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Thread: Split level houses: why?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    Back to your original question...spilt-levels are extremely efficient to build. You only have to construct one roof system for the whole house. Everything under it is usable square footage. As such, you get a tremendous cost-per-square-foot ratio vs. other building forms. The downstairs area next to the garage is almost "free" square footage for the home buyer.

  2. #27
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mallen View post
    Back to your original question...spilt-levels are extremely efficient to build. You only have to construct one roof system for the whole house. Everything under it is usable square footage. As such, you get a tremendous cost-per-square-foot ratio vs. other building forms. The downstairs area next to the garage is almost "free" square footage for the home buyer.
    Well...be that as it may, I still dislike the form. I don't like having living rooms in a garden level. It seems cheap. And that may really be the reason....less vertical wall area to construct, but then you get less 'general' space for storage in teh "basement".

    Btw, I not really a fan of finished basements. I like the basement to be mainly for storage and mechanicals.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    I hope I didn't give the impression that I like them. Heck no. I think they're ugly-as-all-get-out (for you non-Southerners, that means really, really, ugly).

    But the fact remains that they are quite affordable to build.

  4. #29
    When I was a kid I thought these houses were the coolest. It seemed like all the "rich" kids lived in them. I certainly would not want one now. Of course they are mostly in the burbs and I would not live in the burbs either.... but that is just me.


    I think these came about at a time when a contemporary style in housing was still popular. These houses broke with the traditional look and added a bit of visual complexity. They were a step up from the very common one story hipped roof ranch houses that were popular in the 60's. It was also at a time when basement rec rooms were popular. The split levels gave you the basement rec-room but it did not seem so remote from the rest of the house.

  5. #30
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    There are tons of them over here in the Pocono Mountains. Many of them are former vacation homes. I have a brand new one across the street from me and two on the next street. And people are still buying them. I particularly don't like them either.

  6. #31

    Frost Footings!

    In areas that have cold weather, houses MUST have frost footings at least four feet below grade. Excavation is one of the most expensive parts of home building. By building split level homes, you minimize the amount of excavation required for frost footing while maximizing usable/livable space.

    So it's essentially a cost consideration.

    As for why they exist in so many areas with warm weather... I think some people really do like the layout. It makes the upstairs and downstairs feel connected without the necessity of a large, expensive, and perhaps awkward-feeling foyer. It allows you to have a basement with actually usable space (windows, light, etc.).

  7. #32
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I like more classic home styles better too but I don't think raised ranches are the embodiment of sprawling evil, and God knows I could use the extra space.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    I like more classic home styles better too but I don't think raised ranches are the embodiment of sprawling evil, and God knows I could use the extra space.
    Many of the classic Chicago Bungalow styles are very similar to the raised ranch. I don't think these are evil either, in fact I ike the Chicago Bungalo Better than my Detroit Bungalow (With most of basement below ground, and roof line parallel with the street).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  9. #34
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Many of the classic Chicago Bungalow styles are very similar to the raised ranch. I don't think these are evil either, in fact I ike the Chicago Bungalo Better than my Detroit Bungalow (With most of basement below ground, and roof line parallel with the street).
    No, a Chicago bungalow is nothing like a raised ranch.

    In a Chicago bungalow, you walk up a stoop to the building entrance which is level with the main floor of the house. Then you have to descend a full flight of staris to access the basement.

    In a raised ranch you generally enter into a foyer that is between the main floor and the basement level and you only have half flights to either the main level or the basement level.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    True, I could have been more specific. I was referring to the hieght where the first floor begins being like a raised ranch. Sorry I was not explicit enough.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  11. #36
    Cyburbian IlliniPlanner's avatar
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    Between the ages of 8 and 18 I lived in a split level and it didn't give much space for my remote-control cars to work with unless I pretended they were going over cliffs. And to bring out the wooden plank so that the remote-control car can ascend or descend those 5 steps was a pain.
    One lot of redevelopment prevents a block of sprawl.

  12. #37
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    When I was growing up in the late 60s and 70s my family (8 kids!) moved a lot. My mother despised split-level houses, wouldn't even look at them. She claimed it was because there was not enough space for our big family. They have much less usable interior space than a similar footprint conventional center hall colonial.

    The house with the doorway in the middle and up/down stairs on each side is known as a "split foyer" around this area (Northern VA). There are a zillion of them.
    They were quite popular throughout the late 50s to the mid 60s, but now they're prime targets for tear down as they sit on huge lots, typically half an acre (or more) and are located in the early post-war suburbs that are attractive because of their relative proximity to downtown.
    Don't forget that they already have utilities, i.e. gas and electric going to the lot! A good reason to tear down and rebuild on an existing site instead of building on greenfield.

    The Brady Bunch house was a split-level house!

  13. #38
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    Better than McMansions

    I always hated Raised Ranches until I lived in one. The town where I live was chock-full of splits when I was growing up, but now they are being razed to make way for McMansions that are arguably more cookie-cutter than the split-levels or raised ranches of the 50's-70's. The raised ranch floor plan is great for young families - especially when you want to corral the little ones on one level. If I lived in a colonial I would spend my life going up and down stairs!

