Single or Two-Story Floor Plan: Which is Best?

You’re house hunting! Selecting the right home for you and your family is both exciting and challenging. The number of choices can feel overwhelming—location, size, style, number of rooms are just a few.

Choosing the house your family will call home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. Whether you’re looking for a move-in ready house or considering building from custom floor plans, you want to get it right.

You probably have a pretty good idea of where you want to live, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d prefer and what style of kitchen could work best, but have you considered how many levels of living space will best suit your lifestyle and needs?

The number of floors in your living space impacts more than just design-style and appearance. Levels define traffic flow and accessibility, the ease (or difficulty) of home maintenance inside and out, and how much it will cost to heat and cool a space.

Both single and two-story homes offer unique features and advantages, but both can present drawbacks as well. Custom floor plans can help get the most out of either option. Here are some important considerations when deciding whether a single, or two-story floor plan, is better for you and your family.

Advantages of Single-Story Homes

Whether you’ve dreamed of a cozy cottage bungalow or a sprawling ranch-style home, single-story floor plans have many advantages.

  • Maintenance:Proper maintenance of your home ensures its lasting value. There’s no argument that when it comes to washing windows, washing or painting siding, and cleaning gutters, it’s easier and far less dangerous with a single-story home. With no need for scaffolding or expensive extension ladders, you’ll save money too.
  • Staircases:There’s no hauling heavy loads of laundry, vacuum cleaners, or carpet shampooers up and down flights of stairs in a single-story home.
    • And while we’re on the stairs (or rather, not on them), single-story homes offer more living space per square foot. Even the simplest staircase can cut a big chunk out of both levels.
  • Homes without staircases are safer for small children, the elderly, those with mobility impairments, and others who may be at higher risk for falls. Single-story homes are also easier for everyone to evacuate in emergency situations.
  • Accessibility:Single-story floor plans allow you to age in your home, since they are easier to navigate and can better accommodate wheelchairs if necessary. And, custom floor plans allow for wider doorways up front, meaning no remodeling if you do need to accommodate wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
  • Sound Reduction:Single-story homes eliminate bothersome footsteps and other noises coming from the floor overhead.
  • Style:Single story homes more easily accommodate design features like higher ceilings and skylights.
  • Cost Savings:If you’re considering a custom floor plan, single-story homes are simpler and less expensive to design.

Disadvantages of Single-Story Homes

With all of the advantages of single-story housing, there are some drawbacks to consider before making your decision.

  •   Construction Costs:When comparing single and two-story floor plans of the same square footage, single story homes typically require more of the most costly building materials for foundations, roofing, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems. The longer HVAC runs require more powerful units at a higher price point to purchase and to operate. Single-story homes may also require larger, more costly lots.
  •   Privacy:Single-story homes offer less privacy with street-level bedrooms and bathrooms on display both from inside and outside the home. Single-story floor plans also provide fewer sound barriers between living spaces and bedrooms. Noisy midnight raids on the refrigerator may wake up others who are sleeping.
  •   Market Value:Currently, single-story homes tend to bring lower prices than two-story homes with similar square footage.

Advantages of Two-Story Homes

While a single-story home brings many benefits, there’s a lot to love about a two-story home too.

  •   ConstructionCost:If single-story homes are more costly to build, it stands to reason there are cost savings in opting for a two-story structure. The smaller footprint of a two-story home typically uses less of the more costly foundation, roofing, plumbing, and HVAC materials. Two-story homes can also be built on a smaller, less expensive lot.
  •   Fuel Cost:With less exterior wall and roof area exposed to the elements, two-story homes might help you save on heating and cooling costs.
  •   Outdoor Space and Views:A smaller footprint means more outdoor space available than with a single-story unit on the same lot, and a second level offers better views.
  •   More Style Options:Two-story homes offer more style options inside and out. With various attachment points and roofline styles, they can better accommodate porches and bump-outs that add unique character to the home.
  •   Privacy:Upper floor bedrooms are not only quieter and more private than those ground floor levels, they also have a lower risk of break-ins when bedroom windows are left open.

Disadvantages of Two-Story Homes

Depending on personal needs, preference, and lifestyle, two-story floor plans can present drawbacks.

  •   Fuel Cost:Wait—what? Didn’t we say a two-story home offers heating and cooling advantages? We have to admit it can be a double-edged sword. Less exterior exposure to cold and heat might offer some savings in fuel consumption, but inside the home, heat rises and cool air falls. Keeping your main living level at a comfortable temperature can result in higher energy costs and bedrooms that are too warm.
  •   Safety:Accidental falls on staircases, or from necessary scaffolding or extension ladders needed for exterior maintenance, are possible with two-story homes.
  •   Additionally, there’s always more to carry up and down than just laundry baskets. Maneuvering staircases with large or cumbersome boxes of seasonal items, decor, and heavy bedroom furniture (even if only on occasion) can be difficult and dangerous.
  •   Accessibility and Expected Years of Occupancy: Climbing staircases several times a day can become more difficult with age, or when convalescing from illness or injury, and when there are other medical or mobility considerations. Accommodating the needs of a wheelchair in a two-story home can be very costly, if not impossible.

Still weighing your options? Whether a single or two-story floor works best for you, we can help you find the home of your dreams.