Chicago home additions are an extremely popular way to add square footage to your home, open up the floor plan on the main level, add a stunning master bedroom suite to your home, and create the home of your dreams.  Bungalow second story additions are the most common type of a Chicago home addition project but I am going to have to break some really bad news tor you…

Are you ready for it….?

You sure…..?

You positive….?

You want it straight…..?

Ok here it is…..

A Chicago home addition costs WAY more money than you think it does!

The reason a home addition in Chicago costs more than you think it does is because there is the cost of the addition itself and then there is the cost of things you didn’t think about.


When you are doing an addition, you are likely adding a bathroom, or two, or three.  Anytime you add water fixtures to a home, the city of Chicago is going to do a water pressure test.  This entails turning on all the faucets, running all the showers, running the washing machine, flushing the toilets, running the dishwasher, etc at the same time!  Side note: what normal family would turn on every water source simultaneously in a home?  I think you have a better chance of winning the lottery than that happening…I’m just saying.  So if the water pressure falls below an acceptable limit and trust me it will because most of the water lines that feed into a Chicago home are a ¾ inch lead pipe, they will require you to upgrade the water service to a copper 1 ½ inch line.  This can cost you anywhere between $15,000 to $30,000!  Whey does a water line cost so much money you ask…well the city of Chicago likes to charge a HUGE permit fee.  Part of that money is for repairing the road because you have to tie into the main water line in the street and that requires digging the street up.  This is where the cost can really increase depending on which side of the street that the water main is on.  If you are on a big street and the water main is on the other side, you are going to have a big bill just for the water line alone.  Not only that, you are probably going to want to update a lot of the old galvanized plumbing that you have to copper to get maximum water pressure throughout the whole home.  Galvanized pipes corrode and restrict water flow.  They also commonly burst from corrosion and can cause a lot of damage to your recently remodeled home so even if you weren’t planning on redoing all the plumbing, now is a good time to do that. 


The 100 amp electrical panel that you likely have now just won’t cut it. Just like the water pressure, you have to account for all the new circuits and rooms that you are adding to your home.  The electrical panel is going to likely have to get upgraded to a 200 amp service minimum.  Not only that, since you are getting full architectural plans and permits, the city is going to want you to upgrade the rest of the electrical in your home to today’s standard.  This means replacing all the old wiring throughout and all new conduit if it hasn’t been replaced in the past.  This is one of the biggest reasons Chicago construction prices are some of the highest in the nation.  Electrical wiring inside conduit is typically only seen in commercial applications throughout the rest of the United States, but here in Chicago conduit is required in all residential homes.  Also copper piping for water is Chicago code which drives up cost as well.  Most other parts of the nation allow pex piping which is actually superior to copper in our opinion and much more cost effective.

Heating and Cooling

The furnace and the air conditioner you have probably won’t cut it if you are planning on doing a large addition because they are probably sized for your homes current square footage.  We have been in many homes throughout the Chicagoland area where an addition was done by another contractor but the HVAC was an afterthought and a Mickey Mouse solution was attempted (no offense to Disney).  This usually results in miserably hot second floors in the summers and frigid cold basements and first floors in the dead of winter.  This makes parts of the homes almost unusable with extreme temperatures.  The best way to set up the HVAC when you are doing a bungalow second story addition project or just a normal second floor addition is to add a second furnace and second air conditioning unit.  One furnace and AC compressor should be dedicated for the second level.  A separate furnace and AC compressor should be dedicated for the main level and basement. This creates a comfortable living environment for your home no matter how brutal the weather is outside.  You are also probably going to want a bigger water heater for your home but this is much cheaper than a second furnace and AC unit. 


Now if you are going to spend the money to do a second story addition to your bungalow or other type of Chicago home addition, you might as well finish the basement right😊?  This in theory again is fairly inexpensive right….wrong!  Basements in Chicago have notoriously low ceiling heights.  If we are in a basement in Chicago with a ceiling height of over seven feet, it is considered to be a tall basement.  The unfortunate reality is that most basements are under seven feet tall here in Chicago.  The duct work in the basement is a great place to hit your head and get a concussion.  That is why we recommend digging the basement down which can only be done by hand digging.  Unlike new construction where you can use an excavator, you can only use good old fashion hard work and manual labor to achieve a higher ceiling height.  You then have to get the dirt and concrete out of the home in wheel barrels or with a conveyer if you are set up like we are.  The only problem with that is you typically get 2-3 inches before you hit the bottom of the footings and trust me you don’t want to dig below them unless you have a phenomenal life insurance policy.  If you only get a couple inches from hand digging and hit the bottom of the footings and want a better ceiling height, you are going to have to do a process which is called underpinning.  Underpinning is just a fancy term for strengthening the foundation and we really recommend it if any digging is done even if you don’t get to the bottom of the footings because from the digging you might weaken the foundation.  The problem with underpinning is that it is expensive, and you can expect to pay anywhere between $15,000 – $25,000 for that alone.  The good news is that with the proper underpinning you can achieve tall ceiling heights like nine-foot ceilings in the basement.  We also recommend running all of the duct work on the sides of the home and not smack dab down the middle so it limits the soffit to one side of the basement.  This may require you to relocate the furnace but makes the basement more functional. 

Another thing you are going to want to do if you finish your basement is add a drain tile system with a vapor barrier system that feeds into a sump pump.  This removes the moisture from around the foundation of the home and ejects it outside the home so that you do not begin getting moisture and mold inside the home.  You will also really want to consider installing a battery backup sump pump as well so it will continue to work even if the power goes out.  If you are as paranoid as we are, you will also install an automatic home generator that runs on natural gas in case of prolonged power outages because a battery backup will eventually fail if the sump pump is constantly running and power is not restored in a timely manner. You will also want to invest in an overhead sewer system with a solid waste pump and check valve if you have any water waste in the basement.  So if you add a bathroom to your basement, the worst thing that can happen is the sewage backs up from the city and now your basement is flooded with sewage.  It is even worse than flooding from rain water, I’ve been in homes where this has happened and it is not pretty.  If you are going to spend the money to finish your basement, we really recommend protecting it with drain tile, a sump pump, and an overhead sewer system.

How Does the Addition Look Outside?

This is not a requirement when you do a second story home addition in Chicago but we believe the outside should be just as beautiful as the inside.  We recommend refacing the brick in the front to make it look like the home was built that way if this is for a Chicago bungalow second story addition.  This can cost a pretty penny or should I say several pretty pennies but it is worth it when it is done.  When done correctly, people will not even be able to tell that a second story addition was done.  If you have siding on the main level vs brick, simply redo all of the siding to match the first level for a beautiful finished look.

In Conclusion

My hope is that we haven’t scared you to death but helped you realize that a Chicago home addition costs way more than you think it does.  The good news is that any good Chicago home addition contractor will bring up all of these things mentioned in this article to you right away before you spend a bunch of money on architectural plans or buy a house and then get stuck with it because you can’t afford to do the addition.  This unfortunately happens pretty frequently here in Chicago so I am really glad that you are reading this article because all of the items above will factor into your cost for doing a home addition. 

We have done many bungalow additions, second story additions, rear additions, and wanted to share our Chicago expertise with you to help you avoid some of those traps and pitfalls.  If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out, we really hope to be your Chicago home addition contractor of choice and are also happy to be a resource for you.  If you are still feeling reluctant to renovate you will want to read this and you can also reach us at 847-305-2593 or can contact us by filling out the form at the bottom of the page. 

Linda shares her experience working with 1 Builders as her Chicago home addition contractor of choice