Most people who renovate a split level home want to update and modernize it. Therefore, these renovations are projects to finish unfinished or partly finished areas, open up the main floor, update the kitchen, add bathrooms to the main floor and/or to the upper level.
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The main floor of a split level house usually consists of living room, dining room, kitchen and possibly a bedroom. Many people want to create more openness. This can certainly be achieved by removing some of the walls between rooms, but you will need to be sure you know which walls are load-bearing walls that cannot safely be removed.
Either removing the wall, or opening up the wall by carving out the upper portion and putting in a counter will create more openness between the kitchen and the diningroom. It will open up the area and make it feel more spacious. Removing the wall between the living room and dining room can also open up that area and make it more conducive to entertaining, as well as making it feel more informal.
Many split level homes have an unfinished bottom level. Finishing this area is really no different from finishing any basement. It will be important to check on ceiling height early in the planning stages of the project. You may want to plan on removing the floor and digging down a couple feet, to make your basement area more spacious and avoid the problem of low ceilings. You can get a quick estimate of the cost to finish an unfinished basement in a typical split-level home from any professional remodeling contractor.
Most split level homes were not built with a bathroom on the main floor. You have to go upstairs to the bedroom level, or downstairs to the basement/ recreation room/ laundry room to use the bathroom. 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, but determining the location of the new bathroom is a challenge in most split levels.
Ideally, you want to locate the new bathroom next to, above, or below existing plumbing. This way you can connect directly to the existing pipes. However, depending on the floor plan, of your house, this might not be workable. Before you run pipes to a new bathroom on the main floor, thinking that you will connect into the bathroom downstairs, you have to think about the ceiling height of the floor below (if there is one). If the lower level has lower ceilings than the main level, then you might have to think about where you can run pipes without making the lower level unusable and/or unattractive due to low hanging exposed pipes.
Adding a bathroom on the bedroom level is also a very popular renovation with win Split Level Home owners. Many split level homes have only one bathroom on this floor. There’s usually no bathroom in the master bedroom. Or, if there is one, it is usually very small. Again, you will probably want to try to build the new bathroom close to existing plumbing if possible, ideally right next to the existing bathroom, but remember that no matter where you locate it, it will take away space from your master bedroom.
Enlarging a master bathroom in a split level house might mean that you’ll wind up wanting to enlarge the entire master bedroom, which will mean enlarging the entire top level. This will require an architect as well as a professional remodeling contractor. Remodeling projects like this take organization and planning. You cannot just jump into them. Although split level homes present some unique challenges to remodelers, don’t let this stop you. With careful planning, a creative design, a clear idea of what you want to change and why and attention to detail, most of the changes you might want to make can be not only possible, but realistic and practical. They can modernize your home and make it more livable and enjoyable without breaking your bank account.