Is it Cheaper to Build Up Than it is to Build Out?

Whether you’re adding on to your existing home or starting a project from scratch, a big question that can come up is: should I build up or out? You want to make the most out of your budget, and it’s common to think that building up is cheaper than building out, but that’s not always true.

First, let go over what ‘up’ and ‘out’ actually mean.

Building ‘up’ is just as it sounds – adding on vertically. So that means a basement or additional level. Building ‘out’ is also just as it sounds – adding on to your home horizontally. 

If you’re measuring on a cost per square foot basis, it’s usually cheaper to build multiple levels on a smaller footprint. If you’re measuring by overall cost, then it’s not always cheaper to build up. This often comes down to the requirements and functionality of a space.  

Here’s an example.

Let’s consider a basement under a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. This home as one level can fit reasonably well on 1400 sqft. To try to fit this same space on two levels becomes difficult to layout in a functional way. So, if we went with two levels, we would likely end up with a larger home overall, which can sometimes cost more than the original, one level option. 

Make sense?

How should you decide? 

When it comes to making the decision to build up or out, it’s important to think about value. 

Value and cost aren’t always the same.  If you’re going to build a custom home you should love it, and that is valuable!

From a cost-to-build and a cost-to-operate perspective, you’d want to build the smallest home, as close to a cube as you can. But, more importantly, you need to make sure you love it and that it’s functional for you and your family.

Which is faster?

When it comes to the amount of time it takes to build up rather than out, there’s not a huge difference. The bigger and more complicated a project is, the longer it takes!

No matter what you’re considering for your project, we’re always here to help work through and budget out different plans, so you can factor in cost when making the right decision for you.