How much does it cost to build a loft?
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Build Loft Cost Guide
Updated: August 17, 2022
For those who like the idea of urban living, nothing is as iconic as the loft apartment. While the word “loft” has many meanings, most people agree this is a wide, open area with industrial overtones. While true lofts are wide spaces carved out of old warehouses and other industrial spaces, many people use the term to describe a range of rooms, apartments, and buildings. Loft apartments can be single buildings, conversions within existing buildings, or additions onto existing buildings. Because there are so many variables in building a loft, from converting an industrial area to adding a small lofted area to a home, there is a wide range of associated costs.
The national average cost to build a loft apartment is $90,000 to $450,000, with most people paying around $275,000 for a 1,000 sq.ft. soft loft addition on the top floor of an existing building. This project’s low cost is $12,000 to add a loft bedroom to an existing apartment. The high cost is $1,100,000 for building a two-story loft in a new building with roof access.
Cost to Build a Loft
|Loft Building Costs|
|National average cost||$275K|
What Is a Loft Apartment?
The term loft apartment has many meanings in architecture, depending on the loft type and where you live. The original meaning of a loft apartment was a wide open space in a converted warehouse or other industrial space once commercial but now residential. These converted spaces are usually large - around 1,000 sq.ft. or larger - and the only enclosed room is the bathroom. The apartment is essentially an oversized studio. Temporary partitions may be put up for bedroom privacy, but there are no real interior walls separating the living areas. Many original features from the space’s first use are still visible, including concrete floors and ceilings, brick walls, exhaust fans, pipes, wires, and exposed ductwork.
Newer definitions of the term loft apartments can also include new construction rather than converted buildings. To differentiate these from the traditional lofts, they are often called “soft” lofts. They look similar to traditional lofts, being large, open spaces often with exposed utilities and concrete and brick surfaces. However, they lack the space’s original history. They often include more modern utilities and amenities than a traditional loft because they are designed for apartment living from the beginning, rather than being used for commercial space first and converted later. Like converted lofts, these areas are usually open without true enclosed bedrooms or separated living areas.
What Is the Difference Between a Loft and an Apartment?
Not all lofts are apartments, but most are. A loft apartment is typically a wide open studio apartment that is 1,000 sq.ft. or larger. Loft apartments are located within a larger building and that building may contain many lofts.
While most lofts are apartments, not all apartments are lofts. Apartments come in several sizes, from tiny 100 sq.ft. studios to enormous 4-bedroom multi-level dwellings. While lofts have a more narrow definition, apartments are a much wider category. An apartment can be located in an old home that was divided into sections or built in a complex with multiple buildings and amenities.
A loft is a subtype of the broader category of apartments with specific styles, attributes, and sizes. There can be other subtypes of apartments with definitions, styles, and features that can separate them from a loft.
Loft Cost by Type
Loft apartments come in two basic types or styles - the traditional loft, which may also be known as a hard loft, and the soft loft. Hard - traditional - lofts are always converted from older industrial buildings with a previous use. These may have been factories, warehouses, or other older buildings no longer used for commercial purposes and that have likely not been updated.
Soft lofts are a form of new construction built to resemble a hard loft. They can be converted from a different residence, built onto an existing building as an addition, or built in a new apartment building. They still have the same features, size, and open space of the hard loft but with more versatility for placement because old industrial buildings are not as common anymore.
Both loft types can have a wide range of costs, depending on the location, size, and materials. There can also be overlap in costs between the two types.
Because hard lofts are always converted from existing buildings, their total cost to build is usually lower. Soft lofts can be converted from an existing building, added to an existing building, or built from the ground up. This can mean they have higher costs to build per square foot because there is often more involved. However, they may have similar starting costs because some soft lofts can be conversions.
In addition to their wider range of building types, soft lofts can also have more amenities and communal living spaces added to the apartment and building, increasing their cost to build. Some features you may find in a soft loft include rooftop access, fitness centers, lobbies, and gardens. Hard lofts do not usually include these amenities because there is no space within the original building. The cost to build can be much lower without the amenities.
|Loft Type||Cost to Build per Sq.Ft.|
|Hard Loft||$90 - $215|
|Soft Loft||$195 - $450|
|Two-Level Loft||$250 - $550|
The cost to build or convert a hard loft averages $90 to $215 a square foot. These lofts are becoming increasingly rare as older buildings are repurposed for offices or residential settings. Most of the costs in a hard loft come from the finishing of the space. Most of the original flooring, walls, ceilings, and utilities are preserved whenever possible, which cuts down on the building and completing costs. Costs come from insulating, adding kitchens and bathrooms, and upgrades like energy-efficient glass for windows, restoring original floors or woodwork, or updating plumbing and electrical work. The older and more rundown the building, the higher the costs are to update and make the conversion. And, the more luxurious the materials, the higher the costs.
