How to Add Onto a Ranch: Go Up

A recent design project gave me the chance to explore several ways to add onto a ranch house with a walk out basement.  Read more about the whole project and other potential design in this post: How to Add onto a Ranch: Four Ways.

existing front view

The existing house had an awkward layout:

  • an overly prominent garage
  • a wide and shallow front room with little view
  • small bedrooms sharing a single (very odd) bathroom
  • no public spaces facing the gorgeous back yard.

To my mind, the major benefit of adding a story was to change the character of the front of the house and bring the garage back into balance.

the Front Facelift

I proposed a layout with an added second story on only the front two thirds of the house to allow for a more dramatic cottage roofline (in conversation with several other neighborhood houses) and to keep the back yard from getting a cliff face effect from three vertical stories rising from the walkout basement.

The manner of the new addition and the shape of the roofline were particularly vital in this case.  An uncreative added roof line like the one on the left can kill an addition whereas a more sensitive one like those on the right can actually moderate the scale of the house.

The floor plans


up upper floor

The added upper story’s square character lent itself well organization around a central stair hall and sitting area with kids bedrooms at the front and the back half devoted to master suite facing the back yard view.

up basement

The issue with removing three bedrooms and associated bathrooms from the main floor is that it left quite a lot of open space to fill.  I used the opportunity to separate the stair cases with a street side stair going up to the bedrooms and a back yard adjacent stair leading smoothly from the living room down to den and back yard access below.  The mud room steals a little space from the generous garage and offers access to both the kitchen and entry and to the deck.

up main floor


The basement space could then be relatively undisturbed but there remained room for a generous rec room opening out onto a back yard patio.

open stair options.jpg

These are some of the ideas for how that connecting stair could remain open and really bring the living and den spaces together as they overlook the back yard.

Adding a floor to an existing house is one of the boldest moves to make in a remodel.  It’s useful when you need to really boost your square footage, when the lot area is limited or where there’s a great view to reach for.  It can also be expensive.  You’ll be adding stairs, a new roof and a great deal of structure.  That said, ranch houses are usually built sturdily enough to support this kind of addition and it can make for a really dramatic makeover.

This would never be my first move, especially for a house which already had a walk out basement, but it was a fascinating design exercise.

Read on to find details on the “Back” scheme.


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