Split-level House Remodel: Additions and Renovation Options

Renovated Wooden Stairs in Chicago's North Shore

A split-level home one that includes staggered floor levels, often with entryways on the ground level. The typical design includes two sets of stairs that go up and down – one to a main living area and the other to the basement level, most of which are finished.

This style of home came into vogue post World War II and into the 1950s, just when the suburbs in America began to explode. While ranch style homes and other designs have become popular, the split-level continues is still prominent today, but many are in desperate need of upgrades or a just a fresh look.

If you’ve got an older split-level home, you’re probably looking for an addition, a vintage home remodel or other renovation/modernization options , and fortunately, you’ve got plenty of them.

Also having an idea of cost for types of remodeling will help you budget for your next project. Download for free our Home Remodeling Cost Guide if needed.

Types of split-level homes

Drive through any neighborhood that been around for at least four decades and you’re going to see a variety of split-level homes. The following are some of the most common:

  • Standard split-level

    On one side you’ll have one story and on the other, you’ll have two stories (sometimes more). Most entries are on the single story side, which includes the kitchen and dining area. A half-flight of stairs will connect the sides and the levels on the two-story side.

  • Split foyer

    This design become popular in the 1970s, but has basically fallen out of favor with developers. You’ll find this style has two sets of stairs and two levels. Once you enter the front door, which is on the ground level, you’ll see a set of stairs going up (usually to kitchen and bedrooms) and a set going down (usually containing the garage, rec room, office space and game rooms).

  • Stacked split-level

    With four or five floors, “stacked” is definitely a good name for this style. The home will include many sets of stairs, or in some cases, just a couple of steps, but the entry is generally at ground level. You’ll usually find the bedrooms stacked above the foyer with stairs coming off the kitchen or dining room.

  • Split entry

    Even though a typical split entry home has four distinct levels, it looks from the outside like a home with three floors. It features an entry between floors with the front door opening to a foyer/entry area. You’ll immediately find stairs going to the main floor and another set leading to a lower floor.

How to remodel a split-level home

Given the fact that split-level and divided entry homes were a hit in the 1940s and 1950s, many of them are in need of remodeling today. However, remodeling must come with a fair amount of planning because floor plans are fairly unique and can offer some pretty big challenges unless they’re well thought over.

The best place to start is to consider what you want out of your home, which is often dictated by what your needs actually are. Sketch out on a notepad what you would like to see happen in your home and make a list of wants/needs, because you’ll want to share these with a designer who has the experience to tell you what’s possible, what’s impossible and what you can do on your budget.

Pros and cons of split-level houses

Do you have a love/hate relationship with your split-level? It’s probably what’s driving you to research remodeling options, because it’s really just a series of boxes on multiple levels. This has its advantages as everyone in the family get’s their own space, but it can also feel cramped and the lack of open space can leave you yearning for something more, especially entertainment space.

Natural light getting into the home is limited given all the walls, but this is something that can be remedied by adding windows to both sides of a corner.

The traditional split-level is lacking in details, inside and out. Most of them have stairs that are far too close to the front door, which severely limits the landing space. They lack in curb appeal, but they’re affordable.

Fortunately, what you love about your split-level can stay and the things don’t you like can be addressed by a trusted design-build contractor with experience remodeling this style of home.

How to modernize a split-level home interior and exterior

Exterior remodeling can really boost the home’s curb appeal and take that decades old look and modernize it. Common exterior modernization projects include removing old foliage and bringing in lights to illuminate your walkways. Remove the old deck and replace it with a patio with modern amenities. Dormers can really change the façade, giving your home a fresh new look.

Modernizing the interior can get fairly complex, but some of what works in other style homes works with split-levels, as well. We’re talking about fresh new color schemes in your paint, tiles, curtains and carpets, as well as your art. Bring in all new lighting fixtures and start playing with splashes of light in specific areas, which can also modernize a split-level.

Some other common modernizing projects include enlarging the foyer/entry way, opening up the kitchen to make it a multi-use area, adding windows for natural light access, renovating the bathroom(s) and adding a master suite.

