Split-Level Homes for a Sloping Block

Why Use Split-Level Homes for a Sloping Block?

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Ryan McKenzie
Ryan McKenzie

Ryan McKenzie heads up Rycon Building Group in Melbourne, a custom home builder responsible for some of Melbourne's most luxurious properties. With 25 years experience and a wealth of knowledge, Ryan is very well respected in the building community. Ryan has worked at LP Warren Homes and Rycon Building Group and has been the recipient of MBAV Young Builder of the Year, MBAV Winner - Best Custom Home. Ryan holds a Certificate I, II, III, IV in Construction and Diploma in Construction. Ryan's experience includes onsite 10 years, project management for 20 years and managing director for 18 years.

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    Is your land property inclined? If so, a split-level home might be the perfect solution for you. Split-level homes are designed to work with the natural contours of your land, providing numerous benefits that make them an excellent choice for inclined properties.

    So why is this so? As a custom home builder, we always want our clients to get the best value for their hard-earned money. Our affordable custom home building services have helped many families made dreams come true.

    Read further as we tell you why split-level homes are the perfect home design for your sloping block.

    What Exactly are Split-Level Homes?

    You might be wondering, what exactly are split-level homes? Simply put, a split-level home is a type of house that has staggered floor levels. Instead of having all the rooms on one or two floors, the living spaces are split across multiple levels, typically with short stairs connecting each area. This design is particularly beneficial for sloping blocks, allowing the home to follow the land's natural contour.

    Think of it like this: walking into a split-level home, you might find the main living area on one level, like the kitchen and living room. Then, just a few steps up or down, you'll find the bedrooms, bathrooms, or even a family room. This clever use of space maximizes your property's potential and creates a dynamic and interesting layout.

    Design Options Available for Split-level Homes on Sloping Blocks - Rycon Building Group

    Split Level Homes vs Two Storey Houses - What's the difference?

    You might be confused between a split-level home and a two-storey house. Why not just build a two-storey instead of a split-level house? What makes one better than the other, especially for a sloping block? Let's dive into the details to help you understand the key differences.

    Layout and Structure

    Split-Level Homes:

    Staggered Levels: Split-level homes have multiple levels connected by short stairs. This design allows the house to follow the natural slope of your land, creating a more harmonious fit with the terrain.

    Distinct Zones: With living spaces spread across different levels, you get distinct zones for various functions. For instance, you might have the kitchen and living room on one level, bedrooms on another, and a family room on another. This separation can enhance privacy and reduce noise.

    Natural Fit for Sloping Land: Split-level homes are specifically designed to adapt to sloping blocks, which means less need for excavation and retaining walls. This can lead to cost savings and a smoother construction process.

    Two-Storey Houses:

    Separate Floors: Two-storey houses feature two full floors stacked on each other. Typically, the ground floor contains the main living areas like the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, while the upper floor houses the bedrooms and bathrooms.

    Uniform Layout: The layout is more traditional and straightforward, with a clear floor separation. This can be ideal for those who prefer a more conventional home design.

    Best for Flat Land: Two-storey houses generally require flat or gently sloping land. Building them on a steep slope can be more challenging and costly due to the need for extensive site preparation.

    Space Utilization

    Split-Level Homes:

    Efficient Use of Space: By utilizing staggered levels, split-level homes efficiently use the available space on a sloping block. This can result in more usable outdoor areas and a smaller overall footprint.
    Creative Floor Plans: The multi-level design allows for flexible, creative floor plans. You can customize each level to suit your needs, whether additional bedrooms, a home office, or entertainment areas.
    Two-Storey Houses:

    Ample Living Space: Two-storey homes provide significant living space within a smaller land area. This is particularly beneficial in areas where land is limited or expensive.
    Defined Areas: The floor separation offers clear and defined areas for different activities. For example, you can have a lively downstairs for entertaining and a quiet upstairs retreat for relaxation.

    Aesthetic Appeal

    Split-Level Homes:

    Unique Design: Split-level homes often feature interesting architectural details and varied rooflines, making them stand out from traditional designs. The different levels can create a visually appealing and dynamic exterior.
    Harmonious with Nature: By following the land's natural slope, split-level homes blend seamlessly with their surroundings. This can create a more integrated and aesthetically pleasing look.

    Two-Storey Houses:

    Traditional Look: Two-storey houses offer a classic and familiar appearance that many people find appealing. The symmetrical design provides a sense of stability and timelessness.
    Imposing Presence: The height of a two-storey home gives it a commanding presence, enhancing curb appeal and creating a strong visual impact.

    Cost Considerations

    Split-Level Homes

    Lower Site Prep Costs: Because they adapt to the land's natural slope, split-level homes often require less excavation and fewer retaining walls. This can result in significant cost savings.
    Efficient Construction: Efficient use of materials and labour can also lead to overall savings during construction.

