How Much Does it Cost to Build a 2 Story House?

When it comes to building a new home there are many decisions you have to make, and one of the first is to do with the style of your house and whether it's 1 story or 2-story. Depending on the neighborhood and area one house style might be more popular than the other but it's up to your personal preference which you choose. Here we highlight the pros and cons of a 2-story home and how much it is likely to cost you.

When you are ready to build your dream home in Chicago, reach out to Fortress Home, one of the city's most reliable and high-quality custom home builders, with more than 20 years of experience: [email protected] or 773-770-8607

Key differences building a 1-story and 2-story house

The main difference between 1- and 2-story houses is that all the living spaces are on the same level in a one-story home, which can make the flow and layout of the house smoother and designing the layout easier.

However, if you want a 2,000 square feet home, if you choose a one-story design your foundation and roof will need to be twice as big as that of a two-story house, which can make the home building costs higher.

Why choose a two-story house?

Both one and two-story homes have their benefits but here we detail the key pros and cons of a 2-story house.


  • Your building costs may be lower, per square foot, as your roof and foundation costs will be smaller.
  • If you have a smaller lot you can fit a lot more living space (twice as much in fact) in a two-story house than a one-story house.
  • You will have more privacy from the second floor of your home, which is why most people put the bedrooms upstairs.
  • You can have a much larger yard on the same lot size, with a two-story home.
  • Two-story homes are generally a safer option when it comes to thieves, as you can more safely leave upstairs windows open to enjoy a cool summer breeze at night.
  • If you're in a neighborhood with other two-story homes it will likely be much harder to re-sell a one-story home, but less so the other way around.
  • Going up and down the stairs gives you a mini-workout every day, hopefully keeping you fit and healthy for longer.
  • You have more exterior design options with a two-story home, and some house styles don't work well as a one-story home.
  • A two-story house will generally have much better views for you to enjoy from your upstairs windows.


  • If you have small children or elderly relatives the stairs can be difficult for them to deal with, and potentially even dangerous.
  • Staircases can take up valuable living space, depending on the design of the house.
  • Sound travels more through floors than walls so you need to carefully consider where to put louder appliances, like your TV.
  • If you are in an area prone to natural disasters it can be slower to evacuate a two-story single-family home.
  • Maintenance of a single-story home is usually easier - think about clearing out your gutters.
  • Heating a cooling a two-level home can be more expensive and less efficient.

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Cost to build a 2-story house

The cost of building a 2-story home will vary hugely depending on many factors, but for our calculations here we will base it on the average size for a new single-family home constructed in 2021. According to the National Association of House Builders (NAHB) analysis, a new house is now on average 2,540 square feet, so we will base our calculations on a 2,500 square feet house.

Factors impacting the average cost to build

There are many factors that go into calculating the exact construction costs.

  • Location - the cost of land, labor, and materials will vary by region, and the weather in different areas will slow or speed up the building process.
  • House size- in general, the larger the house the more expensive it will be to build.
  • Standard of finish - using luxury materials will end up costing a lot more than standard builder-grade materials.
  • Custom or standard - if you choose to design a custom home it is likely to end up costing more than a builder's standard house plans.
  • Additional features - if you choose to add on a deck or basement, or put a swimming pool in the yard your total home costs are going to be higher.

Cost to build breakdown

In 2021 the national average final costs of building a house are almost $300,000 and we give you a thorough home building cost breakdown including labor costs and building materials, based on a house with a total square footage of around 2,500.

Permits and regulations: $93,000

This figure may seem very high, as building permits generally cost only a couple of thousand dollars, but according to a 2021 report by the NAHB regulatory costs now account for almost 23% of the total cost of building a new house.

These costs will include:

  • Surveys
  • Building code related costs
  • Zoning approval applications
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Delays caused by regulations
  • Land purchase fees

Foundation: $8,000

This is the cost for a simple slab foundation with retaining walls, not a more expensive basement foundation.