  14. #39
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cmosh13 View post
    If I lived in a colonial I would spend my life going up and down stairs!
    Oh, my god...the horror.

    Though you could jsut simply "corral" them in the living/family room just as easily.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  15. #40
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    Yes, but when all of the toys can be kept in their bedrooms it makes the living room soooo much more pleasant for grown-ups!

  16. #41
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    Split-Foyer Conversion

    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    In areas that have cold weather, houses MUST have frost footings at least four feet below grade. Excavation is one of the most expensive parts of home building. By building split level homes, you minimize the amount of excavation required for frost footing while maximizing usable/livable space.

    So it's essentially a cost consideration.

    As for why they exist in so many areas with warm weather... I think some people really do like the layout. It makes the upstairs and downstairs feel connected without the necessity of a large, expensive, and perhaps awkward-feeling foyer. It allows you to have a basement with actually usable space (windows, light, etc.).

    This is for anyone who knows some about split-foyer homes. I am looking at purchasing a split-foyer in Virginia, but understand that the market tends to look down on split-foyers and split-levels when it comes to resale value. It appears that realtors treat the lower level as finished square footage, while the tax assessors treat it as a basement. I am looking at doing some significant renovations, and I'm wondering whether it might be better/possible to try to convert it to either a two-story by excavating some ground in the front and placing the entry door leading into what is now the basement, or if adding fill (with retaining walls around the windows) and a raised porch hosting an entry-way into the upper level might be a better option. I'd appreciate any input from both structural and design considerations. Thanks!

  17. #42
         
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    Quote Originally posted by ryanprince4 View post
    This is for anyone who knows some about split-foyer homes. . . . I am looking at doing some significant renovations, and I'm wondering whether it might be better/possible to try to convert it to either a two-story by excavating some ground in the front and placing the entry door leading into what is now the basement, or if adding fill (with retaining walls around the windows) and a raised porch hosting an entry-way into the upper level might be a better option. I'd appreciate any input from both structural and design considerations. Thanks!
    I helped my girlfriend with a major re-model of a split-level house last year. There are millions of these homes in the U.S. that now need major up-grades after 40 years of living. Many are in great neighborhoods and on larger lots.

    She built an open porch on the front of the house to give it some character, removed the front stairs going down and replaced them with a coat closet, constructed an addition on the rear for a new kitchen, bathroom, 2 bedrooms and new stairs to the lower level. She also converted the old kitchen to a laundry room, and turned the 2 bedrooms up-stairs into a master suite. When it was all done she sold it the same day she put it on the market for more than her asking price. The real estate agents loved that the split entry was eliminated since that is a major issue in selling these homes.

    She has also thought about converting one into a traditional 2 story home by removing the earth berm from the front of the house. However, you end up with a house with a kitchen either on the second floor or you have to move it down to the first floor were there is less light and less open-ness. Either way it seems awkward or expensive to do.

    I found a pdf on the web that has some ideas on re-modeling these types of homes.

    http://www.ci.coon-rapids.mn.us/depa...t/devsplit.htm

    just scroll to the bottom of the page to the download button. She used it for ideas on her projects.

  18. #43
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    Thanks Senor Jefe

    Thanks for the information...it is helpful. I'm curious though whether or not she retained the entry door at the original level or raised it to match the top floor. The door placed 1/2 way between levels seems to be an eye-sore, at least from my perspective. Also, did the open porch block any windows on the lower level, or was it small enough to fit between the windows?

    Thanks!

  19. #44
         
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    ryanprince4, To answer your specific questions: The front door remained at the same location in respect to the floors of the home. The foyer was made a little larger by removing the stairs to the lower level and adding the coat closet. The porch did not block any of the windows. The porch is more of a covered stoop that extended about 8 feet from the front of the house and was about 6 feet wide with battered or tapered square columns on bases supporting the gabled roof. We incorporated some craftsman and cottage elements into the home including battered columns both inside and out, wood shingles as siding accents, flagstone walkways, built-in cabinets and book cases. I have also seen a few with a mid-century modern style applied but with mixed results.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    The split level used to be the official housing style for suburban American and I despise them. Even the Bradys lived in one.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  21. #46
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    split foyer remodelling

    we bought our first home ( a split foyer just now). I am looking for ideas on renovations and landscaping..problems I am trying to address first:

    1. Foyer expansion, readjust level to second floor/ porch - front curb appeal enhancements

    2. Laundry chute for laundry located in basement

    3. Way to carry groceries from garrage to kitchen easily / relocate kitchen to lower level...

    brain dead now and looking for help suggestions plans pictures anythin.. and we havent even moved into the property yet

  22. #47

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    SPLIT LEVEL ADVANTAGE

    Other than, lower building cost, nothing. Poor, antiquated design. Too many stairs.

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