Looking for a contractor to Convert Cape / Ranch into a Colonial or Ranch into a Split Level Ranch or building a dormer or ground level addition

"Answers" to probable "Questions" on a variety of home additions

Project, Convert a Cape into a Colonial

How much does it cost to convert a cape into a colonial?

Based on the most common size cape, usually, 32' frontage and 24' deep (768 sq. ft) and usually creating a total of 3 bedrooms (1 being a master) & 2 bathrooms (1 being a master) the cost could range between $125 to $ 150 per square foot.

The variables are based on
  1. the selection of materials.
  2. design
  3. existing circumstances.
Note, these 3 mentioned variables are thoroughly explained as you further read.

View the floor plan drawings for an idea of the layout & sizes of the rooms listed above. Drawings based on the present stairs (leading upstairs) are located in the middle of the house near the front exterior entrance door. However, if not, other layouts/ floor plans can be figured out. A contractor asks this question to establish if you're wasting their time, however, my suggested response counter acts their objective and the message you want to send is "Prove yourself to me and not me proving I could afford this".

Additional Questions with Answers

What are the advantages of Building-Up opposed to Building-Out?

The reasoning to build out is if your needs (amount of rooms translating to total needed square footage) aren't a lot. Even needing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom isn't enough square footage/reason to Build-Up, the reasoning being, that upper-level addition will visually look out of place, odd, out of proportion .not visually appealing in comparison to the size of the house. My attached sketches address these concerns.

What are the advantages of Building-Out opposed to Building-Up?

The reasoning for build-out Is if your needs (amount of rooms translating to total needed square footage) aren't a lot. Even needing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom isn't enough square footage/reason to Build-Up, the reasoning being, that the upper-level addition will visually look out of place, odd, out of proportion .not visually appealing in comparison to the size of the house. My attached sketches address these concerns.

How much does it cost to build a rear bathroom dormer addition on my cape style house?

The best way I found to explain the cost of this project is to do a comparison of other types of bathroom remodeling projects. For example, remodeling an existing basic hallway bathroom could run around $ 10,000,00 to $ 12,000,00. Now, hypothetically, if I were to create another bathroom in the adjoining room of an existing bathroom (which could be the living room, family room, or large bedroom ) it would cost $ 14,000.00 to $ 16,000.00, Another $ 4,000,00 more because I'll need to do the following that was not required when remodeling an existing bathroom, they are, build partitions, run drain pipes, water lines & vent pipes to all 3 bathroom fixtures and tie into existing plumbing in basement, run electrical wiring for light over the sink, center ceiling light, and light switches, install an entrance door, possibly install heat, possibly install a window, vent the new combination light/exhaust fixture to the exterior, install additional drywall/taping and trim on the other side ( in the adjoining room ) of newly erected bathroom partitions.

Now, hypothetically, if I were to create a new bathroom directly above an existing 1st-floor bathroom ( House is a 2-story colonial ) the cost would include all of the prior examples mentioned plus about $ 2,500.00 more ( $ 16,500.00 to $ 18,500.00 ). The reason is additional labor & material for running longer-length plumbing to the 2nd floor, drain pipes, vent pipes, and water lines. Also, the same with electrical wiring. Also, more labor time going up & downstairs, another story high. Also need to open up portions of the finished 1st-floor walls for access to route all plumbing and electrical originating from basement to the new 2nd story bathroom, then drywall, tape, sand & paint these areas.

Now, getting to your question about the cost of a bathroom dormer addition. It would include all of the prior examples mentioned ( $16 k to $ 18.5 K range ) plus about $6,000.00 to $8,000.00 more ($22,500.00 to $26,500.00 ). The reason are, setting up staging & planking, opening up the roof structure, installing a subfloor, building exterior walls with plywood & house wrap on the exterior, ceiling joist & roof rafter framing, plywood on the roof, waterproofing the exterior at end of each working day until the exterior is finished, exterior trim & wall siding, new roof shingles on new dormer roof and replacing damaged/disturbed roof shingles on adjoining areas of the existing house roof and flashing, new window, gutters & leaders, ceiling insulation, including all 3 exterior walls.

How much would it cost to construct a full-length dormer with a full center bathroom (usually 32's long) on an existing cape? note, presently has 2 finished bedrooms. The objective is to enlarge the square footage/headroom of both existing bedrooms and create a new center full bathroom.

Note, with the intensions of leaving the inner front half, the entire length of upper attic space in-tack (drywall, insulation, trim, bedroom entrance & closet doors, electrical outlets & heating). This being said, creating a full rear dormer including the center full bathroom, you are around $ 45,000.00 to $ 50,000.00. More if your attic space in your cape home is presently unfinished.

How much would it cost to build a front Dog House dormer on my cape house?

Usually, you build 2 on the front roof, 1 on right, and 1 on the left. The objective is to create more natural light, floor space, headroom, and ventilation. Usually, $ 5,000.00 to $ 6,000.00 each, a total of $ 10,000.00 to $ 12,000.00, however presuming this is part of already being there constructing a rear dormer or other major work. If constructing these dog house dormers is solely the project, then more costly than mentioned. Also, more if you want to include stripping and re-shingling the entire front roof.

