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Cost of a Pop Up?

by Prince Of Petworth March 15, 2017 at 1:45 pm 40 Comments

pop up

“Dear PoPville,

I know you posted about this a few years ago, but I haven’t seen anything lately. I love our neighborhood, but as our family expands we’d like a little more room and I’m afraid that we’re fully priced out of the surrounding area. I’m thinking a third floor pop up might be the answer, but have no idea what that would realistically cost. If anyone has insight, it would be greatly appreciated.”

  • BDale Res

    What neighborhood?

  • JS

    Most times I’ve seen this question asked the $200 – $250K range appears a lot.

  • MadMax

    We looked into it several years ago and to do it with a pretty well regarded company, matching the current facade as best as possible (brick, not crappy siding), it was $250-300K.

    • I have a corner house

      Are you in a middle row home so this only included matching the facade on the front or are you a corner unit so it included matching the length of the house as well?

      • textdoc

        MadMax lives in a corner house — see his comment below (down-thread).

  • Chris Webb

    About a year and a half ago, our estimates from multiple A rated Angie’s List companies were all about 250-350 k. Did a feasibility study before signing to dig in and explore the foundation sturdiness, and it wasn’t deep enough. That would’ve added 35-50k to the cost. For reference, that was for a 1k square foot footprint. I’d expect it’s higher now, given the supply and demand we’ve seen of contractors recently. Hope this helps!

  • textdoc

    Pop-ups are REALLY expensive. The expense and hassle factors are why the vast majority of pop-ups are done by developers rather than owner-occupants.
    And that’s not even taking into account possible friction with your neighbors, who might be less than thrilled with your building a pop-up. This can have a tangible cost if (say) the neighbors on either side refuse to grant roof access to your contractors.

    • The King Ad-Hoc

      They don’t have to be that expensive. We had ours done for under $200,000. Regarding neighbors permission, it is great if you have cooperative neighbors but not strictly required, especially if your addition is entirely within your lot (that is, you do not build on top of the “party-walls” that you share with adjacent row houses). Of course city zoning codes and building permit requirements do change over time so check with the city and hire someone who has recent experience.

      • textdoc

        Of course perceptions of “expensive” may vary, but “under $200K” is still a lot of money for most people.

        • The King Ad-Hoc

          Home owners may be able to leverage their home equity to pay for extensive renovations, remodels, even pop-ups. Especially in a real estate market that is still showing increasing equity values year over year.

  • CapitalDame

    Slow your roll. You have no idea where OP lives. Isn’t it possible that they have established a support system in that neighborhood after living there for several years and that they don’t want to uproot childcare for their kids?

  • We did a pop-up in Mt. Pleasant almost 10 years ago. We bumped an existing attic up and back, and the new master suite opens to a roof deck overlooking the back garden. We got it by historic review by not changing the front of the house at all; in fact from the front, you can’t even tell we did anything (but it still took months for approval).

    Besides the cost, you’ll need to factor in the time, aggravation, mess, and general disruption to your life. You’ll have strangers in and out of your house every day, and you will live with constant dust. Forget about spending any quiet or relaxing weekdays at home. There will be floods. We moved into our basement apartment because the pop-up was in combination with some major renovations to the rest of the house, and even that was painful at times. At one point I tried to calculate what the pop-up alone would have cost, and came up with about $120,000 but that didn’t include the roof deck, and we had accepted the lowest of 3 bids (which didn’t go as badly as it could have, but we had some issues). Depending on exactly what you want to do, I think you can expect to spend upwards of $150,000. We paid part from our savings, part from selling stock, and part with a loan. We refinanced our mortgage and bundled the loan for our renovations in with it, making the interest deductible.

    The pop-up made sense for us because our house had appreciated considerably in value, needed work anyway, and we planned to stay in it for several more years (and are still there). When we first started the process we had no idea what we were getting into. It was aggravating and stressful but it was also an exciting time, and it improved our house and our quality of life considerably so we’re glad we did it.

    • textdoc

      “in fact from the front, you can’t even tell we did anything” — The best kind of pop-up. :)

      • MadMax

        Unfortunately not possible when you live on the corner! :(

    • facts

      This is exactly what we did over in Ledroit Park. Everything you say is 100% true – super disruptive and painful and expensive, but totally worth it in the end. Today I’d expect this to cost closer to $200,000.

    • I should probably add that the total renovation–which included a new kitchen on the first floor, new bathroom & some reconfiguration on the second floor, as well as a lot of demo & fixing of previous ill-advised renovation, not to mention a new roof–cost us about $350,000 (including architect fees). The house started out as a fixer-upper (more than we had expected) but we lived there for 6 years before starting this process, so we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. The big unknown was how much it was all going to cost, which you don’t really know until after you draw up the plans and submit them for bids. We ended up with a large range (over $100,000 difference) between the 3 bids and chose the lowest one, which in general is not a good idea. Even then, it ended up costing over twice what we initially thought it would.

      • facts

        Again this is exactly what happened to us including initial expectation of price vs. actual at the end. Make sure you can find some way to absorb the project cost doubling or don’t get started. We did it by maxing out 401k loans, getting a HELOC, draining investment accounts, etc. Was very stressful.

        • Anon

          “maxing out 401k loans, getting a HELOC, draining investment accounts, etc.”
          Word of warning, this may not be the best idea for most people. (Though you’d probably end up with a pretty sweet pad!)

          • facts

            yes it’s not a good idea. hence my comment about it being stressful!

