1 1/2 Story with basement or 1 story with basement?

nostalgicfarmAugust 17, 2013

We just got a large amount of acres to build our home. It is about a minute from a small community and we will be adding a lot of trees by the road in the spring to block off the view of the home from the road. The lot slopes down from the road, and we are in Nebraska where basements are very much the norm. We have three kiddos (no plans for more!) who are currently 3,6,7 with the boy in the middle.
We are likely 3 years from breaking ground, and will do some of the work ourselves and either find a general contractor for the the exterior or the home, or general contract that ourselves. My husband and I are both very skilled with construction, but need the house built this century, so need to be realistic about what we can/can not/want to/don't want I do! I would love to build my own kitchen cabinets (secret little dream) and I will not hire anyone to do my painting/staining. I also see myself doubt the moulding/trim work type stuff on the interior of the home. I have control issues and want to look back and say "I did that".
Originally I was planning what I would call a 1 1/2 story plus nearly full basement. The ground we found has a considerable slope, and my husband would do most the preliminary excavation work himself (he has the equipment for a lot of things!). I would think that we would end up having rather high ceilings in the basement because the slope lends itself so well to this. A master on the main is a necessity. We are younger now, but my next move will be to a retirement home! I envisioned having my two girls bedrooms upstairs with a bonus type common area just for the girls. I don't see my son staying up there. He likes his own space and would do much better with a very nice basement bedroom. Our basement would be walkout for sure, so I don't see any real safety issues planning the boys room in the basement. We will also have trail cameras set up around the property (for wildlife) so we would know I we have kiddos sneaking out(they would have a long walk to town though).
I am thinking the main floor would be around 1800 square feet, and ofuring a budget of 300,000. I wonder if I would save a considerable amount to do a one story with full basement and have all the kids rooms down there. I like the exterior look of a home with the vaulted rooflines, rather than the flatter ranch style roofs, and not really sure it wouldn't cost that much more to jut put the bedrooms in the rooflines? It seems like by the time the house is done, my kids will be close to leaving home. Then what will I do with the upstairs rooms? A basement on the other hand can be gutted and reworked. I know I need to about have two floorplans that I love and get quotes on both of those, but it will take some time finding the right floorplan to even start estimating. It would be nice having a good direction first!
Appreciate all your advise!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

1 1/2 story always looks better than 1 story ranch.

However any time I compute the cost of 1 1/2 story using estimating software - it always ends up costing like 2 story or even more with a lot less sq ft. May be this is just me, it feels like two story with reduced sq ft for foundation e.g. ~1600 sq ft would cost less than 1800 - 1900 sq ft 1 1/2 story with large roof and dormers. ( I can reduce cost and taxes by not finishing rooms )

Excavation is not that expensive, I don't know if it worth it to going deep with basement walls, or to make 5 ft walls and frame 4' above and put windows. Less chance of hitting water. (Cost is about the same, cheaper to add basement windows).

find the look that you like, every house is a trade between outside look vs interior. Hard to find right combination. If you are acting as GC no reason to get builder estimate. You will get SWAG ( simple wild a* guess ). It is all about price per sq ft. Contractors easily can tell you price per sq ft.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 11:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your response.
I don't understand what you mean by "Excavation is not that expensive, I don't know if it worth it to going deep with basement walls, or to make 5 ft walls and frame 4' above and put windows." Do you mean a crawl space, or a basement? Our land has a STeep slope. Not much level space to build a home if we wanted to! I don't think hitting water will be much of a concern...e have been til most people don't do wells because it is hard finding water...we really prefer wells(yes, we are crazy!)
I was thinking about 500/600 sq ft for the upstairs...enough for two decent sized rooms, shared bathroom, and some bonus space. A basement is a necessity in my mind for tornadoes, workout rooms, storage, etc. I much prefer the 1 1/2 story dormer type look to a full 2 story for my space/desires/use. Just not sure if eliminating the second floor altogether makes more sense 10 years after the build.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 12:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

nostalgic-we are building (or very SOON building) a 1 1/2 story just as you described. We went through all of those same thought processes regarding now and down the road. We have 2 kids (firm and final as they are 8 and 10, lol) - both boys. Our property does not slope as yours does to allow for a walk out basement but we will have daylight windows. We are in MI and not having a basement is about unheard of - you just don't do it.

Because we couldn't do a walk out we decided against putting them downstairs although there will eventually be a guest bedroom down there. Our square footage is about exactly what you are describing.

Ours is 1785 sq ft on the main floor (master on this floor), 615 sq ft on the second floor (2 bedrooms, shared bath and a small open 'fun' space for the boys) and 915 in the basement (future bedroom and bath, family room, exercise room and then utility/storage).

So far the only thing that is coming back higher is the roofing - it's a pretty steep pitch so that is costing more. We have a dormer in the front that will let in light upstairs and then one in the back that houses the bedrooms and bath.

