My First Home – A Raised Ranch
My wife and I bought our first home a year before I learned about modular homes and became a builder. It was a raised ranch built in the 1960’s. It had everything we needed: three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the main floor and a drive-under garage, family room, and third bathroom in the basement. It also had a lovely yard framed by an attractive stone retaining wall.
Like any raised ranch, our home was a one-story built with a split-level entry on top of a raised foundation. The entry was “split” in that it was built halfway between the first floor and the basement. A platform at the front door connected two sets of stairs, one going up to the first floor and one going down to the basement.
To make the bi-level design work, the foundation was elevated 5’ above the finished grade at the front of the home. The back of our raised ranch had a wood framed walkout with a slider and some full sized windows.
Why You Might Want a Modular Raised Ranch
There are several reasons why you might want to build a modular raised ranch. Elevating the foundation out of the ground can solve problems caused by a high water table. It is often easier to minimize excavation costs on a sloped property by building a raised ranch. Also, if the property has sufficient slope, the low side of the basement can be used for a drive-under garage, which is considerably less expensive to build than an attached or detached garage.
In addition, a raised ranch, like a Cape Cod design with an unfinished second story, offers you a chance to affordably expand your living space. The raised foundation allows you to finish the basement with larger windows. In addition to providing good natural light, the larger windows allow you to build bedrooms in the basement while meeting the building code requirement for egress.
In designing a raised ranch, you will need to decide whether you want the front of the house flush with the front of the foundation or cantilevered over the top of the foundation. A cantilevered home, which is often preferred for its look, will have a foundation that is a foot or two narrower than the main floor, which means it provides less usable space in the basement. You will also have to decide if you want the front entry to be flush with the front of the house or recessed. An advantage to a recessed entry, in addition to its appearance, is that it provides some overhead protection from the weather for anyone entering the front door.
When thinking about the basement floor plan of your raised ranch, pay attention to where the split-level stairs are located. This is particularly important if you are building a drive-under garage, since the stairs should not intrude into the garage.
Modular Split Level Homes
“Split-Levels” are usually T-shaped ranches that are composed of a ranch on one leg of the T and a raised ranch on the other leg to create a tri-level design. They offer some of the advantages of a raised ranch, although they do not work well on a flat lot with a high water table unless the ranch wing of the house is built on a crawl space. As with a raised ranch, split levels can also be built with either a flush or a cantilevered front and a flush or a recessed entry. And they can often accommodate a drive-under garage.
For more information about building a modular raised ranch, see Designing a Modular Home, Modular Home Specifications and Features, and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.