Background: What, How & Why of Split-level, Bi-level and Raised Ranch Homes
Split-Level or 3-Level Primer
Bi-Level or 2-Level Primer
Raised Ranch Primer
Interior Design Approaches
Exterior Design Ideas
A Fresh Approach
5 Quick Ways to Differentiate Your Home
Sources for Traditional Materials
Remodeling the Split Level Kitchen
Addition & Subtraction: Adding on to Split-Level Homes
Remember the basics
Note that the ideas on this page are a reference point...fuel for the imagination. These are not "plans" but general concepts of how to make an addition on a raised ranch, bi-level or split-level...and how to avoid the common pitfalls that rob a home of curb appeal. Before undertaking your addition, the concepts below, and whether or not they apply to your home, should be considered. Many architects will scoff at these concepts -- and for every one that does, we'll show you an architect-designed addition to a split that is positively ghastly. Having said that, we'll remind you that you positively must consult with an architect, but remember that you have final authority (and responsibility) to make sure that the design is seamless and does not rob your home of its charm and character.
You probably know someone who took a small ranch, raised the roof a bit, added dormers, and wound up with a dandy little Cape Cod and a lot more living space. Or the guy with the average 4-square who added a small wing that made a big difference in kitchen space. And since virtually everybody thinks of adding more "elbow room" at some point, you probably figured it would be an easy task with your split.
Perhaps you even looked at a few architectural drawings, or talked about it with a builder. The first plans probably looked incredible: cross-gabled roof lines, a copious number of windows, exciting new angles. As you explored costs and ideas, you might've stumbled upon someone who talked about how simple it is to just extend the existing floorplan of a split...using the same roofline, etc. The house gets longer, it isn't quite as nice as the plans you saw....
Extending the long dimension of a split-level home is part architectural nightmare, and generally a disaster in terms of curb appeal. Another easy expansion is to "raise the roof." Unless you're thinking of dormers -- and even that can be a visual fiasco -- do NOT add a level to a split level.
Generally speaking, a split level with the long dimension facing forward should be added on at the rear. By the same token, a split with the narrow end facing forward (usually a raised ranch or bi-level) should have at least some portion of the addition offset to the "side." In both cases, the worst thing visually for a split level is to extend the length of the house. Below are a few "good" additions...
...and a few "bad" additions:
Additions on "True" Splits (3-level homes)
Let's suppose you found a photo album of a nice neighborhood of cozy 3-level homes circa 1954 to 1970. The landscaping is young, trees may be small and scrawny, but the houses fit the contours perfectly. Garages are on the downhill side of the lots; lawns frame the modest homes perfectly. After you've studied the photos, let's suppose you could go and have a look at the same neighborhood today. You'd probably be shocked at the changes. Shrubs have grown in, trees have matured. The lawns look smaller, as landscaping and hardscaping consume a larger percentage of space.
But there's something else...the houses. What was "quaint" in the photos seems to have gone kablooie; some of the homes are completely unrecognizable. Some have upper levels added on, some have been stretched, some have upper levels and added length. Lots are smaller simply by the fact that there is "more house" sitting on them. Some houses are so darn long they almost demand two front doors; some have added upper levels that are so unwieldy that they seem likely to crush the pre-existing home. And to top everything off, all the houses are wrapped in plastic and surrounded with floodlights, motion-sensor lights, walkway lights, and every other knickknack, jimcrack and gewgaw money can impulsively buy at the mega homecenter.
The simple fact that you are viewing this webpage means that you are probably considering adding on to your own split level home. You may even have the one house in the neighborhood that hasn't had some outrageous addition shoe-horned onto it. So if you absolutely, positively must add on to your tidy little split, here are some helpful concepts to keep in mind:
Be sure to check your design carefully, and accept whatever little visual "extras" your architect recommends, even though they do cost more. It's the difference between a home that looks like a house vs. a home that looks like a warehouse. And above all else, curb appeal should be your number one consideration when planning and addition.
If you are in the process of searching for a contractor for a particular project, please know that you can use Angie's List to review, and ultimately obtain a quote from a local contractor in your area. We recommend this service because it enables you to find reliable carpenters, plumbers, electricians and remodelers based on reviews from your neighbors, rather than by picking the biggest advertisement in the phone book. Contractors can only be included in Angie's List if somebody else -- a customer -- thinks they should be in there. Most importantly, it tells you which contractors to avoid. (It's worth a click).
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