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jenna_digirolamo

Split Level Addition Help!

Jenna DiGirolamo
January 12, 2020

We live in a 1700sqft split level home with a 2 car garage.


We are starting to run out of space and have realized we want to add at least:

  • master bed & bath w/walk in closet
  • Expanded Kitchen
  • Great room
  • home office (I work from home and this is a must. Ideally, a little separate)
  • 3 additional children's rooms on the same level


We are attaching a picture of our current home, floor plan, and plot plan. We live on 1.1 acres so we have a lot of options.


We're unsure of whether to to up and add another level (does this look silly on a split level?), double the footprint and go out the back and into the foundation, or go to the side and move the garages.


We'd love ALL ideas. anything you can think of!!


Ideally, we'd love to add some curb appeal and don't love the look of a split.




Comments (36)

  • beesneeds

    Check your local codes and building inspector to see if you can add that much on. Lots of places have rules about additions.

  • Marci

    I’m not trying to sound glib, but it sounds like you need a completely different house than the one you have now. Is there a reason why you are just not searching for a new house that better fits your needs?

    I also think it would be a nightmare to live through the renovation you are proposing.

    Perhaps you should consider hiring an architect (not a draft person) to get a better idea of what’s possible in your current situation.

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  • cpartist

    Agree with Marci

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Sorry maybe I didn’t explain it correctly! The addition isn’t as big as I’m explaining. It’s just the standard master bedroom, great room addition. Most splits have that around here!

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    The reason we are not looking for another houses because we love this area neighborhood in town. We got into this home at a really great price and it would definitely be worth it to put a lot of money into it.

  • apple_pie_order

    Doubling the size of your house is what your first description would likely entail. Do you know what your setback requirements are? Adding rooms on top of existing structures usually requires reinforcing the foundation, walls, and floors for the additional load. Building out rather than up may be more practical for your house.

  • beesneeds

    Wait, so you don’t want expanded kitchen, home office, and 3 additional bedrooms? Just a great room and second master bedroom?

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Thank you Apple_pie_order! I wasn’t sure what was involved in going up or if it was even worth looking into.

  • jck910

    what do you mean by "3 additional children's rooms on the same level"?

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Beesneeds, sorry I didn’t explain it correctly! My friend who did an addition on the same house did one off the back and her kitchen expanded into the great room. Our kitchen doesn’t need to be expanded if we add a great room because the dining room would become available space (which we are now using as a living room).

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Jck910... we’d love the master and the three rooms on the same level. When we purchased the house there was a small room in the basement which they were including as a bedroom and I’d never put a child’s room down there on there own

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    You are talking about building a whole second house, and trying to make it look like it’s not a second house added on. The expense will be huge, but the architectural challenge will be even bigger. Additions are way more expensive per square foot than new construction. In this case, way more.


    Perhaps you should explore doing a teardown and then rebuild something that doesn’t suffer under the constraints and valuation of a split level. You might also talk to your bank about how you would finance this project. In most cases, the new build would have a much larger value than the remodel.

    https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    I’ll edit and clarify. We want 3 children’s rooms (which we would already have) a master bedroom (newly added), a great room (newly added), and an office. If we went into the foundation the office could be in one of the downstairs rooms. So the only new space if we went into the foundation would be the great room and master, which is the standard addition most splits have around here. I just wasn’t sure what would be involved in doing something different and changing the roofline/look of the front.

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    When I see pictures like this I just wonder what is involved

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    These are all splits like ours originally.

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    This one doesn’t do an upstairs

  • bpath reads banned books too

    That is a beautiful lot, I see why you’d want to stay. Where I live, your house would be a raised ranch, or maybe a California split or split entry,, while a split level is a bit different.

    Anyway, I’m not sure why your requests for a New master means doubling the footprint. It seems that a master suite added off the back behind the existing master, with storage or home office below, would suffice. Of course, you already have a home office, on the lower level.

    Then you are just talking about opening the kitchen to the dining room, which flows into the living room. I’d leave the wall between kitchen and living room.

    Mind you, this means changes to the bathrooms, one bathroom becomes the hall to the master, with stairs at the end to the storage below (which ideally also has a door to the outside).

  • partim

    I would call your house a two story house with a split foyer, not a split level. Split level is where the house itself it split, either a side split or a back split. Most split levels have at least 4 levels or more, and you only have 2. I'm not just trying to be picky - I'm saying this because if you do some google searches you'll get better results with the proper terminology.

