An example of residential architecture with many levels that are staggered or “split” in relation to one another is the split-level house.

What makes a house a split-level?

split level house

A split-level house is a style of residential architecture that became popular in the mid-20th century, particularly in the United States. It is characterized by multiple levels or floors that are staggered or “split” in relation to each other, creating distinct living areas within the same structure. Here are some of the defining characteristics of a split-level house:


Split-level houses have two or more distinct levels that are partially or completely separate from each other. The levels are usually connected by short flights of stairs.

Entry level

The main entrance is usually located on the middle level, known as the entry level. This level usually contains the front door, the foyer, and sometimes a small living area or hallway.

Half-flight stairs

Two-level houses are known for the use of half flights of stairs connecting the different levels. They usually consist of a short flight of stairs (6 to 7 steps) going up or down to the next level.

Partially sunken lower level

Below the entry-level, split-level houses usually have a partially sunken lower level. This level is usually located a few steps below the entry level and may contain additional living spaces, such as a living room, den, or recreation area.

Raised upper level

Above the entry-level, split-level homes typically have a raised upper level. This level is usually a few steps above the entry level and usually contains bedrooms and bathrooms.

Two- or three- level variations

Two-level houses can have different variations, such as two- or three-level designs. In a two-level house, there are usually two levels, with the entry level separating the upper and lower levels. In a three-level house, there are three levels, with the entry level located between the upper and lower levels.

Architectural aesthetics

Two-level homes often have a unique architectural aesthetic, with variations in ceiling heights and rooflines. The exterior design may have a distinctive look, showing a combination of different materials, such as brick, wood, or siding.

Is a split-level home only one or two stories?

two story level house

Typically, a split-level home is regarded as a multi-story residence. It is frequently stated to have two or more levels, each of which is partially or entirely isolated from the others. Typical features of split-level homes include an entrance level that serves as the main floor, an elevated upper level, and a partially sunken basement level. Short flights of steps connect these several floors, giving the design a unique feel. It’s crucial to remember that the split-level home’s precise number of stories might vary depending on its particular design and construction. While some split-level homes may have two stories, others might have additional half-levels or other modifications that would make them have more than two stories.

Is a split-level house good?

Whether a split-level house is considered good or not depends on individual preferences and needs. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of a split-level house:


Defined living areas

Split-level homes often have distinct zones for different activities, such as living spaces on one level and bedrooms on another. This can provide a sense of separation and privacy between different areas of the house.

Open layout

Many split-level homes have an open floor plan, which can create a spacious and airy feel. This can be particularly desirable for those who prefer a more interconnected living space.

Potential for natural light

Its designs often incorporate multiple windows on different levels, allowing for ample natural light to enter the house. This can create a bright and inviting interior environment.

Unique architectural style

Houses offer a distinctive architectural style that can be visually appealing to some individuals. They can stand out from traditional single-story or two-story homes and provide a sense of character.


Frequent use of stairs

Split-level houses typically involve navigating stairs frequently to move between different levels. This can be inconvenient for individuals with mobility issues, young children, or the elderly.

Limited flexibility

The staggered layout of split-level homes may limit flexibility in terms of modifying or rearranging spaces. It may be more challenging to make significant changes or additions to the existing structure.

Noise and privacy concerns

The separation between different levels in a split-level house may result in increased noise transmission. Sound can easily travel between levels, potentially affecting privacy and quietness.

Heating and cooling challenges

The multiple levels in a split-level home can make it more challenging to regulate temperature consistently throughout the house. Different levels may require separate heating or cooling systems.

They can be difficult to sell

While split-level houses have their unique characteristics and appeal to certain buyers, they may also face challenges when it comes to selling, like specific layouts that might not appeal to most homebuyers, accessibility issues, outdated designs, or maintenance challenges.

How many floors does a split-level house have?

split level home

An entrance level, an upper level, and a lower level are normally the three primary levels of a standard split-level home. The living room, kitchen, dining area, and possibly a foyer are normally found on the entrance level, which is generally referred to as the main floor. The bedrooms and bathrooms are frequently located on the upper level, while the bottom level, which may be partially or completely sunken, may contain additional living areas such as a family room, den, or amusement area.

What is another name for split-level houses?

Another name for a split-level house is a “bi-level” house. The term “bi-level” refers to a specific type of split-level house design where the entrance level separates the upper and lower levels. This term is often used interchangeably with “split-level” to describe houses with staggered levels and short flights of stairs connecting them. However, it’s worth noting that not all split-level houses are strictly bi-level, as some may have additional levels or half-levels.

What is the opposite of a split-level house?

The opposite of a split-level house is a single-story house or a one-story house. A single-story house is a residential structure that consists of only one level, with all rooms and living spaces located on the same floor. Unlike a split-level house, there are no staggered levels or half-flights of stairs separating different areas of the home. Single-story houses are typically preferred by individuals who prefer the convenience of having all living spaces on a single level without the need to navigate stairs or deal with multiple floors.

It’s important to keep in mind that a split-level home might have different layouts and designs. Some may differ in the number of steps or additional half-levels between levels. The several floors are arranged in a staggered fashion and are often connected by half-flights of steps.

What is a split-level house? was last modified: June 5th, 2023 by Vanessa Gallanti
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