One of the first considerations faced when planning a new home is whether the house will be a single level or a two-story design. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to both. Let’s discuss.
The Plus Side of Single Level Homes
1. There is more living space per square foot in a one-story home since there is no staircase, which can use as much as 100 square feet.
2. One-level homes are simpler and more time effective to design because they are easier than two-story homes to structurally engineer. See #1 of Downsides
3. Without stairs, there is safer navigation for residents. A single level home is also safer in an emergency because it provides faster evacuation.
4. The idea of a “forever home” is more feasible in a one-story home as it’s easier to age in place. Moving about the house is more straightforward. Wheelchair accessibility is less complicated, should the need arise.
5. A one-story home is easier to maintain and clean. There is no hassle of going up and down stairs to do laundry or climbing a ladder to wash windows.
6. A family can enjoy a quieter space. Without all the footsteps and the activities going on in the upstairs area, there is less noise around the house.
7. There are more options for high ceilings and skylights in a one-story home.
8. Single-level homes can deliver energy-efficiency. By its nature, a one-story home can maintain temperature better than a two-story home. Fewer rooms mean less energy required for heating and cooling. In a single-story home, heat goes to the ceiling immediately, then spreads to the other rooms.
However, energy-efficiency is linked to the size of the structure. Sprawling one-level homes that occupy more space than a two-story home may become less efficient because of their design.
The Down Side of Single Level Homes
1. While it’s easier and more time effective to design, a single-level home can be more costly to build than a two-story one. Because of its larger footprint, a one-story home requires more materials for the foundation and roofing. With plumbing and heating/AC systems running the length of the house, bigger and more expensive systems are needed.
2. Less privacy. Being on one level exposes the family to neighbors, passersby, and curious onlookers.
The Plus Side of Two-Story Homes
1. It’s cost effective – all the expensive elements such as the excavation, foundation, and roof installation are contained in a smaller footprint, so the structure is less expensive to build than a comparable-square-foot one-story home.
2. There are health benefits to going up and down the stairs; and opening the second floor windows to let the fresh air in.
3. A two-story home provides more privacy, particularly in the upstairs bedrooms.
4. There are defined spaces with the social/entertaining areas downstairs and sleeping quarters upstairs (with more bathrooms).
5. There is a wider variety of design options for the exterior facade, from asymmetrical roof-lines to dormers, arches, and more.
6. There are better views of the surrounding natural landscape from the upper floor.
7. A two-story design is easier to accommodate on most lots.
The Downside of Two-Story Homes
1. It’s the stairs – they can take up to 100 square feet of space and raise the cost of construction. Yes, they can be beautiful and add an aesthetic and dramatic element to the home. However, they can be dangerous since they present a safety hazard for children and older adults.
2. Energy-efficiency is not always a strong suit. Maintaining indoor comfort/temperature levels is a challenge in two-story homes. It can be hot upstairs and freezing on the lower level.
3. It’s noisier because of the activity on both floors.
As you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a one-level vs two-level design, consider what is most important to you. It comes down to your family’s needs and lifestyle.
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