    Two-Storey Houses

    Higher Site Prep Costs on Slopes: Building a two-storey house on a sloping block can be more expensive due to extensive site preparation, including excavation and retaining walls.
    Potentially Higher Construction Costs: Two-storey homes can sometimes be more expensive depending on the design and materials used. However, they often offer a higher return on investment due to their ample living space and traditional appeal.

    Split Level Homes vs Two Storey Houses - Rycon Building Group

    Why are Split-Level Homes Suitable for Sloping Blocks?

    If you have a sloping block of land, what type of home would work best? Split-level homes are a great option for sloping blocks, and here's why:

    Adapting to the Land

    Less Digging Needed
    Split-level homes are designed to follow the natural slope of the land. This means you don't need to do as much digging or build big retaining walls to make the land flat. This can save you money and make the building process quicker and easier.

    Blends with the Landscape
    Since split-level homes fit the land's natural shape, they often look like they belong there. This can make your home look more attractive and integrated with the environment.

    Making the Most of Space

    Smart Use of Space
    Split-level homes spread the living space across different levels, making the most of the available area. This is perfect for sloping blocks because you can use the space more efficiently without needing a large, flat area.

    Great Outdoor Areas
    With split-level homes, you can create terraced gardens, patios, and decks that follow the slope. This looks nice and gives you more outdoor space for activities and relaxation.

    Cost-Effective Building

    Lower Site Preparation Costs
    Building on a slope usually requires much work to flatten the ground. With split-level homes, you work with the slope, which means less digging and fewer retaining walls. This can save you a lot of money.

    Simpler Construction
    The building process can be more straightforward because split-level homes are designed for sloping land. This can reduce labour costs and construction time, making the project more affordable.

    Unique Design and Appearance

    Distinctive Look
    Split-level homes have unique architectural features like different roof heights and staggered levels. This can make your home stand out and give it a special character that traditional homes might lack.

    Better Views and Light
    The different levels in split-level homes can be positioned to take advantage of views and natural light. This means you might have great views from your living room or bedroom and plenty of sunlight throughout the day, making your home feel bright and cheerful.

    Functional Living Spaces

    Separate Zones
    In a split-level home, the different levels create separate zones for different activities. For example, you might have the kitchen and living room on one level, bedrooms a few steps up, and a family room a few steps down. This separation can make your home feel more organized and reduce noise between areas.

    Flexible Design
    Split-level homes offer flexibility because you can customize each level to fit your needs. Whether you need extra bedrooms, a home office, or an entertainment area, the layout allows you to create spaces that work for your family's lifestyle.

    Common Features of Split-level Homes - Rycon Building Group

    Common Features of Split-level Homes

    Split-level homes have a distinctive design that sets them apart from other houses. Split-level homes are also one of our most requested custom home designs, even for properties that are not in sloping areas. However, their unique adaptability makes split-level homes particularly beneficial for sloping blocks.

    Here are some common features that make split-level homes so appealing:

    External Features

    Asymmetrical Silhouettes

    These homes often feature an asymmetrical look, with a rectangular main level and a square or protruding section containing the upper level. This creates a unique and eye-catching exterior appearance.

    Double-Hung Windows

    Double-hung windows are a staple in split-level homes. They provide excellent ventilation and a classic look that complements the house's overall design.

    Large Picture Windows

    You'll often find large picture windows on the main level, which allow plenty of natural light to flood the home and offer great views of the surroundings.

    Low-Pitched Roofs

    Split-level homes typically have low-pitched roofs. This design gives the house a sleek, modern appearance and is practical for effective water drainage.

    Mixed-Material Facades

    The exterior of split-level homes often combines different materials, such as brick and wood. This mix adds texture and visual interest, enhancing the home's curb appeal.

    Front Steps

    These homes usually have two to eight exterior steps leading to the front door. This feature accommodates the different levels of the home and provides an inviting entrance.

    Internal Features

    Vaulted Ceilings

    On the top story, split-level homes often have vaulted ceilings. These ceilings create a sense of spaciousness and openness, making the rooms feel larger and more airy.

    Separate Living Spaces

    The main floor typically has distinct living, dining, and kitchen rooms. This layout allows for dedicated functional areas and helps keep the living space organized and efficient. Bedrooms are usually on the upper floor, providing privacy and separation from the main living areas.

    Finished Basements

    Attached or built-in garages are common in split-level homes. These garages provide convenient access to the house, which is especially useful during inclement weather.

    Attached or Built-In Garages

    Many split-level homes feature finished basements, which can serve as additional living areas, such as family rooms, playrooms, or guest suites. This adds valuable square footage to the home.

    Multiple Attic Spaces and Storage Areas

    The unique layout of split-level homes often includes multiple attic spaces and built-in storage areas. This makes it easier to keep the home organized and free of clutter.

    Large Patio Doors/Sliders

    Large patio doors or sliders leading off the main living area are common in split-level homes. These doors provide easy access to outdoor spaces and allow plenty of natural light to flow into the home.

