Converting your home to single floor living

Multiple stories are the norm for most residences, but this layout often includes a few inconveniences. The most obvious one is that you'll find yourself making regular trips up and down the stairs if you can't meet all of your needs on a single level.

The first floor typically features a kitchen and living room, along with a sitting room or other areas for relaxing or socializing. Doing laundry, by contrast, may require you to make repeatedly head into and out of the basement while hauling a basket of clothes. You may need to head to the second floor in order to use a bathroom or turn in for the night.

Turning a multistory home into a residence that supports single floor living offers several benefits. TruBuild Construction, a company based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, says this type of layout provides better accessibility overall, and is particularly helpful for aging residents or those with disabilities.

This kind of renovation will also let you improve the overall look and function of the home. Alex Bravo, who runs the remodeling resource RemodelingImage.com, says changing the layout allows you to do additional work such as increasing the size of the kitchen or creating an open floor plan. Becky Harris, writing for the home design site Houzz, says you can also preserve guest bedrooms or other space on an upper story to accommodate visitors.

A single level design requires a bedroom and bathroom. TruBuild Construction says your washing machine and dryer should also be located on this floor. You may need to have improve access into the home as well, such as installing a zero step entryway.

Living on the first floor may require you to rearrange your home considerably. Harris, discussing the example of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom empty nester home that was renovated for single level residency, Harris noted how several rooms took on new purposes. For example, the living room was converted into a new kitchen while the former kitchen became a laundry room.

This process often creates more open space by removing walls. Bravo says you'll need to make sure you keep load-bearing walls in place, or put in a pillar or other feature to maintain structural stability. The process of establishing a new function in a room may also require you to put in new plumbing or wiring.

Assess the rooms on your first floor to see which ones are the best candidates for repurposing. TruBuild Construction says you may have a space such as a formal dining room or sitting room which is infrequently used.

It can be more difficult to cut out more useful areas, such as pantries or other storage spaces. You might be able to reduce the disruption by limiting your laundry space to a stackable washer-dryer unit, which can fit in a closet while preserving some shelves.

If you are reluctant to work within your existing space, you can add new features on the first floor by putting on an addition. Bravo says any addition should complement the look of your home, and can easily allow you to add features such as an extra bedroom and bathroom. However, an addition will also come at considerable expense due to foundation work and other construction costs.

Any work to renovate your home to keep essential facilities on the first floor should have the necessary permits. If you have a homeowners association, you should check with them to make sure the work abides by the bylaws.

Assessing the property on your own will let you contemplate a few ideas for single level living, but you should also meet with a professional to get their take. TruBuild Construction says an architect, contractor, or design-build firm can be helpful.

If you are converting the home to single level living in order to age in place, take the opportunity to incorporate other features that will assist this goal. These may include a curbless shower, taller toilet, or grab bars.

While it's convenient to be able to reside on one floor of the home, you shouldn't neglect the rest of the property. Periodically visit those rooms to keep them clean and to keep an eye out for any leaks or other issues that can cause serious damage if not addressed promptly.

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