Split vs. Bi-Level House: Pros, Cons & Average Costs

Split vs Bi Level House

If you have ever wondered, what the differences are, between a split-level house, and a bi-level house, then you have come to the right place! These two are often confused as being the same thing, however, they are different designs entirely.

The main difference between a split-level home and bi-level home is that the former has three or more levels separated by a staircase. Bi-level homes have two-stacked levels with a middle common area which connects the two. Bi-level homes usually have one of the two levels underground with windows.

It’s easy to see why so many people get confused by these two. The bi-level home is a two or three-story home with a middle area that leads up to the top floor, or down to the bottom floor.

The split level home uses different grades for each level, connected by staircases. This gives them a kind of offset effect. Now let’s see what the pros and cons are for these, as well as some differences between the two.

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Split Level Homes Explained

For anyone who still has questions, we are going to explain, exactly how a split level home is built. Split level homes usually have 3 or more levels. They can have as few as two levels. The levels are connected at different grades (heights.)

For example, split level homes will often have a middle room set on one grade. This level is where the front door is located. This can either be a foyer or a room.

This middle room connects with a lower level room, and a higher level room, with two staircases, one going up and one going down. Split Level homes are sometimes built on hillsides and have multiple style types.

Split Level Styles:

  • Side Split
  • Back Split
  • Stacked Split Level

The side split is a classic split level design, that has two-three rooms at different grades (heights) attached with small staircases.

The back split looks like one level from the front of the house. If you look at it from the side, you can see that it has a lower, or upper split level attached to the front.

The stacked split level home is a split level design, where one of the split rooms has a room, stacked directly above it.

What is a Bi-Level Home?

A bi-level home is a house that is built with two stacked levels. They are usually connected, by a third area, or room. They have small staircases, going down into a basement area, or up to the upper level. There can also be multi-level homes, which are rooms, or floors stacked on each other.

Bi-level homes have a simpler layout than most split level home designs. Often a bi-level will have a finished basement, for the bottom/underground level. These homes will sometimes have a garage, either leading to the level below, or the entry-level.

The entry-level can be a foyer, a living area, a kitchen, or a front door area with a garage. The possibilities are endless. Many bi-level homes will have just a doorway, leading to an upper, and lower level. This is usually a small area, containing the staircases only.

Bi-level homes are great if you have a family, and need multiple rooms, and levels. They make great starter homes.

Pros and Cons of a Split Level Home

Split level homes have their pros and cons. They have great curb appeal and look nice from the road.

Pros and cons of split level homes:

The Pros The Cons
These styles of houses have a cool looking aesthetic. They require more ground leveling than a bi-level home.
They are great for households with multiple residents. You have to use different sets of stairs, for each of the split levels.
Stacked split level homes make use of vertical space. Some bottom levels are on an inaccessible, under level.
They are a great choice, for hillsides, and slopes. Many of these have exterior stairs, to get to the entrance.

Split level homes are making a comeback. Luckily, they are affordable, at the moment. There is a lot that can be done with a split level home.

These style homes allow for renting out rooms while having some privacy. Split level houses, separate rooms by sets of stairs.

Pros and Cons of a Bi-Level Home

Bi-Level homes also have a lot of charm. They may lack in some areas, but for the most part, they are solid houses.

Pros and cons of bi-level homes:

The Pros The Cons
These houses tend to be cheaper than larger ones. You may eventually outgrow a bi-level home.
They are great for households with multiple residents. It gives you privacy while renting out rooms.
Bi-level houses usually have a finished out basement. Not everyone can handle walking up, and down the stairs.
These houses, sit longer on the market, giving you leverage. It can be hard to sell a bi-level house since they are not the most popular.

Design Options for Split and Bi-level Homes

There are many options when it comes to designing, or redesigning one of these types of houses. They are sometimes considered outdated, however, you can spruce them up with just a few design changes.