    Half Staircases

    Split-level homes have minimal ornamental features, such as mouldings and cornices. This simpler design approach creates a clean, modern look that is easy to maintain.

    Minimal Ornamental Features

    One of the defining features of split-level homes is the presence of short staircases, often referred to as half staircases, connecting the different levels. These stairs make it easy to move between floors without climbing a full flight.

    Converting Into Split-level Homes - Rycon Building Group

    Different Design Options Available for Split-level Homes on Sloping Blocks

    Numerous options exist when designing split-level homes on sloping blocks. These designs can not only maximize the functionality of your home but also enhance its aesthetic appeal.

    Here are some of our different design recommendations that we believe can help you make the most of your sloping block:

    Multi-Level Terraces for Outdoor Living

    One of the best ways to utilize a sloping block is by incorporating multi-level terraces. These can serve as outdoor living areas to entertain guests, relax with family, or enjoy the view. Imagine having a dining area on one level, a lounge area on another, and a garden or play area on another. This design not only makes use of the natural slope but also creates a dynamic and inviting outdoor space.

    Split-Level Open Plan Living

    An open-plan living area split over different levels can enhance your home's sense of space and connection. For example, the kitchen and dining area could be on one level, with a few steps leading to a sunken living room. This design keeps the areas visually connected while giving each space its distinct feel. Large windows and sliding doors can enhance this effect by bringing in natural light and offering seamless access to outdoor terraces.

    Integrated Garage and Workshop

    A sloping block provides a perfect opportunity to integrate an attached or built-in garage and workshop beneath the main living areas. This design keeps your vehicles and tools conveniently close while freeing up upper levels for living and entertaining spaces. The garage can also double as additional storage or hobby space, making it a highly functional part of your home.

    Private Bedroom Wing

    Incorporating a split-level design allows you to create a private wing for bedrooms, separate from the main living areas. Bedrooms can be positioned on a higher or lower level, providing privacy and a peaceful retreat from the more active parts of the home. This design is particularly beneficial for families, offering a quiet space for children or parents away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

    Scenic Staircase and Atrium

    Turn the vertical nature of a split-level home into a design feature by incorporating a scenic staircase and atrium. A central staircase that connects the different levels can be a focal point, with large windows or a skylight above to bring in natural light. This atrium space can be decorated with indoor plants, artwork, or even a water feature, creating a stunning and welcoming entrance to your home.

    Can existing homes be converted into split-level homes on sloping blocks?

    Yes, existing homes can be converted into split-level homes, especially on sloping blocks. This type of renovation is a great way to utilize the natural landscape and enhance your home's functionality and appearance.

    We have had clients in the past who were working with tight budgets but still wanted to achieve the benefits of a split-level design. In these cases, we focus on creative and cost-effective solutions that maximize the existing structure while making the most of the sloping terrain.

    For instance, we can reconfigure interior spaces to create different levels instead of extensive excavation and rebuilding. By adding a few steps up or down within the current footprint, we can create the feeling of separate zones for living, dining, and sleeping without the need for a complete overhaul. This approach minimizes construction costs and disruption.

    We also recommend phased renovations, where the conversion is done in stages. This allows homeowners to spread out the costs over time while gradually transforming their home into a split-level design. Clients can achieve their desired outcomes without straining their budget by prioritizing the most critical areas, such as the main living spaces and addressing secondary areas later.


    Your home's suitability for a split-level conversion primarily depends on its structural integrity and the slope of your block. A structural engineer or architect can assess your home and determine if the foundation and overall structure can support the changes. They will also evaluate the slope to integrate the split-level design best.

    Yes, one of the great advantages of split-level homes is their customizable exterior. You can choose from various architectural styles, materials, and finishes to match your taste and the overall aesthetic of your neighbourhood. Options include mixed-material facades, different roof styles, and various window designs.

    Finding the right location involves looking for properties with natural slopes accommodating a split-level design. Consider the surrounding views, access to amenities, and the overall neighbourhood. Working with a real estate agent who understands your requirements and consulting with a builder to assess potential lots can help you find the ideal site for your split-level home.


    Choosing a split-level home for a sloping block offers numerous advantages, from maximizing space and taking advantage of natural light to providing distinct living areas that enhance privacy and functionality. Whether building a new home or considering a renovation, split-level designs can adapt to your specific needs and preferences.

    As custom home builders with extensive experience, we recommend split-level homes for their versatility, aesthetic appeal, and ability to harmonize with the natural landscape. Consider the split-level option if you're ready to make the most of your sloping block and create a unique, beautiful, and practical home. We're here to help you every step of the way, ensuring your vision becomes a reality.

    Feel free to contact us with any questions or to start planning your split-level home today. Your dream home on a sloping block is within reach!

    CUSTOM DESIGNED LUXURY... For custom home builders & in-house design and quote, call us today on (03) 9894 1500
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