Future: well, we figured that when they are grown and out they might come back to visit, or grandkids would and this layout allows for privacy for both ourselves, the kids now and any adult guests we might have. Hoping we made the right choice - so far we feel good about it. We never considered a full 2 story but rather switched from a ranch to the 1 1/2. We didn't want the bedrooms hogging all of the light and views of the woods. Our room faces north - the main living areas will have windows to the west (minimal), south and east.

Oh - we are also GCing and doing some of the labor ourselves. It is looking good at coming in around $250k NOT including the land that was already purchased. We will be finishing the basement later.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much for your comments. I am especially glad with your pricing details. We are in the Omaha/Lincoln market, which seems to have lower pricing than a lot of other parts of the country! I have just started looking at floorplans. I know I want a LARGE walkin pantry (big garden/fruit trees planned), and have already decided I will probably have to add that to the floorplan I choose. We still need to fix up our current acreage/sell it/move into rental...so we are quite some way out. I am a little unsure still about GC myself, but I am a control nut, so would flip out if someone told me it would be $100 more to add an outlet. I would really prefer to have the exterior done, and then come in and do the interior! if I can GC myself though, I can build 15% more square feet, or have money left for a nice shop building. I don't want to spend more than I need to to get the house I want, but also won't be moving, so have to get it somewhat right!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If budget is the primary issue, from your description it should be more economical to build and finish a basement and first floor, since you plan to build them anyway.

A second level which is habitable, insulated, heated and cooled with a bath will all be extra expense over and above the cost of the basement and first floor.

On the other hand if design and function area as important and/or outweighs budget issues, then I'd do the second level, since I think it makes a more comfortable living space than a basement. Some savings would be possible, if needed, by not completely finishing the entire basement.

At the end of the day, it's really your preferences, budget and decision to make.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Virgilcarter. If I did the 1/2 story above the first, I would finish that and my sons basement room an his bathroom. If I did the basment and not the 1/2 story, I would finish the whole basement since there would be 3 rooms and a rec room down there. If I did the extra 1/2 story, I would finish the basement after moving in room by room over a 2-5 year period. So I guess I am hoping to keep my mortgage low, rather than trying to rush and finish everything before moving in.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

nostalgic-I hope that was helpful. We are certainly GCing to be able to afford a bit more in finishes than we'd be able to otherwise as well as we just like being apart of it. There is a sense of satisfaction in creating something yourself even if it's just bits and pieces. :) We will be doing interior work as well. I am heavily urging my dh to avoid shingling - we aren't spring chickens anymore!

I cannot imagine building in some of the states that others on here post cost of living information on. I think we'd only be able afford a shack with a tar paper roof in some of them!

We are following a very similar path - just a few steps ahead of where you are at - fixed up our current house this spring, sold the end of June and now in the 'dreaded rental'. I can't wait to break ground. It's not terrible where we are now but it's not home either! I feel like we are in a hotel or camping or something. Everything takes longer and I continue to struggle remembering where I put things! :)

We couldn't find a plan to suit our needs either and decided to go with a house designer (licensed architect out of our budget). FWIW, I think we got what we wanted for the same cost we'd have in purchasing something stock and then rearranging it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 4:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hear you on the camping out. I am actually looking forward to a rental for a few reasons...one is that we will be moving school districts, and it would be nice to be in the new community (smaller town) for a full school year before breaking ground just in case we absolutely didnt like it there (doubt it). Also, I think having my kiddos in a smaller home for a year or two will help them appreciate a bigger space. And it will be nice to lower expenses for a few years with that money going towards the house :)
I do think I would end up hiring an architect. I know a lot of what I want, but would also like to have a rough floorplan before going to an architect. I don't expect an architect in the city to know what I mean when I say walk in pantry...when I am thinking 6*12 :)
I am curious what jobs you and your husband may be doing that helped you come up with your figure? Also, curious what your unfinished basement estimate is? I feel like I am so far out from building, but I also cant find my land again...we were lucky enough to find what we wanted in 1 1/2 years of searching every day! I don't expect to walk into my new home not wanting to change *Something*. But I also don't want to wish I could rearranged rooms! It may take me the full next 3 years just to finalize my plan!!! I am already planning to do a lot after move-in, like the laundry room, Walk in closets, some crown moulding and things like that that that will give me some time to not be rushed for those floorplans. Also, my time during building will be a lot better spent on other things than some of the hidden finishes :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 5:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree on having our kids appreciate what they have. They really don't know how good we've had it! We have 1 incredibly small bathroom we are sharing (that right there has been a growing experience for me - not loving that nor the lack of water pressure - ack). It's an old home - as in no outlets or switches in one of the bedrooms upstairs. They were sharing a room but they've already rearranged. The room without any outlets also doesn't have a heat vent so I don't see my oldest staying in there come winter - but it is also the largest of the 2 rooms. :) We also have no dishwasher and no a/c. Those are basically the comforts that we had that we are now getting used to being without.

