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Question DetailsAsked on 5/7/2013

is it a big job to pop up roof in cape cod style home?

I currently live in a cape cod home and we have the slanted ceilings. I would love to get a huge master without cramping my neck and make 2 bedrooms on the other side. I am just not sure of how big of a job this is. I watch the reno shows and can't imagine living through 6-8 weeks of renovations.

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6 Answers


"Popping up" the roof in this sort of situation really means adding a whole new story, with new full-height walls all around, and such.

Your house may or may not be framed to handle this added load, so reinforcement (doubled studs) might be needed in the lower floors before you can do this - a MAJOR project, as it means opening up all the house walls above the foundation (at least the long 2 walls) to put in new studs (and rerun plumbing and wiring in the process after new studs are in), so most people would not consider this unless they were planning to replace the siding on the house anyway.

Check your local planning and zoning board - you may have a or height limitation in your area that would prevent this anyway.

Even if you can just remove the existing stub walls (if you have them), the existing upstairs is essentially a finished attic - not a full floor. The original Cape Cod design was done that way to eek some sleeping space (nighttime use only) out of the attic but avoid building an additional story, and to keep the space small to make it easier to heat.

To "raise the roof" will take either a MAJOR roof jacking operation or a crane (I have never heard of this being done on a residential roof) to elevate the roof and hold it there or to lift it in one piece and set it on the ground while new walls are built, or far more likely, tearing off the roof including the sheathing, using a boom truck to individually lower the roof trusses to the ground, building new walls, putting the trusses back up, reroofing, putting on siding, running electric and plumbing, then interior finishing. This is essentially equivalent to building a whole new addition except that you do not need a new foundation.

I seriously doubt if most contractors would get the job done in less than 2 months, which is just what you said you don't want. And - regardless of how long it takes, during that time the upstairs will be non-existent for you - you would have to be living entirely in the downstairs and basement, along with all your upstairs furniture and possessions.

This sort of job is risky - you better have a GOOD contractor - imagine if he gets busy and puts your job on hold for awhile, quits, or tries to raise the price on you mid-job. Also, it is very tough to make this sort of job totally raintight, so you risk water intrusion into the upstairs floor area and into the downstairs ceiling and walls, and your current upstairs floors will most likely be trash too by the time the job is done. Personally, I would consider this type of job only over an unoccupied garage - in your situation I would just build on an addition, which does not greatly disrupt your life.

I would ballpark this type of job roof raising at $50,000-100,000 - are you prepared for that sort of cost to get a relatively small increase in living space ? I really think that if you serious about this, you need to talk to an architect who is experienced in remodels of Cape Cods, or maybe do what most people do when they want more luxurious space - upgrade to a different house, especially in today's low interest rate environment.

If you can't imagine 6-8 weeks of renovations but really like where you live, perhaps consider doing a real nice job of finishing your basement instead and make the upstairs into just 1 or 2 continuous giant rooms - they would be very wide with only 1/2-3/4 width being head height, but still giant, without having to do any structural work.

Other alternatives include adding a new addition to the house, or adding a couple of large (say 3 joist spans wide - a bit under 6') dormers on each side in the existing roof. An addition you are of course talking several months work duration, but lesser disturbance because largely outside your current building envelope. Wide dormers are still not cheap, but doable and should not take over a week or so after the windows come in.

Another alternative would be a limited-foundation Florida room, depending on what the weather is like in your area in the winter, making that your rec room or living room and convert your existing rec or living room to bedroom space (being careful to do it in a "temporary" fashion, so can still be used as rec room or living room by a buyer when you sell your house).

One other thing that is common in Cape Cods and finished attics is to actually block off the low headroom areas with stub walls along the side, possibly using some of that low headroom area for built-in cupboards and dressers and such - see web images and videos on Cape Cod remodels. If you do that, you need EXPERT help on the ventilation, so you do not get dead air back in there and associated mildew problems. If you do that you HAVE to leave space to get back in there for inspection or make the stub walls as removeable panels, for access to remediate mold in case you ever get a roof leak, so a fair amount of your total floor space is lost, even though it does not cost you any head-height floor space.

Good Luck - hopefully a few other carpenter or general contractor types like Todd Shell will jump in here with their thoughts.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


I agree with LCD on the worry of overbuilding your home and changing the architecture. If money is no object to you and you don't mind possibly hindering the value of your home do what you want with it. Do you know a Realtor? They can be a good first stop in determining what your home's value is going to be with the proposed remodeling/addition. It may be more, it could actually be less than it is now. Once you have gotten feedback on what you can get away with and what to avoid you need to contact an Architect and give him a budget for your project. Your Contractor/Builder can set you up with one as well. The Architect can then redesign the top of your home in a way that compliments the existing structure. It won't look quite like the same Cape Cod to a picky individual in the know but it will be a happy balance most people could live with. Then the Builder/Contractor can bid the job based on the plans. If you decide to do something architecturally incohesive don't expect all contractors you call to be interested. Many of us won't attach our names to such projects. It actually hurts business and our reputations when someone says "I can't believe that guy built it like that" even though we are following plans given by others. It may still be quality workmanship but if it doesn't flow with the rest of the house and the doesn't mesh it tends to give the wrong perception. An addition should look like it was always there, not an afterthought.