The cost to build a soft loft ranges from $195 to $450 a square foot. Soft lofts are newer apartments made to look like industrial traditional lofts. They may be conversions of older residential buildings, new builds, or additions. These apartments are also open spaces and have exposed utilities, brickwork, woodwork, and concrete, but they are built from newer materials. They are often more energy-efficient and comfortable because they can be insulated better. They usually have lower ceilings as well. Many of the costs in a soft loft come with some amenities, such as roof access, lobbies, fitness rooms, and better efficiency.
Two-Level Loft With a Mezzanine
The average cost to build a two-level loft is $250 to $550 a square foot. Some lofts - both hard and soft - may have a partial second story or mezzanine. In this case, the main area of the loft is still a wide-open room. At one end, there is usually a vertical or spiral staircase that takes you to the mezzanine. This added space may be a bedroom or office, an open space or enclosed for privacy. In some cases, it may have varying ceiling heights. It is not uncommon for this loft type to have little standing room on the second story, while easily accommodating a bed. This style of loft apartment with a mezzanine is sometimes known as a California loft.
Loft Construction Cost Breakdown
Hard lofts are created from existing buildings. These buildings already have foundations, walls, roofs, plumbing, heating, and electrical work. Therefore, their costs are more about remodeling the space than building a new one, and because every building is different, they have different cost breakdowns for where the money goes. This can make it harder to break down the costs for a hard loft conversion because some need extensive remodeling to become livable, while others only require superficial refurbishing. This may also be true for soft lofts converted from older residential buildings.
However, most soft lofts are easier to create a breakdown for, which can clearly show where the money is going in the project. This is because soft lofts are usually a type of new construction and are not being built from an existing apartment or residence. For this reason, they usually have similar cost breakdowns to apartment buildings. While every project is different, the following percentages can help you estimate approximately how much of your budget should go to each area.
|Project Area||Percentage of the Total Cost|
|Architect Fees||8.9% - 10% of the total cost (additional)|
|Structural Engineer||$500 - $2,000 as needed (additional)|
|Contractor Builder Fees||25% of the total cost (additional)|
|Exterior Walls (Wood) and Finish||6% - 10%|
|Windows and Doors||5%|
|Interior Finish||6% - 10%|
|Floor Finish||3% - 5%|
|Interior Features||3% - 5%|
|Masonry Exterior Walls (if used in place of wood)||9% - 12%|
Loft Conversion Cost
Loft spaces may be added to many existing homes and apartments. This is different from a loft apartment because it is an area within a residence rather than a residence alone. This area is generally located at one end of a room, with the upper area of that section being converted into a second-floor “loft.”.
This loft is not a full second floor or level nor designed to be a fully finished and enclosed room. Many of these lofts do not have enough headroom for standing but are designed to be a sleeping area, office area, or reading nook.
Some homes and apartments may already have an unfinished floor or platform, usually leading to attic space, which can be finished to create a small loft. In other homes or apartments, you may have the space and ceiling height needed to build one, but this may take away some of your square footage below, depending on how the loft is supported.
These types of spaces tend to be small - no more than 200 or 300 sq.ft. at their largest, with many being around 100 sq.ft. in total. They are not usually expensive to build, depending on the condition of the area when you begin. For example, if you have an existing platform, such as the entrance to an attic, finishing it costs as little as $1,200 to $3,000, depending on the materials and size.
Building the platform, adding a simple set of stairs or a ladder, and finishing the entire area usually costs around $12,000 to $20,000 for most loft space conversions.
When building or creating these spaces, keep in mind they are open to the floor below, so a railing of some kind is necessary for safety. These should be factored into the style of the project. Also consider how to access the space because a set of straight stairs can take up additional room. Some small lofts for reading or guest sleeping spaces may use permanent ladders affixed to the wall nearby, while more frequently used spaces use vertical or spiral staircases. The more elaborate and larger the stairway you build to access the space, the higher your costs.
Loft Addition Cost
If you have an existing building and want to add a loft apartment, this addition has similar costs to building a soft loft. Costs range from $190 to $450 a square foot, depending on the type of building, materials, and amenities, such as roof access or better energy efficiency. Loft apartments are large, so regardless of where you make this addition, this is a significant undertaking.
Adding a loft to an existing building can sometimes be done by opening up existing spaces and stripping them down to create the open area and industrial style that are so well known with lofts, which lowers costs. In this case, you are not adding a new space but rather recreating or remodeling existing spaces. This makes total project costs closer to $150 to $250 a square foot because more work goes into remodeling rather than building.