Framing: $30,000

The cost of framing has increased in 2021 as lumber costs have risen, and most standard houses are built with wooden framing.

Roofing: $8,000

This cost covers a traditional asphalt roof but could be higher if you choose different roofing materials.

Major systems: $44,000

Major systems include all your wiring, plumbing, and HVAC; a truly vital part of your new house. The cost to install these will depend a lot on the size of the house and the layout of the house.

For example, if you have designed your floor plans so your upstairs bathrooms are above the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, then you will require less piping.

Here are some rough guides for these costs:

  • A full HVAC system will cost about $1,600 - $11,000
  • The square foot cost of wiring is around $2 - $4
  • Plumbing generally costs around $8,000 - $12,000

Fixtures, fittings, and finishes: $108,000

When calculating the costs of your interior and exterior finishes, fixtures, and fittings there is a lot of room to save or splurge. Granite countertops and hardwood floors will cost a lot more than tiles or Formica.

Interior finishes and decor can be very expensive or cheap. For example, the labor costs to build custom kitchen units will be much higher than the installation costs of ready-made units from Ikea or Home Depot.

Appliances: $9,000

You might be able to save a little money with fitted appliances if you can move your washer and dryer from your existing home to your new home. However, if you want to leave them in your existing home for the new buyer, you'll need to factor in the cost of purchasing new appliances into your budget.

Additional costs

If you decide to add any extras to your new house, like a deck, a swimming pool, or solar panels, they will all come at an additional cost.

  • Solar panels cost around $20,000 including installation.
  • Installing a new swimming pool costs on average $35,000.
  • A standard 10-foot x 10-foot deck will set you back about $2,200.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to build 2-story home?

In general, when you look at the home building cost per square foot, it works out a little cheaper to build a 2-story home. This is primarily because you need a smaller foundation and roof for the same square footage of living space.

With a two-story home, you can also save money by buying a smaller piece of land to build on, or at least enjoying a larger garden, than you would have, with the same square footage of a one-story house.

Can you build a house for 100k?

While the national average cost of building a new house is almost $300,000 that doesn't mean that you can't save money and build your own home, no matter how much money you have. While building a house for $100,000 in certain parts of the country could be nearly impossible, unless you already own land, it's very achievable in most areas.

For that budget you can consider:

  • Prefab modular homes cost on average $50 - $100 per square foot, meaning you could afford a simple 2,000 square foot modular home or a higher-end 1,000 square foot home.
  • Tiny house prices are generally under $100,000 unless you are building a very unique, luxury home. Most tiny houses are 600 square feet or smaller.
  • Small traditional homes generally cost from $100 - $200 per square foot which means you could afford a simple 1,000 square foot house.
  • Shipping container home - shipping containers are the latest trend in construction materials and people are using them to create affordable and stylish homes, with simple floor plans. Each container costs from $8,000 - $15,000 and they can be attached to create larger houses.

Is it cheaper to build a ranch or 2-story home?

For most homeowners budget is a key factor in building their new house and knowing the average cost to build a 2-story house is very important to them, as is whether it would be cheaper for them to build a simple two-story house or one-story ranch home.

There are many factors that go into calculating the total cost of building a house but usually, one-story ranch-style homes will cost a bit more than a two-story home, per square foot.

This is because you need a much larger foundation and roof for a one-story home of equivalent square footage. However, if you choose different building materials or a different style of home the extra costs may reverse the calculation.

Building your dream home in Chicago

Now you've decided it's time to move out of your existing house and start the process to build your own house, talk to the expert home builder, Fortress Home in Chicago about your plans. We are specialists in residential construction and will help you with the home building process, every step of the way. Our team of in-house experts and professionals will ensure that your new house is completed perfectly, on time, and within budget. Talk to us today, sharing exactly what you're looking for, and find out more about how we build a house: +773-770-8607 or [email protected]

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