Update: Split-level homes were all the rage from the 50s to the 70s, and are an interesting and unique style of home design. However they do present some challenges to the modern homeowner. Most family homes nowadays are based around large, open spaces where everyone can gather, something that is hard to achieve in a split level home without extensive renovation. The abundance of steps in a split level also makes them difficult for people with limited mobility, so adding guest bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor or adding ramps can be a priority for those concerned.
The most popular Split Level house renovations are projects to finish unfinished or partly finished areas, opening up the main floor, updating the kitchen, adding bathrooms to the main (formal living area) floor and to the upper level (bedrooms area).
Many people want to create more openness in the main floor of a split level, which usually consists of living room, dining room, kitchen and possibly a bedroom. Openness can certainly be achieved by removing some of the walls between rooms. You will need to be sure you know which walls are load-bearing walls. For example, you might want more openness between the kitchen and the dining room. Either removing the wall or replacing the wall with a counter will open up the area and feel more spacious. Removing the wall between the living room and dining room can also open up the area and make it more conducive to entertaining.
It is not uncommon for split level homes with four levels to have an unfinished bottom level. Finishing this area is really no different from finishing any basement. It will be important, however, to check on ceiling height early in the planning stages of the project. A number of split level homes have lower ceilings on the bottom floor.
The desire to add a bathroom to any home is quite common. Split levels often offer two important opportunities for bathroom additions. First, most split level homes were not built with a bathroom on the main (formal living area)
floor. Many homeowners would like to add at least a half-bath or powder room on the main floor for the comfort and convenience of guests or for elderly or disabled family members. Determining the location of the new bathroom is a challenge in most split levels. Logic and cost-consciousness would suggest locating the new bathroom near (next to, above or below) existing plumbing. This allows you to use existing supply and removal pipes. Depending on the floor plan, however, this might not be workable. Location of pipes to a new bathroom on the main floor will also require some attention to the ceiling height of the floor below (if there is one). If the lower level has typically lower ceilings, placement of plumbing might depend upon where you can run pipes without making the lower level unusable. You can get a quick estimate of the cost to finish a split-level homes basement at www.remodelestimates.com.
Adding a bathroom on the bedroom level is also a very popular renovation to a split level. Many split level homes have only a shared bathroom on this floor. Other designs include a very small master bathroom. Whether your remodeling plan involves adding a second bathroom or enlarging a master bathroom, it will be necessary to sacrifice space somewhere on that floor. Again, you will probably want to try to build the new bathroom close to existing plumbing, if possible to reduce the amount of work required and to control the cost of your renovation. Enlarging a master bathroom in a split level will almost certainly require taking space from the bedroom. One solution might be a bump out or add an addition that spans both the bathroom and the master bedroom. The key to success for remodeling projects is to be organized — try getting an organizer like the one at www.remodelingorganizer.com.
Although split level home designs present some unique challenges to remodelers, with a creative eye to design, careful planning, and attention to detail, most of the changes you might want to make are possible.