Pros and Cons of Living in a Loft
Living in a loft has much in common with living in an apartment building. Lofts are apartments and generally located in older buildings with numerous other apartments. And, they have the same pros and cons, such as the building maintenance crew fixing issues for you and having neighbors on all sides.
In many other ways, loft living is a unique experience, particularly for those who opt for a hard loft. While more traditional apartments have separate bedrooms and living spaces, lofts have completely open floor plans, with only walls enclosing the bathroom. This makes the area hard to heat and cool and sometimes noisy, depending on the materials. It may also mean you have less privacy if you live with family members or when guests come to stay.
Lofts are unique, and many have a lot of character and history that can lend a specific urban, modern, or industrial feel to your home. They are also large, especially for the urban areas that they tend to be located in. Finding non-loft apartments in the same size can often be a challenge. Many lofts also have large windows, which can be both a pro and con because while they can provide fantastic views and lots of light, older and original windows make the apartment drafty and hard to heat. This can be solved by replacing the windows with energy-efficient glass and adding additional insulation to the room, but this adds to the total costs. These large windows can also be difficult to fit with window treatments if you want to block out light or cold or your loft is positioned beside another building and you want to gain privacy.
Studio Apartment vs Loft
Studio and loft apartments have crossover attributes. Both are single-room apartments with a bathroom and without separate bedrooms, other interior walls, or partitions.
There are several differences, however. Lofts are industrial, having been carved out of old industrial buildings or built to resemble this. Studio apartments can resemble any style, from traditional to contemporary, and often match other apartments in the building.
Lofts are generally much larger than studios. Lofts are usually around 1,000 sq.ft. or larger, while studio apartments average between 100 and 400 sq.ft.
Studios are cozier, usually with lower ceilings, so they are easier to heat and cool. They are more likely to be mixed into larger apartment buildings containing other apartments. Studios are usually more common, found in more places, and less costly to build and rent.
How Much Would the Loft in New Girl Cost?
If you have seen the TV show New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel as Jess, you have also seen the oversized apartment they often refer to as the loft. While this apartment has many loft-like features, including brick walls, hardwood floors, industrial doors and woodwork, the apartment is not a true loft. Lofts are wide open spaces, while this apartment has 4 separate bedrooms.
Lofts or apartments of this size cost between $8,000 and $10,000 a month in rent - likely out of reach for teacher Jess and bartender Nick, although perhaps Schmidt and Winston could afford their shares.
To build a loft or apartment like this, expect costs to be about $1,250,000 just for the apartment. That does not include their rooftop access or the building’s other amenities like the elevator, wide hallways, and shared living spaces.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
If you have a loft conversion, second-story loft, or mezzanine, you should include a staircase. While ladders can be used, staircases make a better and more permanent addition. Spiral staircases are the most common additions and cost $2,500 to $15,500, depending on the materials and size.
Lofts are wide open spaces, so to make the most of the layout for the space, you may want to hire an interior designer. Interior designers help with space planning and layout so that you can better utilize the open space and furnish it more effectively. They charge between $50 and $450 an hour.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Finishes. Lofts tend to have a lot of exposed brick, concrete, and beams, and you need to coordinate your other finishes with these features. Industrial, modern, and minimalist styles work the best.
- Location. Lofts can be found anywhere, but they are more common in urban areas. The loft market is particularly hot and fast-growing in Manhattan.
- Loft Law. The Loft Law dictates what a building owner can rent out as a loft space. These laws help make the property safer by stipulating fire safety requirements and ensuring that each loft has at least one window facing the streets, a yard, courtyard, or garden.
- History. Before lofts became popular living spaces, they were first popularized by artists who worked and lived in the large, open spaces. This eventually led to the conversion of lofts into apartments, and the eventual laws making them safe places to live.
- Are lofts cheaper than apartments?
In most cases, yes. Staircases going straight up to lofts are usually spiral because they use the least amount of space. Other options include a permanent ladder or set of ladder stairs. Expect costs of between $2,500 and $15,500 to build the staircase.
- How much is a loft apartment?
Lofts have a range of costs for renting, purchasing, and building, depending on the location, type, and age. Rents typically start at around $1,500 a month and go as high as $10,000, depending on the location. Building a loft has an average cost range of $90,000 to $450,000.
- Can I put a staircase to my loft?
Lofts are considered a subtype of apartments. They are subject to the same real estate codes and laws of the area they are located in. Some may be cheaper, while others may be more expensive. Amenities and location dictate the final costs.