What does "Split Level" Mean?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Split level is a type of floor plan for houses in which the floor of one level of the home is halfway between the ceiling and floor of another level of the home. While the floor plans can vary significantly from there, the general layout usually has a large, open room that leads up to a bedroom and down to another room used as a bedroom or living area. The large middle level usually includes a living room and a kitchen, and sometimes even a family room and a bathroom.

Some of the advantages of the split level home become apparent when the home is built on a slope or on uneven property. This type of home accommodates such a slope well, and it allows the builder to maximize the usable space of the lot. It can further allow a builder to add levels to a home built in a location that limits the height of a home. The split level home, when built correctly, can be an aesthetically pleasing structure both inside and out that can add character and function to a property.


It can be difficult to evenly heat a split level home, however. This problem can be alleviated by designing a heating system that reaches all rooms of the home, but this can be a cost-prohibitive undertaking. A split level home can also be difficult to enter, especially for people with disabilities, as the driveway is rarely, if ever, on the same level as the main floor of the home. This means that someone entering the house must first walk up a set of stairs to get to the front door, or at least to the main level of the house once they are inside the front door.

The most common version of the split level house is the raised ranch style home. This style of house is broken into two levels, and when a person enters the front door, he or she is faced with two sets of stairs: one set goes down to the lower level, and the other set goes up to the upper level. The upper level usually contains a kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms, while the lower level contains a large living area, a laundry room, and sometimes access to a garage. The lower level can be built down into the ground, or it may act as the ground floor with the upper level essentially becoming the second floor.


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Post 2

When I was younger, I used to think a split level floor plan would be ideal. I liked the idea of a sunken living room and elevated bedrooms and all that. But now that my wife and I are getting older, I can see where having to negotiate all of those steps every day would get tiresome. A split level design works fine for younger families who want separate spaces for different purposes, but there will eventually be mobility issues to consider.

Post 1

The house I grew up in was originally a two story traditional farmhouse, but the person who owned it just before us added on a new living room. That sunken living room made it a split level home. When people entered the front mud room, the living room was on the street level, but there was a set of three steps that led to the new dining room area and the rest of the original house. A different set of steps led to the second floor, which had been converted to a self-sufficient apartment at one time.

I liked growing up in a house with a split level design. I felt like I was in a different space in the living room, and the rooms upstairs were different than the rooms on the "middle" floor.

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