To answer your question: Is it a big job? Absolutley. The plumbing vents have to be extended, most of the top floor will be rewired, and the entire thing will be completely reframed. I always suggest my customers move out during a major remodel/renovation. The dust and noise are unavoidable. Life will be miserable living there during the project. No need to sugar coat it. It is what it is: a partial tear down and rebuild of your house. Factor in a short term rental of 3 months as part of your project cost. Talk to your contractor for a more accurate timeline. If anyone says they can do this project in less that 2 months be very cautious. They may not have the experience needed to do it or will shortcut items on the job to get it done quickly. Timeline takes a back seat to doing it right.

Todd Shell

Todd's Home Services

San Antonio, TX

Answered 7 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Long story short: I have a 1950 cape cod with the same attic. I was looking to "pop" up one side and make a huge room. The price in 2012 in York County PA was going to be over $50,000. Prices were given by three contractors. My neighbor across the street did the project on his home and paid $53,000.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9035740


Thank you Guest 9035740 - actual bids/construction costs in response to a question like this helps not only the questioner, but also those of us who provide responses, as a checkpoint or validation on what we are saying. I was thinking $50-70K was a likely range, but to not be too optomistic I stretched that to the $100K range so as to not mislead the questioner with possibly too low a number.

I truly wish more of the people who asked questions here would provide the after-the-fact info on what suggestion helped the most, and how much a job actually cost versus what responders guessed it would - would be meaningful to everyone following the question, as welll as adding to the database of project costs for others to preview before they ask a question of their own.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Hello - I'm writing to follow up on this question.

I have read in some forums that use of a crane is typical for raising the roof, while the sides are getting raised. I'm wondering if its possible not to physically raise the roof, but remove the roof instead because its getting replaced. I'm not in construction industry so I apologize if this is a no-brainer question. So my question is if we are replacing the roof and want to create more height and space in the cape cod attic, will the steps be different, meaning can the roof be removed, sides raised, and then new roof put in. (Of course there are other steps in there that I'm going to leave out for simplicity, such as beam reinforcements). Thank you for your time.

Answered 4 years ago by jennj10


Jennj - sorry I did not see this when you asked the question several months ago - depends on contractor. Some will demolish and rebuild, some jack the roof up and temporarily support it while building new walls higher, a few remove the roofing along the walls, raise the wall studs, then jack the roof up on top of them, some will take roof off with a crane and set on ground for a few days (or leave hanging, which is illegal and very danzgerous if a wind comes along) and then put back on.

Depends on contractor, what equipment he has in-house versus has to rent, size and complexity of roof of course because if not just a rectangle with maybe a cross-gable or dormer it generally is not worth trying to lift with a crane, and of course the construction of the roof framing - some types you can basically just lift up and off after cutting the connections free, others the house framing and roof framing are roughly integral so if you try to lift the roof it just collapses. Generally - tied rafter (rafters with cross-bracing in the middle and full attic joist across teh attic floor structurally tied to the rafters) an d many types of trusses you can pick up in one piece - simple untied rafters and those with cathedral and vaulted ceiling types you generally cannot reasonably do this.

Does not make a big difference which way you do it, though the remove and replace the roof does tend to cover the work area in a few days rather than a week or more typically.

BTW - if you can't imagine living through 6-8 weeks of renovations, don't try this - that might be a typical construction period for this type of job, but in MANY cases you are looking at more like 2-5 months for many contractors. Remember - a moderate sized general contractor might be able to do this in just 5-10 days if they kept at it 10 hours a day - but typically they have multiple jobs going. It is like with a new house - many tract houses can go up in 3-6 days of construction time to ready-to-paint condition in projects with largish crews (even worked on one where a 1000 home tract was putting up house after house in 2 days total except for things needing waiting for grout/paint drying time (but with about a 40-50 man crew), but that does not negate the fact that most new homes take closer to 3-6 months than 3-6 days.

Of course, popping the roof does not involve total disruption of the total house - especially at night, like a total renovation does. Course you get some traipsing through the house in the daytime unless you are building in outside access to it, but not like a total house reno in one swipe, which is sort of being a glutton for punishment if not taking off for a several month stay at the lake cabin or such during the work.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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