this point, you will likely need to think about alternate extensions you can make (such as outward on ground level) or, if the extra space is really necessary, moving house.


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Once your home has been approved structurally for a second story renovation, you can begin searching for appropriate contractors. Obtaining quotes from a variety of places is the best way to support your budget planning – which is the next step. If your home requires initial structural renovations before you can begin on the extension, searching for the right team of contractors is your first step. For a project like this, most people will want at least an engineer, architect, electrician, plumber, and builders.


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Forming a budget. Once you have obtained a realistic quote from each of your desired contractors, you can begin to decide exactly which services you want and what you may be able to skip. This is where you begin to narrow down your vision for the second story and make decisions regarding size, height, and composition.

Talking to the contractors should have given you a fair idea of whether you want to spend some extra money and have an upstairs bathroom, balcony, or other type of feature which will influence the difficulty of the job. Now it is time to finalize the decision of what you want and how much you can afford – remember that these renovations rarely come cheap.


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Drawing up the plans. This is where you confirm with an architect or draftsman the blueprints of the renovation. This is the point at which you should seek official permits from the local council. Depending on the area, they may require an inspection before approval.

Some architects will handle this process for you, which is a good idea if you are unsure of the regulations and procedures. Make sure you are aware of the extent of services that your architect/draftsman offers as miscommunications could lead to the project being denied.


Herein lies construction. Now it is time to hire a team of builders to execute the renovation floor plans. Building a second story can be a time consuming affair, so you will need to factor secondary accommodation into your budget plans. Trust the process and your contractors. Once it is complete, you will be able to move back into your home and enjoy all of the extra space.

Finally, remember to plan for hidden costs! As with any construction project, there is a high likelihood that unexpected pitfalls will occur. Make sure that in your planning you account for the possibility that additional costs could appear unexpectedly.