Split-level open floor plan remodel

If your split-level has a bunch of small, boxy rooms, you’re part of the club of many living in similarly designed homes. That’s why it’s quite common to see these projects involve taking down walls between two bedrooms and creating a master suite, complete with a walk-in closet.

Furthermore, if you’re enthralled by cathedral ceilings, or something close to it, achieving these things is a possibility in some split-level homes. You can also create more of an open floor plan by taking down your railings and replacing them with glass panels.

Expanding the kitchen area is also a popular project in remodeling a split-level. Also, if you decide to open up the rooms on the main floor, you can create a “great room,” which can provide that much-needed relief for an entertainment/gathering area where you can huddle with your family and entertain guests.

Adding an addition to a split-level home

If you’ve outgrown your split-level home, you don’t have to leave it. You can add an addition, either up or out. The following are some of the more common addition projects homeowners request of contractors:

  • Master suite addition

    Knocking down a wall or two can provide the extra space you need for a larger bedroom, complete with a walk-in closet and bathroom, but you can also add a master suite addition so you can take advantage of the existing square footage in your home and accommodate other needs, such as entertainment space.

  • Sunroom addition

    One of the more frequently complained about aspects of a split-level home is the lack of natural light due to all the walls and series of boxes (rooms) throughout. You can get that much-needed light by creating a sunroom on the south-facing section of the home. You can use however you like – as a plant-rich area, an entertainment area and anything in between – it’s up to you.

  • Bedroom addition

    If you’ve taken down walls to create a more open floor plan, you’ve likely rid yourself of a bedroom or two. You can gain back that needed bedroom with a bump-out addition.

  • New room addition

    If your family is growing and you’re feeling the need for extra space, but want to be flexible in how it’s used over the next decade or two, taking on a “new room” addition can ease your space issues while giving you options for the future. What might be used as a bedroom now can be turned into an office or hobby room years from now.

  • Kitchen addition

    Homeowners have evolved their thinking about kitchen use today – they’re going bigger and bringing in more entertaining amenities. If your current space simply won’t allow for that vision, taking on a kitchen addition will take care of your needs.

  • Garage addition

    One of the characteristics of a split-level home that most share is that they’re built with an attached garage. With the garage often on the same level as the basement rooms, which could include rec/game rooms, small living rooms and office space, the wall between these rooms and garage are often taken out to create more usable space. This can lead to expanding the footprint of the home by adding a one or two-car garage. If space isn’t limited and the budget allows, a three-car garage can be part of the plan.

How to improve a split-level home

How you improve your split-level home all depends on which areas are in the direst need of improvement. For some, the landscaping is just an eyesore, but for others, it’s a closed-in, claustrophobic floor plan that needs to be opened up.

Modernizing through an extensive paint, carpet, curtain and fixture replacement can give some split-levels new life, while others will require an additional room or garage.

Take stock of the contractors nearest you and pick one with experience working on split-level remodeling projects.

Updating a split-level home with experienced design-build experts

At New Concept 180, we know you have your choice of contractors to help you remodel or add additions to your split-level home. We distinguish ourselves by offering our clients a design-build service that offers comprehensive solutions.

Our designers will run through your list of wants and needs and help fine tune the wish list based on what’s possible and what is in your budget. The designers have many years of experience, so they can probably give you more ideas that will add to your wish list.

With a build team as part of the company, the communication between the designers and the builders is top-notch, which means our projects go smoothly, are on time and on budget. We’ve got every possible type of professional on the squad, so all you have to do is leave everything up to us and your split-level will be transformed. Contact us and let’s talk about your plans for a revitalized home.

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Remodeling Cost Guide

Your budget dictates the scope of your remodel and what it can be accomplished for your home. With that in mind, we have put together a Home Remodeling Cost Guide for you to download for free. This guide covers costs from midrange to upscale remodels. With this guide you are able to get a more accurate picture of what you might need to budget for your next project.