I keep reminding myself that there is no perfect home and surely there will be things after living with it that we might think are too large, too small or a little off one way or another. Our pantry is pretty sizable - fits our chest freezer which I'm excited about but the doorway is off the kitchen, not IN the kitchen proper. That bugged me for a while but I think it's going to be okay.

I was off a bit on my $250k number - dh informed me that it's more like $280k. :( Besides the roofing the other number that came in considerably higher than we thought was lumber. It recently took a jump so that was a bit disappointing. We are hoping to get all of our quotes by the end of the month so we can lock in our I/R before it also takes another jump.

We will be doing all priming, painting, laying wood floor, tile, setting cabinets, some trim work, putting stone on fireplace (we have done that before and it's actually a very rewarding project but took way longer than we thought), hardware on doors and cabinets, lighting, ceiling fans.

We too will be doing some of those very things you mentioned after the fact. Definitely closets and even the small office we have will be done after we are in.

With work schedules and keeping timing on track it may come down to having to hire things out that we originally planned on DIY. We are not moving communities or school districts and are paying rent so time is money to a certain degree. For now though that is what we hope to do in sweat equity.

I think you are wise to start working through house plans now. There are certainly many details to ponder. We were hoping to be about 2000 sq feet total for the main and upstairs but ended up at 2400. We don't feel the rooms are excessively large or that we have rarely used rooms so we went ahead with it. I had a few things that I really wanted configured a certain way and made sure they were laid out accordingly. After those boxes were checked I really didn't feel so picky about the rest. Hopefully they will live how I feel they will in my mind! :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 8:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much Autumn.
Another thought occurred to me that if I did a one story with full basement, I could still have the raised roof look, but use the higher ceilings for a high ceiling in the living room and master bedroom. I may just have to design 1 or 2 floorplans with both options, and then find out how much the different choices would cost. Our current home has a large open 450 sq ft room above the first level that my girls share, but our previous home was a split level (smaller home). Maybe I would grow to appreciate only having one set of stairs :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 10:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A time will come when you appreciate NO stairs and one-level living! Enjoy!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I suspect Virgil is right but for now enjoy the exercise!

My parents have a split level and no bathroom or bedroom on the main floor. That has been tough with a broken ankle and crutches for one and a back surgery for the other. :(

Working through and pricing out 2 different plans might be what you need to have that ah-ha moment.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

we are in the midst of a planned build for something similar to what you describe. It's a ranch with 600 sq feet of bonus space and a mostly fully finished (looking like 1900 sq feet) walkout basement.

The 600 sq feet of bonus space will be 2 bedrooms and a full bath, with a dormer. I'm planning this to be primarily guest space, and I'm putting 2 of my 3 boys in the basement. We are also in Michigan, and we love our basements. No reason at all to think it will be less comfortable than the second story rooms. Bedrooms will be placed with full windows in bright sunny exposures. A full second family room, exercise room, playroom, full bath, and second laundry space will also be in the lower level (basment). My boys are looking forward to it.

We are zoning the house so we can maintain comfortable temperatures on all levels of the house, or shut off the bonus space entirely when not in use.

Our ranch will have the steeper roof pitch with vaulted ceilings so it doesn't look flat and squat

here is the preliminary elevation:

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 12:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am working on a similar style house... We plan to put our stinky boys (grin) in the walk out basement... And will likely be able to get a bonus space upstairs if we choose., but the house is actually a ranch. A fellow GWer who is an architect had kindly helped rework our plan! I will also be doing a similar size pantry, I am going to use garage space to incorporate it. :) her adjustments took it from 1840 s.f. to 2029 S. f.
When we get ours priced out, I can let you know where it comes in.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our house thread

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We're building in SC and we're doing a cape cod styleâ¦we have the upstairs as unfinished walk up attic space with plumbing for a future bath roughed inâ¦we may eventually finish it, but for now my junk will live there and my husband won't be as aggravated b/c he'll have to walk up stairs to get itâ¦not a ladder. :) We are putting our 3 kids in the walk out basement. we're looking at around 2000 sq ft for the main floor and 1800 for the basement finished. I wanted a large pantry and large laundry roomâ¦I couldn't find any plans that had what I wanted so we improvised. Just sent our plan off to the draftsmanâ¦can't wait to see it for real.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 12:12PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ole cahaba brick-henry brick
Anyone using ole cahaba brick? If so what mortar colors...
May not build - what is fair to builder?
We are still in the planning stages of a new home build....
Hardwoods upstairs will be loud?
We are doing a two level home. I REALLY do not want...
building a simple modern farm house on a budget
I am planning to build a simple modern looking farmhouse...
Thinking about driveways
One of the few things my husband requests in our new...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™