It is important to understand the pros and cons of building a single-story, split-level or two-story home in Hawaii. A high-quality builder can work with homeowners to determine which layout is best based on needs, budget, space and property.

Ranch-style homes became popular beginning in the 1940s and can be seen from Kaimuki to Ewa Beach. As these homes age, homeowners are confronted with the decision to renovate and keep the single-story structure or build new and adopt a split-level or two-story design.

After more than 30 years of designing and building homes on Oahu, Homeworks Construction recommends reviewing these considerations.

Older adults and people with disabilities may find that maintenance, cleaning and access is easier with this design.
“We work with homeowners to understand current and future needs,” says Marshall Hickox, president of Homeworks Construction. “Single-story homes have a smaller footprint. So, if you’re looking for more energy-efficiency, the savings are built into the design. A single-story home can also be safer during emergencies such as fires, since there are no stairs.”


Adopting this design depends on lot size, whether the home is located on a hill and how much space is needed. These homes don’t offer as much privacy between rooms, which can make things uncomfortable.

“We’re very experienced in maximizing square footage, but if the homeowner wants to accommodate multi-family living, a single-story home may not be feasible,” Hickox says.

Many local homes have adopted split-level layouts because of sloped lots. A hallmark of this style is placing distinct living areas on different levels, providing both privacy and space while utilizing less square footage. This layout provides more design options.

“Building a split-level home on a slope is efficient and makes great use of available land,” Hickox says. “You can make the two levels look and feel completely different — a plus for multi-family living.”


Split-level homes can require additional construction costs. These are not as energy efficient as single-story homes, and cooling can be expensive. Split-level homes are also more challenging to navigate, clean and maintain than a single level.

Two-story homes maximize available property for living space. These homes offer greater privacy and make it easier to separate public entertaining areas from personal spaces. Thanks to the added elevation, homeowners can be far from the ocean, but still have blue within view.

“In and around Honolulu, a two-story home makes a lot of sense if you’re trying to get the most house possible,” Hickox says.

Elevation also means stairs. So, accessibility and home maintenance can present challenges. Exterior painting and even window cleaning are more difficult and expensive on a two-story home. Additional construction labor, materials and structural considerations also make this design more expensive.


If you’re unsure which layout is right for you, discuss your lifestyle, budget and property requirements with your builder. The benefit of hiring a design-build contractor like Homeworks Construction is that every solution is custom. For more information on new home construction, additions or renovations, visit

2111 S. Beretania St., Honolulu