One Story or Two Story? The Advantages—and Disadvantages—of Each.

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Sunday, 19 May 2024 02:00

Do you dream of a rambling ranch home? Perhaps the two-story place you grew up in is serving as inspiration for your home search. There are some homebuyers who insist they want a one-story home and those who wouldn’t dream of buying something without stairs.

Are you open to either? Do you feel like the right home will “speak” to you regardless of the number of floors? Let’s take a look at some of the realities of living of both, with a few things you may not have thought of.


A one-story home may seem more expensive if it’s priced against a larger two-story home, but you have to take the price-per-square-footage into account to see the value. They typically “cost less per square foot to build,” said Bensonwood. “That’s because the most expensive elements of home-building—excavation/foundation and rafters/roof installation—are being built on a smaller footprint. Plus, you’ll have less roof area to maintain.”

Containing the mess

Kids may be more likely to keep their mess contained to the second level, where guests won’t see it. When their rooms are on the main level, their stuff has a way of migrating into main living areas.

Stairs are dangerous

Yes, people do fall down the stairs. In fact, the National Safety Council ranks stairway falls “second only to motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of accidental injury,” according to USClaims. Injuries can include bruises, sprains, and bone breaks, as well as more serious traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis.

If the potential for injury is of concern, especially with young children, there are precautions you can take to make stairs safer, including carpeting the surface and making sure the area is well-lit.

The health benefits

Stairs give you a built-in butt workout, but they’re actually good for the whole body. “Climbing stairs is a great form of cardio exercise,” said Truweight. “While climbing stairs, you work against gravity lifting your entire body. This activity strengthens your leg muscles making it a rather strenuous exercise.” It can also “improve your heart rate and health” as well as strengthen joints and muscles.

Let the fresh air in

If you have a one-story home, you likely keep the windows locked up tight, especially at night. But there’s a sense of security that comes from being upstairs. And, as Shayan Jalali, a sales associate for Keller Williams in Boston, said on, “A thief is unlikely to shimmy up your drain pipe just to check out your goods, and far less likely to shimmy down it with your flat-screen TV.”

You may be safer in an emergency

You should have an evacuation plan for everyone in the household to follow regardless of what type of home you live in. But, some buyers prefer to have a single-story because it can be easier to evacuate in an emergency.

“Unfortunately, natural disasters—and some manmade disasters such as fires—do happen,” said The Balance. “This can be a primary consideration depending on your location. You might have to think about the possibility of tornadoes in the Midwest, tidal flooding on the Eastern seaboard, or earthquakes in California. In any case, you'll want to be able to evacuate your home quickly and efficiently under the worst circumstances, maybe even while you're still half asleep. This tends to be easier in a one-story dwelling.”

Defined spaces

Bedrooms upstairs, gathering spaces downstairs. That's the way it should be, right? That’s what many families lean toward—hence the enduring popularity of these plans.

Mobility issues

Young families aren’t the only ones who prefer single-story homes. If you’re approaching retirement age, you may be thinking about whether or not it’s smart to buy a home with stairs. The truth is mobility issues may be many years away or they may never affect you at all. There are also ways you can adapt a two-story home, like adding a chairlift or elevator. Or, you can choose a single story for your forever home and forgo the hassle or expensive renovations.

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