What is a Split-Level House?

Split-level houses have multiple levels, generally separating living and sleeping areas with flights of stairs.
Written by Bee Davis
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Popular in the 1950s, split-level homes are houses with multiple levels connected by short flights of stairs. Originally intended to give families as much space as possible, split-levels are often more affordable than other houses, but they involve a lot of interior climbing and can be harder to remodel.  
If you’ve spent time in the real estate market, you’re probably familiar with split-level houses. These suburban classics make great family homes, with winding interiors that separate living spaces with flights of stairs. While split level homes tend to be more affordable,
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What is a split-level house?

Split-level houses are designed to maximize living space without taking up space in the yard. They’re characterized by split living areas, generally placing the kitchen, living, and dining rooms on one level and bedrooms on another. Half flights of stairs connect the living level to the bedroom and basement levels, creating a multi-level floor plan.
Features of split-level houses include integrated garages, large, open concept living areas, attic space, and finished basements. 

History of split level homes

Split-level homes became popular in the post-war era. At the time, the split-level aesthetic was a modern spin on the 1930s ranch-style home, preserving the open concept feel while adding more living space vertically. As in The Brady Bunch, the split level was fresh, modern, and popular among homebuyers looking to raise families. 
In recent decades, the split level has fallen out of fashion, but they still make great, spacious homes for families with kids. 

Pros and cons of split level houses 

As with any home type, the split level has its pros and cons. 


  • Yard space: Split-level homes were designed to give families as much living room as possible without sacrificing yard space. In general, you can expect a larger house with plenty of outside room for recreation. 
  • Quiet sleeping and office areas: Split levels are great for separating noise from certain areas like bedrooms and home offices. 
  • More affordable: Since the split-level style has fallen out of fashion in the past few decades, these homes often make more affordable living options for families looking for more space. 


  • Stairs: Split-level homes involve a lot more climbing than other types of houses. Even though the stairs are often short flights, extra climbing can be an issue for older folks or people with mobility issues. 
  • Harder to remodel: Because of the wonky floor plan, split-level homes can be harder to customize. Larger remodels, such as expanding the floor plan, face difficulties with so many stairs to accommodate. 
  • Exterior stairs: Split-level houses often have a set of stairs leading to the front door instead of a level sidewalk. This can deter visitors, especially elderly ones, and make everyday tasks like carrying groceries into the house all the more difficult.
Key takeaway Split-level homes are spacious and affordable but involve a lot of climbing interior stairs.

Types of split level houses

Side split

The most common type of split-level home is the side split, where the house is divided into two staggered levels. One side houses the kitchen and living areas, while the other side has the bedrooms and basement, connected by stairs. Looking at this house from the curb, you can see all the levels laid out from side to side. 

Back split

A back split is like a side split but is turned towards the back. It has the same concept of stacking the basement and bedrooms—just rotated 90 degrees. If you look at a back split house from the curb, it’ll look like a single story, but once you walk around the side you’ll be able to see the other levels stretching out behind. 

Standard split

In a standard split home, the front door opens into an entryway on the middle level, which leads out into the living area or kitchen. Two staircases branch off from the entryway, with one leading up to the bedroom area and another leading down to the finished basement. Basements in standard split homes are typically attached to garages as well. 

Stacked split

A stacked split home has four floors, constructed like a side split, but with another story over the living and dining rooms. Stacked split houses generally have a main stairway that connects multiple levels with staggered flights of steps. 

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Though you will get more space, a split-level house has lots of stairs, and your entertaining space is divided. Additionally, the structure of the house makes it harder to remodel should you decide to upgrade.
The ease of selling a split-level house depends on the market. Though they could be perceived as outdated, they make good starter homes for young families—especially if they’re in good condition.
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