How to Remodel for One Level Living

How to Remodel for One Level Living

Over the last few years one level living has become increasingly popular for just about every group and type of home buyer.

The flexibility of one level floor plans, or two story homes with master suites and main floor laundry rooms, are obvious to many buyers.

The function of the design is increasingly important for the aging population, and the convenience of the layout is appreciated by younger generations as well.

As a result, many people who are considering a home remodel may want to make changes to their own homes to add the option of one level living.

How to Remodel for One Level Living

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What is One Level Living?

One level living means that all the necessary living facilities of the home are located on the main level without requiring the use of stairs to be accessed.

The types of homes most commonly known for offering one level living are ranch or rambler homes because they already have a one level floor plan and generally have a larger footprint.

Two story homes can often be converted to offer one level living options as well, depending on the size of the main floor and the ability to rework the existing space.

Why is One Level Living Popular?

One level living has some major perks for just about any individual or family. A home with all the living facilities on one level can be beneficial for anyone with a disability, for aging persons who want to stay in their home to age in place, single individuals or couples who desire a smaller space or more accessible home, and even families with small children who like the convenience of the design.

As we discussed in The Changing Housing Needs of Baby Boomers, our American population is aging and the impact of that on our society is a larger need for homes that offer one level living. With many people needing to or desiring to age in place, homes that offer this type of living will allow more flexibility and longevity as older adults plan for the future.

These points are not lost on those in the real estate industry either. For anyone investing in real estate or remodeling a property to be a rental, considering the popularity of one level living is also important as it increases the likelihood of the property being rented consistently by appealing to a wide range of potential tenants.

Elements needed for functional one level living:

  • Main floor bedroom

  • Main floor full bathroom

  • Main floor laundry

  • Accessibility features in and out of the house

Three Steps to Remodeling Your Home for One Level Living -

Step 1 - Determine the “Must-Haves” for Your Home

Consider the elements listed above and start working to determine your “must-haves”. Determining your “must-haves” includes not only what you plan to add, but also what you must keep and give up in your existing space. If your home was built in the 1980’s or 1990’s, you may be accustomed to a large walk-in closet and a private master bathroom. This is a luxury because of the amount of space available having a second floor bedroom. Ideally, if you had a two story home from the 80’s or 90’s, you also have a formal sitting room and dining room on your main level, as that was common in homes built during that time. Your decision to convert those spaces into a master suite may be easy if they do not get used often.

For others with smaller main floor layouts, the option for a bedroom may be less optimal as it may include giving up space from a kitchen, casual dining space, or family room. It may also mean creating a full bathroom out of an existing powder room, and adjusting to sharing the space with guests. Closets or other storage spaces may need to be cleared to be transformed into a laundry space and paring down of items may be required.

Especially if you have lived in your home for a long time, it can be difficult to try to reimagine your space. Sit down and make a list of the spaces on your main floor and consider which areas could be used differently or made smaller. Try to prioritize each area, for instance, it may be important to keep as much kitchen space as possible which would limit extra space for a laundry area. As a result, you may consider adding a small stackable washer and dryer unit in corner in order to avoid giving up countertop space in that room.

Most of what we have been discussing so far is remodeling an existing space. Of course, you can also consider additions to your main level in order to add the necessary space. If you want to go that route, keep in mind that potentially significant additional costs could be involved and zoning limitations may apply.

In this step it is also a good time to consider your budget. Consider how much you would be willing to spend and talk to loan officers or financial advisors to make sure you get a clear idea of what your finances will allow.

Step 2: Meet with a Professional

Once you have taken the time to consider what you are willing to change and what your priorities are, it is a good time to schedule an appointment to meet with a general contractor, design-build firm, or architect. The goal of this meeting is to get their opinion on whether or not the project is possible, gather ideas and suggestions for potential layouts, and clarify the details needed for you to move forward. Make sure to share your must-haves and written priorities with the professional to ensure they understand your goals. Your chosen professional should be able to assist you with the design of the space and walking you through the process of getting pricing for your project based on that design.

Step 3: Consider Adding Convenience Items

Once you have your design in process with your chosen professional, it is worth considering adding additional convenience items. We often suggest items that are similar to what is discussed in the ADA guidelines.

This can include things like grab bars, showers without curbs or walk-in tubs, taller toilets, lower vanities and kitchen countertops, additional light switching, different door handles, etc. It can also be security features such as additional exterior lighting, cameras, emergency call buttons, or similar options. Especially if you’re remodeling to age in place, we suggest prioritizing adding items that improve the functionality and accessibility of the home.


Remodeling for one level living is meant to improve the long-term function of the space and add convenience and accessibility. In an existing home, this will mean repurposing spaces by using creative solutions and planning. Once you know what you are willing to change, experienced professionals can bring a lot of knowledge about what is possible to the design of the space. Adding convenience features can also improve the space by making it more functional and accessible.

Are you considering remodeling your home for one level living or have you already? What questions do you have, or do you have suggestions for others considering the same? Tell us about it below!