Home Additions: Building Out vs. Building Up Part One – Building Out

Choosing to renovate your home is a huge step, and one that comes with a lot of things to consider, especially if you are looking to expand the size of your living space. The first thing you need to decide is if you are planning on “building out” by increasing the footprint of your home on the ground floor or “building up” by adding more stories to your existing home. Of course, the right answer depends on your needs, preferences, and limitations. In this segment, we will focus on the pros and cons of building out.

Building Out Pros

Deciding to build out is an excellent idea for several reasons. You’ll encounter less lifestyle disruptions, maintain easy accessibility for everyone in the house, and have everyone and everything closer.  

Less Disruptions

When you choose to build out, the work being done is on the main floor. Since construction isn’t happening above you, it is easier to remain living in your house during the construction. Of the two options, building out involves the least disruption to the existing space, and thus to daily life during the remodel.

Easy Accessibility

Building out keeps all expansion limited to the first floor. This is especially ideal if you are living with a family member with physical limitations. Stairs can be difficult, especially for older household members or those with disabilities. Keeping things on the ground floor makes accessibility a non-issue and keeps members of the household in close proximity in case they are needed for assistance. More people are opting for a design style called “Universal Design.” Universal Design is the design of residential and commercial buildings with the goal to make them completely accessible to people of all abilities, ages, or other factors.

Ability to Multitask

In some cases, multi-tasking as a homeowner living in a ranch-style house will be more simple and efficient than living in a home with multiple floors. For example, the option of checking on your children by calling into the next room rather than having to put your work aside and head up the stairs will save time and energy. In a similar matter, when it comes to housecleaning, building out will eliminate the irritating task of lugging a vacuum up and down stairs, or having to leave a hot stove while cooking dinner to check on other tasks. Building a single-story home can make things a bit easier when it comes to trying to be “everywhere at once,” as a working homeowner or an individual with a family.

“Before” Photo of Building Out Home Remodel

Building Out Cons

While expanding your house’s footprint (the total space it takes up on the property) might seem like the correct route for you, make certain you can work around the cons that come with building out, such as the cost of excavation and new foundation expenses, yard loss, and tricky zone limitations.

Cost of Excavation and Foundation

If you decide to build out, you’ll need to consider the cost of excavation and a new foundation. Residential excavation will level the land by removing trees, compacting the dirt, and prepping for the outward expansion of your home. Excavation and foundation costs depend on how large the area is and if any additional services, such as grading or erosion control, are needed.

Yard Loss

If you need to expand your home and you already have the space, that’s great! Unfortunately, expanding outwards tends to sacrifice the side or backyard of a house. If you don’t mind swapping a large lawn for a more spacious home, plenty of do-it-yourself options can help you make the most of your smaller yard space. For example, with the addition of large potted plants and living hedge fences, your space will become a welcoming appendage to your new and improved home renovation.

Zone Limitations

Before you commit to expanding your home on the main floor, be aware of any and all zoning restrictions. The Seattle Municipal Code states that the combined footprint of all structures cannot exceed a percentage of your total lot size. The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections advises, “For single-family zones, the total coverage is limited to 35 percent of the lot (on lots 5,000 square feet or larger) or 1,000 square feet plus 15 percent of the lot area (on lots smaller than 5,000 square feet).”


Next month on our blog we will cover the pros and cons of adding a second story to your house, or “building up.” Whether you’re looking to add to your home by building out or building up, Harjo Construction can help you create a plan and make your home renovation dreams a reality. Contact us today to start your home addition journey.

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