    Split levels are hard to add on to, but I don't see the problem in adding to a split foyer. Just add on to the back or side. Going up would make it look oddly tall IMO.

    Going to the side would involve the new build plus repurposing the existing garage, which would probably be more expensive than just adding on to the back. Could you build a separate garage?

  • partim

    Adding a 2 story addition with great room, master suite and lower office, as your neighbors have done, is relatively straightforward. Some of the "afters" that you show have changed the roof line, added new front windows and trim, and some have added a few feet to the front. You'd gain little if any in square footage and be paying for the looks. It may be worth it to you depending on how long you think you will stay there. Curb appeal usually helps sell a house faster but often does not translate into a higher price, which is more based on square footage.

  • devonfield

    A couple of ideas for your consideration - you could demo the screen porch and plan a great room off the side of the now dining room. Move your dining room into your living room and then combine your now kitchen and dining room into a larger hardworking kitchen. Then for your master - go out the back of where your master is now, turn the hall bath into a hallway to the master. Reconfigure the half bath, tub alcove and closet of the master to a new hall bath for kiddos. Use the existing three bedrooms for kiddos. I would think a project of this scope would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that is highly dependent on location.

  • live_wire_oak

    It all depends on how many hundreds of thousands you want to spend to stay in your location. Talk to a few builders about overall remodeling costs. They wont be able to give you anything close to an accurate budget without plans. But they get you closer to if it’s a 300K or a 500K ballpark to expect to spend.


    Then talk to an architect to get actual buildable and quotable plans. The price will do nothing but go up between the original guesses, creation of plans, and actual bids on the plans.

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Thank you all - This is really helpful. I really like your ideas a about adding a master to the back behind the current master.

  • misecretary

    Look for 'tri-level' homes for ideas as to where to place your addition.


  • Tony Montana

    I would go with bigger footprint. The less stairs the better and you'll be great full later. Plus your sitting on 1.1 acres. I too have an acre and my house is stretched out. It looks awesome and massive when you pull up to the driveway, even though it is 3500sqft. People that build up do so because they have no choice. Mostly people in the city where houses are right next to each other and everyone's looking at each others butts lol. They have a house/box on a tiny piece of land/property. You can turn yours into an estate.

  • PRO
    Norwood Architects

    You should be able to expand the back of the house. It looks like there may be ample opportunity there especially for the kitchen and Master Bedroom/Master bathroom. Check your lot setbacks to be sure of how much room you have without going over the setback lines. Your lot looks quite deep. So that shouldn't present a problem. You can consult an architect or architectural designer. They should be able to give you a couple or several options. Good luck!

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Thank you! I’ve reached out to a few architects this morning! The setbacks are 30 feet from the front and 15 from the sides so we have plenty of space. I’m thinking back is the best option! Here are is a picture of the backyard.

  • Tony Montana

    Beautiful yard just like mine. This is the reason why I left the garbage city and will never go back.
    You better get a good Stihl chainsaw. Your gonna need it sooner or later.

  • suezbell

    Haven't read thru all the comments yet so this question might have been asked and answered:

    When you say "great room" -- do you mean NEW Living/Dining/Kitchen combination or are you not including a new kitchen?


    Do you mean you just want to enlarge your current kitchen and add an additional living room -- one to be the primary living room and the other a den or family room?

  • Jenna DiGirolamo

    Suezbell, a great room addition meaning a new, bigger living room. If I went out the back, I’d need to redo the kitchen. If I added the great room to the side I would not need to redo the kitchen right now. The current living room would likely become the dining room

  • lyfia

    I don't think it would be too bad to make your split level look like a one story with a basement like the pictures you show. If you'd be willing to move the entry door and take some space from the living room for an entry then you could put a porch with stairs outside leading up to the entry and you have moved the stairs outside. Then just use the stairs inside as normal like regular stairs to the basement level. Make the smaller living room your dining room, put kitchen in current kitchen and dining and add on a living room on the back.


    For the bedrooms add a master onto the back where current master is. Cut it down in size and utilize the space to create a hallway to the new master and then the existing master is smaller. You could incorporate the closet and current master bath into this, but you'd likely be better off if you can keep those as is and just build a wall/closet to get the 3rd bedroom and then add the master on as a new addition. This way you gain an accessible half bath too. It would be a smaller 3rd bedroom, but this would be your cheapest way to make it work. The use the bedroom in the basement for your office.

