Is it really practical to have a double storey home?
- We have a small block of land so really had no choice.
- With a two story home you get to keep more of your yard.
- It’s nice to have upstairs as the “family area” as we have a living room and our bedrooms upstairs with kitchen, dining, family study and guest room downstairs.
- My preference would probably be for a single story if we had a big block as I don’t like stairs.
You have to consider your budget, size of block, access, family members with disabilities etc but at the end of the day it boils down to ‘choice’
To help you decide you can visit display homes and spend time in both.
Living in the country, land blocks tend to be bigger and land prices are much cheaper than in capital cities. This means you don’t need to maximise limited land area as much. Land size in cities tend to be smaller and so going with a two storey home can give you more rooms for the family while also preserving some outdoor space.
An additional benefit is that you can keep the downstairs neat and tidy for visitors. It can also be less noisy too. If you have visitors over or the TV on downstairs (at a reasonable volume) it is possible to work quietly upstairs.
Plus there is always the bonus of all the exercise you will get going up and down those stairs.
The stairs shouldn’t be an issue as your body will get used to it very quickly…
“My grandma who is 85 years old, lives in a building in Paris, 5th floor, no lift… She is as fit as a 40 years old and her doctor told her that the stairs keep her in shape!”
It really comes down to how big you want your house to be, and then whether your block has the room to suit.
Single storey can be more convenient, but also can be outweighed by several advantages in a double storey:
- Keep upstairs more private and quieter
- Keep downstairs neater
- A double storey allows you to take full advantage of the views
- A double storey requires less land than a similar sized single storey
- Can have a bigger yard, or build in a more expensive suburb
- Double stories typically include extras as standard vs a similar sized single storey. Extras could include; high ceilings, extra bathrooms, extra living areas etc.
There is some evidence that on a full cost basis that includes the cost of land required, a typical double storey build works out cheaper than building a similarly sized single storey.
This story from Simone highlights concerns about stairs in houses where you have young kids:
“We lived in a 2 storey townhouse when my son was first born. The stairs were wood and unfortunately I slipped and fell while taking him downstairs when he was only 3 months old Though I managed to keep hold of him, his head hit a stair behind me.
He was fine but I was scarred for life, we moved to a single storey not long after and vowed to never live in a two-storey again! Well at least while we have little peeps around…”
“After my son was born I lived at home with my mum for a while. It was a single level house but on a sloping block, so had concrete stairs outside at two points. As soon as he was mobile, my son was taught to go down the stairs backwards. He crawled down stairs backwards and walked down backwards hanging on until he was about three. He never had one fall.
In my personal opinion it is better to teach them how to navigate stairs than simply keeping them away from them. Inevitably the little escape artists will end up near the stairs when you least expect it and without experience that’s when accidents happen.” – Jo
From a heating and cooling point of view, single storey is a far more sensible choice. Heating and cooling increases the cost of your ongoing electricity or gas bills and also the cost to the environment.
- Double storeys are usually impossible to keep the top floor cool in summer
- Likewise, it is harder keeping the bottom floor warm in winter.
- You need really good insulation between floors
- Rooms that you can seal off really well to keep the space where you are heated or cooled.
However, there are some multi storey designs that account for heating and cooling issues by cleverly arranging their rooms and spaces.
An example of clever use of heating double storey homes is a combustion fire that uses its flu to go up between the floors on the interior of the house so you use the dissipated heat efficiently. Having specialised 2 storey home builders design the home and ensure the house is properly insulated will also result in less heat leakage. In this example, a combustion fire might not heat a single storey house as well and ducted heating could therefore be a better option. There are plenty of people using combustion heater to heat their single storey homes without a problem, maybe the smaller volume of air to heat helps too.
These house options won’t generally be provided by a project builder and so will be more expensive.
Air conditioning can also be an issue in the warmer months as the bottom storey can be fine but upstairs unbearable. Find a company to install ducted air conditioning in the top storey and you'll be able to cool the whole home.
Pros and Cons: single storey vs double storey…
For double storey:
- More compound
- Hassle of stairs
- Window cleaning and gutter cleaning
For single storey:
- Still has good privacy with the right floorplan
- Can still have compounds for larger lots
- Generally cheaper
- Floor space can be limited when building on small lots