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Old 09-29-2011, 07:46 PM   #1
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


My husband is wanting to build a 2 story or 1 1/2 story house next year. We are going to build up instead of out to save money on the roof and foundation.
My husband got wondering if it would cost much more to make the house 3 stories? If we did another story we could make the foundation and roof possibly smaller or just for the extra sq. ft. Would it be better to go with 3 instead of 2? Also I was wondering if it would be cheaper to do the bottom floor as a basement so we wouldn't have to use the lumber, nails, and dry wall for the walls?
If we should build a basement should we make it a walk out basement? The land we would be building on is flat but I was wondering about building the ground up or dig some out to do a walk out basement? We live up in the northern part of NY so most winters get -20. Would that be alright with a basement? The type of houses I've been eyeing are the prow fronts that usually have the walk out basement with a wrap around deck.
We orginally planned on a 1 1/2 to 2 story building built on a slab with a footer and have stained concrete floors for the main floor and laminate for the top.
We want to be cheap but if spending a few thousand more for more sq. ft. now than the hassle and more cost of adding on later is better than we would like to go with the extra story.

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Old 09-30-2011, 12:10 AM   #2
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


2-story with basement.

Up North you have this ugly thing called the frost line....that is the point where the ground 'typically' freezes down to. Anything even or above it is going to get pushed up. Since you have to pour your footing down below the frost line (3-4' I think...someone correct me please), you might as well make a basement.

Think about it....if your going to dig up the ground....it's no big deal going down a few more feet....and basements require a lot less energy to heat/cool. From what I have heard, it's a lot cheaper to make a basement than a 3rd story.

As for 3rd story....based on what I have learned on my 2-story addition...the moment you go over 2 stories, the cost of construction goes up quite a bit due to the extra loads. Basement is different in that it is basically your foundation.

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Old 09-30-2011, 12:23 AM   #3
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


I agree, in general, w/ dawg. However, another option is to pour your slab over foam, which is over compacted gravel, right at grade; no foundation (stem) wall, no footers. This is being done in Fairbanks, with the approval of 3 engineers, one of which is the city engineer. 12" of compacted gravel, 12" of foam, and a 6" slab. Most places would not require 12" of foam, so the cost would be less. There are more details to the deal, of course, but that is the essence of it. All this, as with any foundation, is predicated upon having solid enough ground below the slab. I would not be comfortable providing all the details, but they are available; try Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks; they may have the details drawn up, or can direct you. Either way you go, good luck. j
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:33 AM   #4
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


You have a great many to consider when starting a new construction like this. Foremost is your budget of course.
Next you need to clearly define what your needs and priorities for the house are going to be; ie, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, size of kitchen and appliances, etc. garage sizing, mudroom, will you be raising a family or retiring there.
Will you be selling in the near or distant future, etc.
Structural issues like the type of soil, seismic requirements, drainage of the lot, etc.
You might want to spend a few bucks up front and consult a designer that is familiar with all the above (and a lot more).
Make sure that any engineering (permits required or not) is designed for a DIYer if that is what you will be doing.

The money you spend at this time before construction will save time, money and your sanity down the road.

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Old 09-30-2011, 08:17 AM   #5
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Where I grew up in northern Illinois, everyone had a basement. Where we lived in Texas, no one did.
I'm no expert, and I'm not familiar with NY state, but I would take a look around. If no one in the area has basements, there is probably a reason and digging one would either be difficult, expensive, or both.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:39 AM   #6
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Having gone through the building process multiple times, and having lived in one story, two story, & two story with walkout basements... my two cents.

If cheap is your main concern, make it a two or three story. If youre looking at it as an investment with resale potential, see if you can afford a one story with a basement and walkout.

Although the cost is more upfront, down the road when you go to resell it will be easier to sell a one story with a basement then a 3 story. As the population ages, people arent going to want to go up and down stairs. The more living space on the main floor, the better.

Also, if youre going to build a basement, have the walls dug even deeper then standard so that you can have high basement ceilings for finishing. If you go with 9 or 10 ft basement ceilings it will feel more like a normal living area when finished.

If you've got adequate slope for a walkout, do it. Its another selling point down the road. And also pay attention to sq ftg, open flow and dont get sucked into all the bells and whistles of hardwood, granite, stainless that can cost you more money. Those types of things can always be put in later down the road when money isnt tight.

