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Image Credit: Revell Landscaping

Rise To The Occasion

Articles From Issue 13

A split-level home has multiple storeys with staggered floor levels. Unlike traditional homes with two levels that are connected by a full flight of stairs, a split-level design will usually have at least three levels, which are integrated with shorter flights of stairs.

The merits of split-level design are widely debated among professionals in the building industry. So how do you know if it’s right for you?


There are a number of potential benefits to implementing a split-level home design, from reducing overall building costs, to simplifying external maintenance, depending on the nature of your site.


A split-level home is designed in close relation to the slope of the land. Split levels are best suited to sloping blocks, and can make the house appear as though it’s moulded into the hill.

A split-level design reduces the need for cutting or filling, which can destabilise the general area. In essence, it eliminates the need for “disturbing the land, which makes [the home] far more stable”, Steve Tuttle says. “[It also provides] a more harmonious feel to the land, [as it reduces] the heavy visual impact of large cuts or fill areas.”


Split-level homes are constructed much less regularly than slab-design (aka single-storey) or traditional multi-storey homes due to the extensive costs involved in the construction stage. “The more steps [or] levels [that are required], the dearer the home becomes,” Tuttle explains.

However, if you’re building on a slope, implementing a split-level design will actually cost significantly less than undertaking extensive site works or constructing retaining walls, which would likely be required for a standard design. If you have a strict budget that cannot be negotiated, a split-level design won’t surprise you with hidden costs.

Layout And Accessibility

Split-level homes are extremely unique in their ability to seamlessly connect different rooms, while providing the best views, which might not have been easily achieved with a standard design. Essentially, your options are broadened.

For example, the main bedroom might be positioned to overlook the best scenery, while the family area is situated on the ground level or connecting outdoor area, which will allow for easy access when entertaining.

In modern split-level homes, the bedrooms are typically located on the upper level, along with the kitchen, dining room, living room and one or more bathrooms. The lower level usually comprises the laundry room, garage and large family room, as well as another bedroom or guest bathroom. A split-level design is ideal if you have or are planning to have children, as the family room can double as a play area that’s separate from the rest of the house. Split-level homes are renowned for their well-balanced and distinct zones, which are perfect for a growing family.

According to Tuttle, split-level homes usually have a more comfortable and flatter driveway, which provides easier access. Split levels are also ideal if you want to refrain from including a vast staircase/s in your design, and want to use smaller flights instead, which will also improve accessibility.


A split-level home design is a good idea if you want to achieve a certain height or aspect view. A split-level home can offer spectacular views, as it has “the ability to capture a view from a certain area or required height, [just by] adding a few steps”, Tuttle explains. They are designed to take full advantage of the site in order to maximise views, and they can be specifically tailored to suit your land.


“[By incorporating] additional steps, [you can] create [a] higher roof space, which increases a room’s volume [and makes it look and] feel bigger than it is,” says Tuttle. This also makes passive ventilation possible throughout the areas, and helps regulate internal air temperature.

Selecting a split-level design also allows for a larger backyard without having to compromise on the size of your home, which is ideal for those who want or have pets, as well as those who plan to install a beautiful pool.

Upkeep And Adaptability

Tuttle says that designing your home to be more connected to the site will give you the ability to maintain its exterior more comfortably than if it soared high from the ground.

Split-level homes are also highly adaptable. While they typically aren’t adorned with ornate features, they do offer a clean slate, and offer more customisation options.

Street Appeal

Split-level homes have the potential for aesthetically appealing and interesting street appeal, as there are a variety of roof options and diverse textures that can be incorporated. A split-level design will allow your property to stand out from other homes on your block, and may increase the resale value of your home.


Split-level homes are known to be relatively challenging in their design and construction. If you’re considering a split-level design, it’s important to be aware of its unique features, and how these can be used to your advantage.


The main challenge of designing and constructing a split-level home is creating a smooth flow between levels. “You need to ensure that [the home] doesn’t become a maze of hallways and steps,” Tuttle says.

For the best outcome, Tuttle recommends utilising open-plan sections in the design, which will make your home feel like it has more space. High ceilings are a common feature of open-plan, split-level designs, which also promote better air flow.


The more levels and steps your home has, the greater support it will need. “Every step requires the roof [and] floor loads to be supported back to the ground,” explains Tuttle. “[This is] a factor [that will] need to be considered [if you] want to achieve an economical outcome.”

Working closely with your designer and builder – as well as paying close attention to product guidelines – will ensure the best results.



If you’re building on a slope, it’s clear the benefits of implementing a split-level design are far greater than its challenges.

Tuttle says that the secret to a great split-level home lies in being sympathetic to your sloping block. “[You should] design the home to best suit [the site’s] needs and aspects,” he says. Stepping your house to suit the site’s contours will allow for a greater connection between the levels and the site itself.

With the above benefits combined, it’s easy to see why split-level homes are still so popular among large families, and why they have stood the test of time since their rise to fame in the 1950s. Provided you take your time devising the layout and seek advice from your building professional, constructing and designing your split-level home will prove to be an elevating experience.