How much do home additions (ground level) cost per square foot?

There are so many variables, for a greater in-depth answer please read my blog "How much does a home addition cost" which is posted on my company website. Also, it explains all the existing circumstances that cause variability in cost. Attached are existing floor plans of a variety of sizes of cape homes, illustrating a variety of proposed ground-level additions (size, location & type of room).

What existing circumstances causes variability in price when building-up? Based on owning either a cape or ranch style house & converting to colonial or owning a ranch and converting into a split-level ranch.

Location of chimney
More costly if it's presently located up against the exterior gable wall as opposed to inside the floor plan of the proposed living area when needing to extend it another story higher. Reasons being.
  • Need to set up staging from the ground up. No staging is needed if the present chimney is within the proposed living area. The reason being can work off a bottom wood member of newly installed roof trusses and for higher access and with ability to access of 4 sides when raising chimney is by working/walking on new roof sheathing.
  • Need to install finished bricks the entire height when extending the chimney on the gable end, usually 8' - 10'. Other circumstance locations ( still the same height ) however only need to install finish brick, usually, just the top 3' to 4', the remaining portion below could use less expensive concrete blocks & not as time-consuming in the finished appearance because its view is hidden in the attic.
  • Also, more expensive if you have more than 1 chimney to raise, such as for a fireplace. Note, sometimes when raising a portion of your roof ( ranch to a split level ranch ) and the existing chimney is not within the footprint of the proposed raised area, the chimney ( depending on distances away ) may still have to be raised higher than the height of new windows for back-draft reasons of flue stack.

Type of insulation presently in Attic
More costly if it's blown-in foam as opposed to fiberglass insulation. More time-consuming to remove, especially when blown against electrical wiring and tops of electrical box covers of lower-level light fixtures.

Items/equipment in the attic that needs to be removed
Ductwork, either for hot air heating or air conditioning. Possibly A.C equipment (air handler). Besides removing, it also has to be relocated.

Matching exterior wall finish of house (material, age & condition)
  • More costly if it's a wood product ( cedar siding, cedar shingles ) as opposed to vinyl siding. Wood products are 2 ½ times more costly, material-wise and labor-wise to install than vinyl siding. Plus, with wood, have to paint or stain and maintain.
  • More costly If the house presently has vinyl or aluminum siding that is either in poor condition or they no longer sell this product/color, then have to install new siding not only on the new upper-level addition but the entire house portion below and possibly do the attached/detached garage, breezeway or other ground-level additions.
  • The same with the roof shingles of other roof areas besides the new addition, such as garage, breezeway, and any other pre-existing ground level additions

Items on present house roof that need to be removed and possibly re-located
  • Solar panels
  • Skylights
  • The main electrical wire coming from the street, if it's presently attached to the portion of your house that will be raised (ranch to a split-level ranch ), if converting ranch or cape to a colonial-style house then this main electrical surely has to be raised to the height of the new 2nd level roof.

Condition of the existing electrical panel box
More costly if theirs not adequate space in the existing panel box for the needed additional circuits for outlets, switches & light fixtures. Thus, the need to upgrade the panel box. If this electrical panel box is the original one when the house was built then yes it has to be updated.

Condition of existing heating equipment (Boiler or furnace)
More costly if this equipment either needs to be replaced with a larger unit or leave present alone and install entirely new heating equipment for just new addition. It all depends on the size of the new addition.

Having either a septic system or connected to City / Town Sewer
More costly if you have a septic system. Your present septic system was sized based on the number of bedrooms in the house when the house was constructed. By increasing the number of bedrooms, you most likely may have to increase the size of your septic system. If you are connected to City / Town Sewer, you can have as many additional bedrooms as you want without any restrictions or additional expenses.

Besides existing circumstances, what else would cause variability in price?

Design & Materials
Examples are:
  • Oak flooring is opposed to carpet or laminate flooring.
  • Interior doors are solid pine as opposed to the composite hollow core.
  • Requesting Skylights/cathedral or vaulted ceilings.
  • Interior trim being clear # 1 pine as opposed to primed / paintable grade
  • Master bathroom, double bowl vanity as opposed to single bowl, shower stall (mud job, tile floor) as opposed to a tub or shower basin. Frame-less glass shower or tub enclosure as opposed to a curtain rod. Cost of additional bathroom selections ( based on your taste & budget), toilet, faucets, floor & wall tile, medicine cabinet, electrical fixtures, shower/tub diverter)
  • Exterior windows, Brand name, style, quantity.
  • Possible additional work on the main level existing 1st floor. Since all bedrooms will most likely now be upstairs, may want to take the present bedroom space on the 1st floor to either enlarge and/or create a living room, or family room by removing walls ( most likely bearing ).
  • Location/design of a new set of stairs to access the new 2nd level addition.
  • The least expensive is a straight run parallel to the direction of the upper-level floor joist.
  • More expensive if the direction is perpendicular to the upper-level floor joist.
  • More expensive if stairs partially go up, stop at a center platform/landing, and proceed at a right angle in a different direction.
  • More expensive if both sides of the stairs are openly opposed to one side and the other side is a wall.