Going Up – Adding a Floor to a House

Expanding your living space is an exciting prospect, but it can be daunting for South African homeowners to choose between adding a floor to a house or building out.

If you’re contemplating extending your home, you’ll want to look at the various factors involved in both scenarios – such as space limitations and budget constraints – to see which strategy suits you and your family’s needs.

Building Up vs. Building Out

There are two primary options that come to mind when people want to add more room to their homes: building up or building out. 

  • Building Out

    Building out involves expanding the footprint of your home horizontally. This could be as simple as enclosing an existing patio to create a new room or increasing the size of your floorplan by extending certain wings or adding rooms, outward. Building out involves the least disruption to your existing living space – and your daily life. What’s more, if you’re only extending a little, you may be able to do so without having to beef up your foundation.

    Extending a home outward makes sense for homeowners who have ample space on their property and prefer single-level living or have specific layout requirements that are better accommodated horizontally. It’s also more suitable for people with mobility issues, such as the elderly or disabled, who would have difficulty climbing stairs.

  • Adding a Floor

    Adding a floor to a house has several advantages. The most obvious benefit is the ability to maximise land usage, which is ideal for properties with limited outdoor space – particularly in urban areas where land is at a premium.

    Building up helps to preserve valuable outdoor spaces like gardens or courtyards, and is particularly suitable for growing families who love where they live, but need more space. What’s more, being able to double your home’s floor area means a significant increase in property value, should you opt to build an entire second or third floor.

Second-Storey Addition Ideas

When considering extending your home, think about each new room’s purpose and layout to decide whether to renovate upwards or outwards. In South Africa, it’s often best to place kitchens and spacious living areas on the ground floor, while bedrooms are more suited for upper levels. Also, you need to think about the necessary utilities: kitchens need wiring, plumbing, and lighting, making ground-floor extensions more practical.

Bedrooms and offices usually require only electrical and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), which means these rooms are cost-effective on the second floor. With a functional home addition that’s built the right way, you’ll also be able to align your home’s needs with potential buyers in the future and boost the overall value of your property.

If your plans include adding a floor to a house, here are the typical layouts that we see in the South African property market:

Building Out Additions

Building Up Additions

Different Ways to Add Another Level to Your Home

Upstairs additions come in various forms, each tailored to meet specific homeowner needs and architectural considerations. The three most common renovations are as follows:

  • Second-story Extension

    This involves adding a complete floor above the existing structure, which means your entire floor area is doubled. This offers ample space for bedrooms, bathrooms, and recreational areas. Second-story extensions are ideal for growing families or homeowners seeking to separate living and sleeping quarters – both for privacy and security.

  • Partial Addition

    A partial upstairs addition means adding less floor space than a full addition. This could range from a small loft area to a few extra rooms. This type of addition is versatile and can be tailored to suit specific needs, whether it's creating a home office, guest bedroom, or hobby room.

  • Granny Flat or Studio Apartment

    It’s also possible to build a standalone unit above the main house or garage, complete with an independent entrance, kitchenette, and bathroom facilities. Granny flats or studio apartments serve as versatile living spaces for extended family members, rental income opportunities, or private guest accommodations.

Each type of upstairs addition offers distinct benefits, ranging from increased living space and privacy to enhanced property value and rental income potential.

Technical Considerations when Adding a Floor to a House

Amidst the excitement of planning a major renovation, it’s easy to forget that building onto a house entails having to make sure that your existing structure can handle the additional load, and that your modifications meet the minimum requirements of South Africa’s building regulations.


Building regulations and zoning laws vary by municipality in South Africa. You’ll need to understand what your region’s regulations are or consult with an architect or professional contractor to ensure compliance with building codes, obtain necessary permits, and address any restrictions regarding height or setbacks.

For example, certain towns limit the allowable height for houses, which could pose a problem for those wishing to add another storey to their house. Furthermore, throughout South Africa, there are laws restricting homeowners from building too close to their boundary walls, which could throw a spanner in the works of your outward renovation plans.

Cost Factors

The cost of building another storey or extending outward depends on multiple factors, including the size of the addition, materials used, plumbing and electrical costs, labour costs, and site conditions.

When building up, contractors will need to assess the home’s foundation (and reinforce it, if necessary) and may even need to move and/or add walls or pillars on the ground floor, to ensure load-bearing strength for the second floor. Contractors will also need to give consideration to whether the second floor will comprise a rib and block slab system, which is typically more cost-effective than a conventional in-situ poured concrete slab systems.

Where You'll Live

Unless you choose a partial addition that’s constructed over a non-essential area of your house, such as the garage, or opt for a modular approach, you might need to relocate with your family during the construction period. Keep in mind that the process could take months, not just days. Where adding a floor to a house requires major modifications on the ground floor, you may forced to move out temporarily until those changes are complete.

If you decide to stay during a major renovation of this nature, you might experience living without essential amenities like a full roof, limited electricity and plumbing, and HVAC for an extended period. Add to this the daily disruptions from the construction crew and equipment on-site – be prepared to develop thick skin during the construction period. Unless you can stay with family or friends, living in a hotel or rental property will add to the overall cost.

Choosing a Contractor

The home renovations company you choose will play a massive role in your overall construction experience, cost and final product. It’s really important to find a reliable construction company with a track record that you can trust and someone that will treat your home with the care it deserves.

Discover the perfect solution for your home addition remodelling project with JUKKA. Our priority is to ensure we provide a service that focuses on what you and your family need from your home.