  • AnonV2

    Do you have a finished basement level? Even if you need to dig out to lower the floor, the cost would be about 1/2 of what a pop up would be and net about the same square footage. We did a full dig out, finished with new full bath and moved a bunch of plumbing, extensive upgrades to mechanical/electric, (changed our whole heating system), replaced all of the old sewer groundwork, replaced water lines, put in french drains/sump, etc. It’s used as just a big open play space and den, but we could have added a bedroom down there (had the exits already, only additional cost would be to expand a window well for egress). All in it was about $115K. The dig out was about $40K of that, and we would have had to do that foundation work to pop up anyway. Pop up estimates to get the same 800 sf of space plus a new bathroom were all over double that cost. Of course, a finished upper level will always be more desirable, but if it’s for your own use you have to ask if it’s worth the considerable extra cost.

    • facts

      there’s a big difference in the appeal of sleeping in the basement vs. sleeping atop a rowhouse. We never hear any road noise, for example, and get a nice breeze on the third floor. And we built a roof deck directly off the dressing room.

      • AnonV2

        Yes, that’s why I said “a finished upper level will always be more desirable”. It depends on what you want to use it for. If you want to build a new master suite: pop up. If you just need space for a growing family, including somewhere for the kids to play and be out of the way with the potential for an additional bedroom down the line: basement might work best. The cost difference isn’t something to sneeze at.

        I don’t get the road noise comment. It’s the same in our basement and 3rd level (in fact I’d say that the basement is quieter, just due to the fact that there is a lot of earth surrounding it)

  • Having come from an era where actually large families – with 5-10 children – routinely lived in modest houses with 3 bedrooms and one bathroom (if you were lucky, an extra one in the basement!) I would urge anyone thinking of expanding their home to step back and think about alternative ways to live. Somewhere between the “tiny house” movement and the gigantic “open concept” houses of HGTV there are ways to live comfortably and well.

    For $200,000.00 you could take your family on month-long worldwide adventures for the next ten years!

    • Anon

      That’s great that you value that more than space. Other people have different things they value. You are no more “correct” than they are.

      • I’m not trying to be “correct” just offer alternatives. Why are you opposed to that?

        • Anon

          B/c your comment is judgy. Do you think it never occurred to people that they are free to spend money on travel/experiences instead, so you are just pointing that out as an option? Or do you think your values are better than others and so you are urging others to be as enlightened as you? Be honest with yourself. Your “I was just suggesting….” is ringing in the ears of everyone with an overbearing mother-in-law.

          • navyard

            Actually, I appreciated victoria’s comment because she pointed out that trends really are going smaller.
            You sound really defensive and angry on this one.

          • Anon

            “overbearing mother-in-law” – heh, you must be new here ;-)

          • Anonamom

            I don’t think victoria meant to come across as ‘judgy’ but I can see how it could be taken this way. The question was not “what should I do with my spare $200k?” it was how much does a pop-up cost.
            Honestly, speaking as someone who has lived as a family of 2 adults and 5 kids in a typical DC duplex and as someone who currently lives as a family of 7 in a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house, I’d take the extra space any day of the week. I would imagine that anyone with 5-10 kids would say the same thing. In fact, I would LOVE to meet the mom of five kids who says “no, no, please, give me a smaller house! Oh yes, and then send me on vacation with my kids!” because I would have a lot to learn from her… or at least I could find out wtf she’s on to allow her to have that mindset.

          • Anon

            The question was: “How much would it cost?” Her answer was: “I’m better than that & you should ‘step back’ and ‘think’ and be like me!” I fail to see how that’s responsive or helpful.

          • If you have problems with an overbearing mother in law, you might consider getting counseling with that.

          • Anon

            Haha. Can you respond again to let us know you’re not responding?
            I think it’s time you schedule your next vacation.

        • Not worth the effort to respond. So sad that you dismiss anyone offering a different perspective.

          • Anon

            There is a difference between offering a “different perspective” and coming across like you think you are better than others bc you value international travel, or organic food, or yoga, or whatever instead of what the person was asking about.
            It’s “so sad that you dismiss anyone offering a perspective” on how your statement comes across.

    • Most of us considering pop-ups are in row houses, which pretty much by definition are modest in size. Our pop-up added about 600 square feet (plus another 200 square feet of roof deck). Our total living area is now about 2400 square feet (excluding the deck and the basement, which is rented as an apartment). We could get by with less space, but we wanted BETTER space, and decided to add a bit more in the process. In addition to a third-floor master suite with more privacy (which we love), we wanted a better overall layout that meant undoing much of a previous renovation (which was pretty awful), better storage space, bigger closets, a completely new kitchen, nicer bathrooms, and a comfortable guest bedroom. We threw in much-needed improvements to the insulation and the heating and cooling systems (our energy costs are lower now, despite heating and cooling a larger space). These things make a big difference when you know you’re going to be living in the same place for the next 10 years or more. It wasn’t cheap, but it has made a huge difference in our quality of living every day we spend in the house.

      • Oops, that should be 2200 square feet (not 2400). It’s 2400 if you include the roof deck, which we also love.

        • So you made a value judgement/cost-benefit/comfort for your own family – exactly what I am advocating! But I also don’t think that encouraging people to consider different ways of living is a bad thing.

  • Bob

    I just got quoted around 200,000 for a pop up (400sf)and an 8′ addition on all 4 levels. Plus 15k for design. Hopefully it ends up costing around that much.

    • Anon

      Oy! I wouldn’t count on that…

  • tke98

    Late to the convo, but curious – has anyone researched the costs of a pop-back versus and pop-up. Some people with deep lots may consider that alternative and can get the additional space over two floors instead of just going up.


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