Design options for split and bi-level homes:

  • Adding a skylight to the upper level. A skylight can change the whole tone and feel in a room by adding a little bit of light.
  • You can add recessed lights. This is another great way to make the home more modern while giving it a better lighting arrangement.
  • Basements in bi-level homes can be finished rooms. The basement part of a bi-level home is often finished out. Adding some charm can make it feel like home.
  • Split level homes, look good with multiple colors. In some cases, when each level is painted with a different color scheme, it makes the split level look unique.

Raised ceilings, in foyers, look great with a chandelier hanging, or recessed lighting. Having lots of windows, on the first level/connecting room, can give the room a great ambiance.

Hillsides and Underground Rooms

Split and bi-level homes can be built on hillsides or with underground basements, and levels. These levels are accessed by staircases. With a split level home, the bottom level could be a basement, completely underground, or just built down at a lower grade.

Bi-level homes will often have a fully finished basement, an upper level, and a small level, connecting the two with staircases.

Split levels often take advantage of hillsides or sloped properties. One level is built at a lower grade, on the hillside, usually in the back of the house. These look awesome when they have a stacked room or level above the bottom.

They can also be built without being underground. The ground can be dug down to different grades, for the different levels. For bi-level homes, the basement can be halfway in the ground, and halfway out, with small windows in the upper half of the basement.

Split and Bi-Level Home Popularity

Both of these styles of homes were most popular, in the 1970s and 80s. Recently they have made a comeback. The bi-level home is a great starter home for a family who wants to raise a child, or two, and then move to a larger home at a later time.

Split level homes have many design types that are sought after by people who love split level architecture. Some people may not like the designs of either of these styles. For that reason, buyers tend to be those, who want to have multiple occupancies.

Plus, they are affordable homes. It turns out that millennials are pretty good with money. They are buying smaller homes, like bi-level homes, renting out rooms, and making good financial decisions.

Split Level Homes With Bi-Levels

Some split level homes have a bi-level attached. These are homes, with levels set at different grades. One of the levels will have a stacked level. This is often done on the lower grade level, which connects to hillsides. Having stacked levels in the back of the home looks good.

Split levels can have bi-levels, going up and down, with a third level offset, from the bi-level design. These types of houses have many rooms and more space than your average smaller split level home.

When you look at these from the front, they may look like they are one level, but when you look from the side, you can see a lower level in the back. Split levels, can have more than one stacked level, with 2-3 more levels. These levels are connected by stairs, that lead up to the upper levels.

The price can vary, between the bi-level, and split level homes. The bi-level home will often be the cheaper of the two since they tend to have less square footage.

Average Costs for Split and Bi-Level Homes

The price of real estate is different by location and availability. There are many things to consider when coming up with an average price.

Bi-level homes are cheaper than houses with three-stories. For someone who does not have the money, to purchases a huge house, a bi-level home is a great choice.

Both split level, and bi-level homes, tend to sit on the market a little longer than more popular designs. This is good for the one who is buying, as the price may be reduced after an amount of time.

They are both cheaper to build than multi-story homes. Some of them are older homes since the styles were more popular in the 70s-80s.

This makes them more affordable, for people who do not have a huge budget for remodeling, or purchasing.

Expect to pay from $115,000 to $200,000, for a bi-level, or split level home. The price depends on the condition of the home, the location, and more. If you are planning on building one of these styles, then you can expect to pay less for multiple reasons.

The designs make use of hillsides, and slopes, which can get you the land at a better price. They also make use of the vertical design, cutting down costs for the overall build.

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Related Questions

What is a raised ranch home?

A raised ranch could be considered a type of bi-level home. They are built with a high level, stacked on a lower level, that is partially underground, or on a hillside. They have stairs leading to the main top level.

What is a walkout?

In a walkout design, the lower level is the main entrance. It is built on a lower grade level. You must walk down exterior stairs, to get to the main level. Some homes have garages, or carports, at the lower level, which leads to the main entrance.

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Chad Kilpatrick

I'm a writer that is passionate about home improvements, remodeling, and renovating. I enjoy learning new skills and techniques and sharing them with others.

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