Cost to Build a House: Is a 2-story House Less Expensive to Build?

Lots of people ask this question: is it less expensive to build a 2 story house or a 1 story house? The answer depends on a few factors, which I'll explain in detail.

Comparing One Story & Two Story Homes

In order to compare cost to build a one-story vs a two-story house, we have to decide what size house we're talking about. Let's say you've come up with the perfect house plan, and you want 3 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths, a living room, and of course a kitchen with eating area and laundry room. Let's also assume a 2 car garage.

To get all that stuff, the heated and cooled area of the house could be anywhere from 1800 to maybe 2500 square feet.

or this discussion, I'm going to use 2400 square feet, and I'm going to assume the 2 car garage is 400 square feet. Yes, I know, you're thinking "I want a much bigger garage than that", but bear with me here. It's just an example and it makes the math easier for me. 

Doing the Math by Square Foot

Now, let's look at the elements that go into the cost to build and see what savings there are in a 2 story house over a one story, and vice-versa (the numbers here are going to be generic, but get you in the ballpark):

  • Foundation and slab (only needed on the 1st floor): $6 per square foot
  • Framing (roof only): $7 per square foot
  • Framing (walls only): $18 per square foot
  • Framing (floor, only needed on 2nd floor): $2 per square foot
  • Roofing (shingles): $1.50 per square foot

For the 1 story version of our 2500 square foot house, you'll have:

  • 2500+400 square feet (remember the garage) of Foundation and Slab, Framing (walls and roof), and Roofing (shingles).
  • That's $6+$18+$7+$1.50=$32.50
  • Zero square feet of Floor framing.
My calculator says that's $32.50 per square foot X 2900 square feet = $94,250. 

For the 2 story version, let's assume we can lay out the rooms in such a way that the 2nd story is completely stacked over the 1st. In other words, all the space on the 1st floor, including the garage, has 2nd floor directly above it.

That means half of the total area, or 2900/2=1450 square feet is 1st floor, and 1450 is 2nd floor.

Now we have:

  • 1450 square feet of foundation and slab at $6 per square foot
  • 1450 square feet of roof framing at $7 per square foot
  • 1450 square feet of roofing shingles at $1.50 per square foot
  • 1450 square feet of floor framing at $2 per square foot
  • 2900 square feet of wall framing at $18 per square foot

Add all that up, and you get $76,125. At the same total square footage as the 1 story (2900), here's the comparison:

  • 1 story house cost $32.50 per square foot
  • 2 story house cost $26.25 per square foot

Another way to compare is that for the same square footage, the 2 story house cost $18,125 less.


Hobza - framingWhy Two Story Homes Cost Less

Remember, we haven't added in anything except foundation, slab, frame, and roof, but everything else will be pretty much the same between the 2 houses (drywall, cabinets, flooring, paint, etc.).

There are many more elements that go into what it costs to build a house, but this gives you a good starting point if you're considering a 1 story vs 2 story design.

Designing a House Plan That's Right For You

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Download our free guide, 3 Steps to the Perfect Floor Plan.

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