  • Tony Montana

    A major suggestion I would make for you would be to make sure what ever you do, design it so it pretty much looks like thats how it always was. Don't just slap rooms on here and there and move stuff around anywhere. It will look terrible if it done like that.

  • suezbell

    Your kitchen is likely going to be your most expensive project. You might want to plan all the additions now so the end effect will mesh together well but only do the remodel in stages.


    Since you want to enlarge/expand your living/dining area, consider removing the sides and roof off the foundation of your screened porch and enlarge that foundation to create the size living/dining room you actually want all along the entire left end of your home -- perhaps sixteen feet wide. Have the roof extend twelve feet in the front, part of which would be your new entry with its floor at ground level and the steps to your main floor level WITHIN that new entry, but with the entry ceiling the same as living/dining room ceiling height -- the first step in removing the split -level look you indicate you don't really want.


    The second step to removing the split level look you don't want would to move the front windows from your current living room and install them in the left side of your new living room so you could build a new bedroom of both your current front entry and the right side of what is now your living room


    The left side of the living room, with fireplace and a single or double front facing window, could become your new home office accessible from what is now your dining room.


    The right end of the living room and current entry hallway/stairs that lead UP to the main level from that mid height front door (no longer necessary) would then become one of your new children's bedrooms. Enabling you to close off that mid height front door would be the third and final step to ending the split level look you don't like.


    You could then build one (or two*) more children's bedroom behind your new living room and part -- (but only part) -- of your current dining room. You want to leave enough space on the exterior wall in the right side of your dining room so that when you later enlarge your kitchen to include most of your dining room (except for a path to the two new children's bedrooms on the back), you can swap out the current back door for a sliding glass patio door that will lead to your new deck or screened porch built beside the new children's bedroom(s) behind your newly expanded kitchen.


    With an expanded living room upstairs, your entire downstairs not used for garage can be rebuilt. Create a wide front to back hallway as a mudroom between your garage and the rest of the downstairs and create a laundry room within that mudroom. Then the entire rest of the downstairs can become your much larger master bedroom suite with fireplace.


    Once your Master bedroom suite is rebuilt in the downstairs, your main level master bedroom could become the third children(s) bedroom addition rather than building two behind the new living room and the existing dining room.


    What you would actually be building on would be an "L" shape on the left side of the house (extending forward beyond the current front of the house) and then wrapping around the back left corner.


  • Cindy

    We are currently doing what you are thinking about with our tri-level (the framers are banging away outside my window as we speak). Ours isn't split like yours - but it's very similar in the overall function. There's the kitchen, dining and living over crawl space and a two story section that has 3 bedrooms one bath over with a garage and a guest room/bath at the back of the garage. So we're going from a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house to a 5 bedroom 3.5 bath house - we also wanted a master with en suite (kids are getting too big for us to all share a hall bath) . And I wanted my office out of the main living area.


    We are extending the two story portion into our back yard, creating an L shape house instead of a rectangle. There will be a family room & office downstairs, behind the existing guest suite and a master bedroom suite upstairs, with our old master split into hallway and an extra bedroom. It looks like something similar might work in your home if you pushed out the area that's guest/office and kitchen.

    By doing a 2 story addition, you get more bang for your buck on foundation/roofing costs - especially since you already have a staircase in place and won't need to lose square footage there.


    Like you, we wanted to stay on our lot. We actually looked at purchasing a different house instead, but couldn't find a house and lot we loved as much. People will tell you purchasing is cheaper, but it wasn't for us once we took transactions costs (realtor fees & moving expenses) into account. It's actually pretty close to a wash - we won't get all of our remodel money back in new appraisal value, but we also won't lose 6% of value by selling our house. It is an expensive undertaking though. Luckily, we had equity in the house for a refinance.

  • suezbell

    You have a beautiful back yard but I'll ask anyway: Would you want to build all the new stuff beside the back left corner of your home -- expand you kitchen into your dining room and use your the left side of your dining room as the hall to reach a new addition?


    Have you asked your children if they prefer their bedrooms to be on the same level or attic or basement?

  • katinparadise

    following

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