Smart advice to seek out before building a second story

If you've been thinking about adding a second story to your house but aren't quite sure how to do it, Todd Conversano recommends talking with an architect, who can advise you on not only the design and aesthetics of a project but also the costs.

"A good architect should be able to guide you through the whole process" and put you in touch with other professionals needed for the job, architect Conversano says. Some architects charge $150 to $350 for an initial consultation, depending on the time and travel required. After that, architectural fees are generally 10% to 15% of the construction bid.

What looks good on paper isn't always practical, however, so get a reality check. Hooman Nastarin of the Nast Enterprises structural engineering firm suggests talking with a structural engineer. "You want someone who can determine if it's actually feasible to build it," Nastarin says. That's an additional $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

When getting construction bids from builders, it's a good idea to contact at least three contractors. In general, expect a contractor to charge 18% to 20% of the construction bid.

To round out your research, don't forget to consider the site and the expertise of a geotechnical engineer. "You need to know what you're dealing with. Is the soil fill material or is it solid ground?" Nastarin says. Depending on the site, figure on paying $4,000 to $8,000 more.

Once you've assembled the relevant information, you can decide whether adding up really does.

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