Upsize without moving with a second storey addition

Written by Douglas Ross in Buying

A stairwell set against red bricks

Whatever the reason you have to upsize – whether it’s a growing family or a paid-off mortgage – there can often be doubts that creep into the mind. The biggest reason not to upsize is to stay in a location you prefer, which may be closer to the city and your work. However, if space is a concern for you, why not consider remodelling and building a second storey addition, rather than building out?

Extensions to your home, especially those that add a second level, are a fantastic way to not only increase the value of your home through increasing the space within it, but also boost capital growth by creating potential views that add to your living experience.

While building a second storey addition is more disruptive than adding outwards/external extensions to your home, the benefits can be greater, both financially and to your experience of the home, especially if you do not have the land available for outwards extensions.

For most second-storey extensions, an architect can be an invaluable point of contact, helping you to figure out a budget and to then work to that budget.

rear view of young couple looking at their second storey home

The costs of using an architect to upsize your home

Architectural fees are usually split into the following stages:

  1. Existing conditions stage. Here the architect will work with you to establish a brief from which they can work, finding out how many rooms you want, their function and how your plans fit with the architect’s own style. The next step is usually to conduct a land survey but seeing as you are building on top of an existing property, this may not be necessary.
  2. Pre-design stage. The architect will provide preliminary graphics that address how your brief, your budget and your time-constraints can all work together.
  3. Sketch-design stage. You will receive 3D perspectives of the plans and initial ideas. The architect may also help at this point in the application process with your local council.
  4. Design development stage. Your designs will be further fine-tuned, the schedule of the build developed and the budget reviewed.
  5. Contract documentation stage. Designs are finalised and contracts drawn up, while the building application process is continued with the council.


             Note: the last three stages usually account for the majority of an architect’s fees.

Architects can be a vital source of help in establishing what your budget is and then working towards sticking to that budget, avoiding any cost blow outs. If you aren’t sure of what you want or what your budget is, an architect may be able to charge you a set fee for the first preliminary stages of design, providing you with the clarity to either go ahead or amend your plans according to the budget they help you establish.

             Note: if you don’t want to engage an architect and have very simple plans for your extension, you may like to use a draftsperson instead. A draftsperson is usually a cheap option as they do not have to undergo the same level of education to become an architect. While there are very talented draftspeople available, they may not be as technically proficient in regards to architectural practices as an architect can be.

Most importantly, an architect may be able to help you avoid creating an extension that looks like a box has just been plonked on top of your home, which may inhibit capital growth for your property.

Tips for a second storey addition

  1. Understand your limitations. Not only do you need to know your budget restraints, but what about your height restraints. Before you engage any architect or builder, contact your council to find out what building/height limitations there may be on your property when building a second storey addition to upsize.
  2. How will you get up there? Be aware that you will need space for a stairwell up to the second floor. This may require more space than you initially thought, and may risk reducing your space downstairs and so counteracting the point of your extension. An architect may be able to help devise an extension to the home’s ground level to house a stairwell or devise a smarter solution to save space.
  3. Allow time. Be prepared for a building duration of anywhere between 15 to 20 weeks for an upstairs extension.
  4. Maximise the view. Be sure to orient your extension to get the most out of any possible views. For inner-city homes, this may be as simple as orienting living areas or bedrooms towards greener views rather than walls, or to factor in landscape design into future views.
  5. Be sure of your returns. Renovations should not exceed 10% of your home’s value, as a general rule, so that you can receive the best returns once you do eventually sell.