Home Architect Studio shares our expert opinion on how to create the perfect New Jersey home addition design.

It is inevitable – at some point the vast majority of homeowners outgrow their starter homes. What if there was a way, however, to transform your one-story residence into your dream home? Home additions provide just this opportunity.

While building out on the main level of a home is the most common way people add square footage, it is not the only way. Homeowners must ponder one main topic before beginning their construction project, and that is whether to build out or up.

In some cases, the choice is easy. Overall lot sizes, local zoning restrictions, building setback lines, height restrictions, etc. make it impossible to build one way or another. Certain additions – kitchens and living rooms, for example – are obviously additions that are best-suited for the main floor of a home. On the other hand, some owners have the perfect amount of yard space to build out their first floor, yet other factors, such as the project’s cost, make it beneficial to build up instead. Every situation is unique in the world construction, and thus, the planning process must be tailor-suited to fit the client’s specific needs.

No matter which route you choose to go, most projects in New Jersey range in the $150 to $800-per-square-foot price range. Of course, this estimate is highly variable and is based on factors such as chosen building materials, construction practices and the actual scope of the project. Only you and your architect can decide which option is best for your specific situation. Before you begin the planning process, look over our in-depth guides of first- and second-story additions to get a better feel of the task at hand and the factors to consider for each alternative.

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When homeowners are simply out of space, one of the easiest ways to increase the usable floor space of a residence is by adding a ground floor addition. These additions are common for homeowners looking to expand one specific room or to add a room or two onto the floor plan of their home. Often, this renovation has little visual impact from the outside, yet has the potential to completely change the interior flow of a home. An addition to the first floor is not always cut and dry, and there are advantages and drawbacks to choosing this type of renovation rather than adding a second floor.

The first thing homeowners must consider is the size of their property. Does the size of the addition leave enough yard space? This is a two-fold issue:

1. The architect and the homeowner must consider if the addition looks good from an aesthetic sense. If building out will leave the lot looking lop-sided or leave very little space for landscaping, porches and other exterior ornamentation, a ground floor addition is probably not a good choice.

2. Local zoning laws dictate the size of an addition in many cases. There are strict minimum setback lines in the front, back and side yards. The only way these can be crossed is if a structure was built past them before the ordinances were put in place. If the placement of the new addition will interfere with the setback lines, the architect will not be able to get it approved for a building permit, and the homeowners may need to reconsider a second-story addition. That being said, upper-story additions are also subject to zoning laws, such as maximum building heights.

Next, the client must determine exactly what kind of addition they are looking for. The average cost for a 1,000-square foot first-floor addition in New Jersey is approximately $150 to $300 per square foot. The price is determined by the quality of the construction, the materials being used and the options and upgrades the homeowners choose. Of course, homeowners are always looking to get the most for their money, and choosing to add more space lowers the cost of the project significantly. For example, a ground floor addition in a N.J. subdivision that is paired with attic and basement additions as well costs only $125 to $200 per square foot.

Another thing to think about when it comes to a build out on the main level of a home is the shear number of options available. A second story addition is pretty straightforward, but on the ground floor, there are numerous options to choose from. Homeowners have the option of slab, crawlspace or basement foundations; an attic versus a solid ceiling; how the addition is accessed from the existing home and whether or not to live in the home during the construction phase. While loud, messy and sometimes extremely inconvenient, depending on the room, it is very possible to remain in a home during a first floor addition, whereas it is nearly impossible during the construction of a second floor.

Finally, the homeowners – with the help of their architect, contractors and/or engineers – must determine if their current systems are sufficient and in good positioning for the addition. Many times, older electric and HVAC systems do not have the power to cover the new rooms, and homeowners must consider upgrades to the units in with the overall cost of construction. Buried pipes, such as sewer lines, must also be assessed. While all of these factors add on to the overall bottom line, the general ease of a ground floor addition may just be worth it.

Depending on the type of rooms homeowners add, there is great potential for return on investment when it comes time to sell. Working with a trained architect is the very best way to expand a house’s living space as efficiently as possible and transform a residence into a dream home.


Making the decision to add a second story to a home is not one to take lightly. A second floor is a highly involved addition that completely shakes up the homeowner’s life for a short period of time. This is one of the only renovations that has the potential to double the square footage of a home and completely change the exterior look of a residence in a matter of weeks, but there are quite a few things to think about before taking the plunge:

Structural Soundness

In single-story homes, the footings and foundations are setup to accommodate just that – one story. Before a second story can be added, a formal evaluation by a structural engineer is essential. The size and scope of the addition affects the overall weight of the home. The existing load-bearing walls must be examined, as well as the ceiling joists. While architects realize that ceiling joists often do not have the same capabilities as actual floor joists, many home owners do not. It is important to leave room in the budget for improvements to the existing walls, foundation and ceilings.


The cost to add a second floor varies greatly. Projects that include bathrooms, kitchens or other plumbing-essential rooms are more costly than projects that are strictly living space. Other little-thought-of factors that impact the budget include roof removal and house covering. To save money, architects often stack bathrooms and use efficient floor plans that allow mechanical systems to be connected in a straight line, if possible, between the floors. On average, homeowners can expect to spend between $130 and $250 per square foot for a second story addition in New Jersey. This is, of course, dependent on the materials used, the workmanship and the complexity of the project.

Local Laws

There are construction codes in place in every municipality both in the N.J. area and throughout the United States. Further, it is common for the codes to vary between locations. Some of the things for architects and contractors consider for second-story additions include minimum ceiling heights, restrictive setback lines, ridgeline height restrictions and room size guidelines, just to name a few.

Change of Style

Adding a second floor to a residence notably alters both the interior and exterior styles. Ranch or Cape Cod homes are transformed into Colonial charmers or into modern marvels. Sometimes, the change in styles is seamless; however, this is not always the case. On the exterior, homeowners must consider how the addition’s windows, doors and siding/exterior covering flow with the existing structure. If the first story’s finishes are outdated, this will become highly noticeable when paired with brand-new materials above. Owners must also decide to either continue the main level’s exterior covering up the second floor or choose a complementary material. On the inside, the addition of a staircase changes the flow of the main level.

Overall Benefits

Increased living space and the look of a brand-new home are highly appealing benefits of a second story addition. These are not, however, the only benefits. Those homeowners that have limited yard space or scenic views never have to sacrifice their outside areas due to an addition. While this type of renovation is quite costly, the fact that no excavation needs to be done and no foundations need to be poured are great draws. More, drastically increasing the space of a home gives a fantastic return on investment and increases the value of a home exponentially.

While there are many reasons to choose a second story addition, homeowners must consider the full scope of the project before moving forward with the help of an architect. A realistic approach to this large-scale renovation is always the best approach.


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