Split Level House Landscaping IDEAS
Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Split Level House Landscaping IDEAS

  • Planted spaces that are left over between outdoor living spaces must be designed both as attractive focal points and solve problems such as runoff velocity and erosion.
  • A great deal of planning is involved to link all levels of this house with many levels of outdoor living space.
  • Split level home landscapes must be designed to ensure runoff from the lawn does not cause slope failure or flooding beneath the deck or the house foundation.
  • On this site without ground space, the grid railing and double gates provides an on-deck dog run where Poochie can still be close, but not underfoot.

The landscape architect’s greatest challenge is design of split level homesites. These difficult sites require considerable engineering and attention to detail related to elevation changes and accessibility. Erosion control and slope stabilization strategies are also crucial. It’s important for the homeowner to be aware of the most common challenges their designer will face when laying out the site plan for these often complex projects. The more you know, the better your communication will be with your designer during the design process, pointing out areas that are lacking, or places where opportunities can be exploited.

To follow are the six most common areas where you may encounter problems during the design process. All too often these are not identified until the project is complete and changes become vastly more expensive.

Poorly Designed Entry Spaces

Where space is limited by irregular terrain, the front entry becomes more than a transition to the house. It is doubly important when the exposure here is opposite that of the back of the home where the majority of outdoor living spaces occur. When the front is exposed to the morning sun, it may prove the only outdoor area for basking and coffee. Therefore, if space allows, ask your designer to create a more intimate spot, protected by screens and plants for privacy, but still fully exposed to the sun. If the front of the house faces west, the same applies in reverse for a cocktail at sunset.

  • Create space for at least one comfortable chair, perhaps two.
  • Plant to provide privacy if exposed to the street or neighbors.
  • Integrate the space with the house structure to avoid building code height limitations.

Undersized Deck and Terrace

Split level homesites often feature a variety of living spaces, sometimes on grade such as a terrace. However, on sloping homesites a deck may be the only usable outdoor space, so the value of these living spaces are far greater than on a level homesite. With such emphasis it is essential they be designed larger than you might consider adequate for an ordinary suburban lot.

Get a Geological Analysis

All too often a split level home is the result of a high value lot on difficult terrain. Before you buy, build or attempt a major remodel, demand a full analysis of underground conditions by a licensed geologist or civil engineer. Their report may prove the nature of the bedrock too fractured for ordinary footings and require special high cost engineering and reinforcement.

Design of decks on irregular topography is complicated by footings installed into sloping ground, and often they must be deep enough to reach bedrock for stability, particularly in earthquake prone California. This results in increased construction costs, which are often shaved down by reducing the overall size of the deck. This is the last place to downsize because a deck too small to use properly will forever be a problem you’ll regret.