Finally, make sure the house is fully sheathed and properly insulated and as energy efficient as possible to help recoup energy costs long term. Go through everything with a fine tooth comb with your builder, all costs, every detail, placement of windows, bathrooms, flooring, etc...and get it in writing before you ever break ground.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:48 PM   #7
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


In New England just about every house has a basement. Those w/o basements (on slab or crawlspace) are considered "cheap", most people avoid them... of course the exception might be the coastal areas like Cape & Islands where flooding is an issue...

I'd say in upstate NY you have the same thing. Check out homes in your area (just look online at realty sites)... do 49 out of 50 homes list a basement? If so, then you need a basement, otherwise your home is the odd-ball... as much as you may not care about that, anyone buying it will.

You should also not discount the storage potential for the basement, and the space that frees up in terms of housing utility items like the electric panel, furnace, water tank, etc... all those things take up space on the main living area when you have a slab.

Not to mention the decreased complexity for running wire/pipe/duct when you have an unfinished basement. If you ever have a problem with a toilet drain in a slab home you'll be pretty depressed, go to break up all that concrete to deal with it.
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Old 10-01-2011, 03:57 PM   #8
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Thanks for the replies. My husband and me read through them. I looked through the local real estate to check out the foundations. Only about a 1/3 of the houses had basements depending on the ground. The others were crawl spaces and slabs. After talking he decided to just do a 2 1/2 story house without a basement. His dad's house has a basement which is across the road from where we want to build and the basement is always having water problems. Might be from it being an old house. It rains often to the point that areas around here have yards and fields pooled with water. We will probably do a slab and footer on the highest spot in the field. The house is going to be for us to live and raise a family in. We don't plan on selling unless we have to. We would like to keep it and hand it over to our children whenever we have any. The bottom story will be sort of like a basement since we will use it for a gym and office area. The top 1 1/2 stories will be the main living area.
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Old 10-01-2011, 04:13 PM   #9
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


If you build 1-1/2 story be sure to understand that you will be basically living in the attic space.

I have a 1-1/2 story Cape house, w/o proper air sealing and insulation the 2nd floor gets hot when you want it cool and cold when you want it warm.
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Old 10-02-2011, 05:03 PM   #10
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


We will probably install reverse ceiling fans and either have a a/c or heater upstairs to help.

What do you do for your house to help with the problem?
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Old 10-02-2011, 07:16 PM   #11
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Quote:
Originally Posted by reveriereptile View Post
We will probably install reverse ceiling fans and either have a a/c or heater upstairs to help.

What do you do for your house to help with the problem?
You will definitely need heat upstairs Personally I like forced hot water, but if you're going the inexpensive route it's probably cheaper for forced hot air. Lay it all out with proper returns for central air--even if you're not adding it now, it will MUCH easier to add later if you decide to. Ducting after the house is done is expensive.

Since your in NYS it probably gets cold in the winter, I'm guessing since you're going low costs you won't be doing a traditional fireplace. So, instead of that, consider a layout that allows for a wood stove to be installed at some point--what I mean is a ~4' blank spot on a wall in an open area (like living room, family room, whatever) with good clearance in front of it (not a narrow room), no windows above it on second floor (for a clear run of the flue pipe to above roof peak). Even if you don't put it in now, you may want it later, better to setup your walls/layout now.

If you can arrange for 96"+ ceilings you can do a ceiling fan.

If you have a large enough attic space you can do a whole house fan which will help create a breeze. That might be an alternative to central air.

Just make sure that you air-seal and insulate as much as possible, a nice tight house--don't go cheap on that aspect. That will help keep the heat and cold in.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:49 AM   #12
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Thanks a lot for the information.

I'd like to go with the hydro radiant floors. I know they cost a lot to install but seem worth the cost in the long run for the even heat and possibly the money saved on heating. If I can't install it in every floor I would like to at least install it in the main floor along with the a/c tubing when first building. Just depends on if I can talk my husband into it or not.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:56 AM   #13
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


Everyone has covered the basement topic pretty well.

As far as a third story goes, you should check with the town you intend to build in. Around here there are height and coverage limitations. Some areas have livable square footage limitations as well. They won't specifically say you can't build 3 stories, but they will have a height limitation that makes it impossible. There is always the zoning board of appeals, but you'll need to decide if that's a route your wanting to take.
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:30 PM   #14
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2 story, 3 story, or a basement?


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Everyone has covered the basement topic pretty well.

As far as a third story goes, you should check with the town you intend to build in. Around here there are height and coverage limitations. Some areas have livable square footage limitations as well. They won't specifically say you can't build 3 stories, but they will have a height limitation that makes it impossible. There is always the zoning board of appeals, but you'll need to decide if that's a route your wanting to take.
Thanks for that information. Forgot to even think about the building codes.

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