House Styles of New England

What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

When showing homes to first-time home buyers we often end up in Splits and Raised-Ranches as they tend to be smaller in square footage and in the lower price points for their town/marketplace.

Whichever house style we enter first, the buyers often ask me “what’s the difference between this one and the other one”. So I figured that there are lots of folks who are asking the same question and why not share my answer with you all.

 

Raised Ranch House Style

Raised Raraised ranch style homench style houses were built in the Boston area from the mid-40’s to the 70’s and are occasionally still built today as individual custom homes.

They are typically built in this area on lots with high water tables, lots with stone ledge very close to the surface, or lots on a hillside.

Imagine building a single story ranch style home with a full basement and instead of sticking it in the ground up to the top of the foundation,  you set it on a flat spot carved into the ground anywhere from one to four feet deep.This gives you two stories of living space mostly above grade with full-height windows in the basement to give you air flow and sunlight.

Because of the foundation location, you enter the front door directly at the same grade as the driveway on the basement level and have to go upstairs to the main living level (see sketch).raised ranch schematic

You will enter on the level with a family room, utility/mechanical room, laundry/bath, possibly a bedroom, and if there is one, the garage. There will be a full set of stairs to the side of the front door that takes you up to the main living level where you will find the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms and one or two full baths or a bath and a half.

In many towns they are found along rural roads or what were rural roads at the time in clusters of several homes that were built at the same time.

As these homes are anywhere from forty to seventy years old, their heating/cooling systems, wiring, plumbing, windows, doors, and other systems have probably been replaced or updated. If they haven’t been, they are easy to do and a great way for first time buyers to generate some sweat-equity.

When available, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, generally low prices, and great use of space. So if you’re looking for all those things, a raised ranch might just be your perfect home.

Split-Level House Style

split-level style houseSplit-Level houses are a variation on the raised ranch style and are also called Splits, Split-Foyer and Bi-Level houses. Splits are built with the foundation sunken deeper than Raised Ranches, usually four to six feet into the ground, and the driveway is excavated level with the bottom of the foundation. Unlike a raised ranch which has full-height windows, the lower level tends to have short windows.

In Splits, you always have to go up a half-flight or more via exterior stairs or a sloping walkway from the driveway level and enter the door to a landing or a small foyer.The doorway is often recessed and sometimes the main level of the house is cantilevered out over the basement level, creating a natural indentation and very clear way-finding to the front door.

Once inside you immediately have to make a decision to go up a half-flight of stairs or down a half-flight of stairs, hence the name split-level (see sketch).split-level house scematic

As with a Raised Ranch, upstairs you will find the kitchen, formal dining and living rooms and the bedrooms/baths. In many of these homes the owners have opened up the original walls between the kitchen and dining/living rooms giving them a wonderful flow and nicely supporting the behaviors of today’s lifestyles.

Also like the Raised Ranch, downstairs you will often find a family room, utility room, possibly some miscellaneous finished space, and the garage (which is usually located under the bedrooms).

Splits were designed to be inexpensive homes giving two stories of living space while minimizing foundation and roof costs.

While most of them have full-height basement levels, there are many that have basement levels that were shortened to cut building costs. So if you’re tall you might want to find one with forced hot water heating systems that don’t require big duct work.

In Metrowest developers built them mostly in large developments (by New England Standards) that have evolved into wonderful family neighborhoods of thirty to forty similar homes. Depending on the original price point, they can have a variety of finishes and architectural details on their fronts, such as faux stone, brick, awnings, and bay/bow windows. They will hardly ever have front porches, and are often fitted with screened-porches or raised decks off the back of the dining rooms with stairs down to grade.

Splits don’t tend to handle additions well, so many folks buy them as starter homes and then sell/move when they find they have outgrown them.  Because of this and the fact that so many of these homes were built, they are almost always available for sale in all local marketplaces.

Summary

Whether it’s a Split or a Raised Ranch they be a very practical layout, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, they have generally lower asking prices, and they make great use of all available space. So if that’s what you’re looking for, one of these just might be your perfect home.

What is a Dutch Colonial “Gambrel” House Style?

What is a Dutch Colonial “Gambrel” House Style?

About a hundred years after American independence there was a resurgence in colonial homes, often called the colonial revival period. Dutch colonials are one of the styles to emerge from this revival and I have to admit, they’re one of my favorites.

 

These homes typically include a gambrel roof with a double slope on each side of the building giving the look of curved eaves, and often look like what often is called a “barn”. Usually they are faced in wood clapboard or shingles, varying in size and building materials, and most have a symmetrical front facade and a classical wide, open entry portico.

Homes that have chimneys often have them placed at one or the other end, not usually in the center of the home like colonials.

Also, homes with the gambrel facing the street tend to be earlier, dating from 1800- 1900, while those with side-facing gambrels and a broad front dormer tend to date from 1920-1950.

The use of the gambrel roof is showing a resurgence in popularity in 21st century modern home designs, but its primary use today is in barns, due to the limited framing requirements and large resulting interior spaces.

First-time home buyers will find these affordable “starter” houses on smaller lots and in nice neighborhoods. Because of this, their appeal is very high, and their resale (if priced properly) happens quickly.

pinterest-sqFor some great examples of Gambrel Dutch Colonial Style Homes click on the above Pinterest link
What is a Split-Level House Style?

What is a Split-Level House Style?

Split-Level houses were made popular in the 60’s and many are still built today. They are the one house style that most people associate with “Grandma’s House”. Depending on the ingenuity of the builder and the owners, splits are among the least expensive house styles that you can find in any town.

Realtors often confuse them with multi-level houses and raised ranches, but there should be no confusion, as there really is a distinct style that really determines a split. Here it is: If you have to go up a half-flight of exterior stairs and then once inside you are on a landing from which you have to decide to go up or down another half-flight of stairs, you’re in a split-level.

One car garages are often located beneath the sleeping spaces and depending on the size of the footprint two car garages are a nice upgraded feature.

The floor plans are universal, up a half-level you will find the kitchen, dining and living rooms to one side of the staircase and the bedrooms to the other side. Down a half-level you will find a family room, office, laundry, mechanical and storage, and garage.

Splits were originally built as inexpensive homes which maximized usable living space while minimizing foundation and roof costs. Because of this, the basements are usually very shallow, allowing the use of short windows above ground that introduced air flow and sunlight. And either a cause or an effect, they are often found in areas with high water tables and areas with bedrock close to the surface.

As a sweeping generality, in my initial meeting with buyers, split-levels are the one home style that most will eliminate from consideration.  And yet hundreds of them are sold each year due to their economical carrying costs, generally low prices, and great use of space.
pinterest-sq

For some great examples of Split-Level Style Homes click on the above Pinterest link

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