18 answers

Colonial Vs. Ranch

We are house hunting, and have two houses in mind. One is a ranch, one is a colonial. Currently, we live in a one level condo. I have some reservations about a colonial...having to deal with stairs for both safety and practicality reasons. Just wondering if all you moms could weigh in on the pros and cons of whatever style of house you have. I have one daughter, 23 months old, and hope to have more in the future.

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Thanks so much to everyone for your thoughts! We decided to make an offer on the colonial. There is SO much more space, and as many of you said, stairs to the basement would mean some of the same issues! We already live in an upper level condo, so we're used to stairs, and prob won't live there forEVER, but if we do, we'll have plenty of space to grow! Thanks to all of you who made me feel better about it!

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Since moving to a 2-level home with a basement almost a year ago, I have lost more weight than ever with the least amount of effort! I now weight less than I did when I got married ....and that was also 3 children ago. :) If that's not a "pro" for a colonial, I don't know what is.

We have a ranch and I miss the privacy of a colonial (which is what I grew up in). Even ranch style homes have basement stairs. We always used the gates that lock on the staircases. Good luck :)

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I would go with a colonial. It is quieter... and easier to keep clean. You just need to install a gate at the top of the stairs.

We have a colonial and I love it. I can send the kids upstairs when we need some quiet adult time, and the stairs were never really a problem. I generally am not a fan of the ranch because it always felt "squished" to me, like in order to get anywhere you had to walk around someone else, but maybe that was just the ranches I've been in. I love the more open floor plan of our colonial style home.

I have lived in both and feel that the problem isn't with little kids (although there are those concerns about stairs and safety, but nothing you can't gate, etc) But if you are considering it for your final home for the rest of your lives, then you won't want to do stairs when you are retired. If you won't be in it that long, then it is just 6 of one, half dozen of the other. Happy hunting.

Having grown up in ranches, I'm in favor of them. They also usually have huge basements that can be finished. My husband does heating and cooling for a living, and it is much cheaper to budget for those 2 items (heat and AC)in a ranch. One of my sisters has a colonial and she says it is very hard to keep the upper floor cool in the summer. Snow removal from a roof would also be easier on a ranch rather than a colonial. Are you happy with both school districts? What about the locations of both homes and resale value based on those....just a couple of things to also consider. Good luck.

Hi L.,

If you plan on having more children, definitely consider a ranch home with a finished basement. I grew up in a huge colonial with high staircases, moved to a ranch when I married and now I live in a in a quad (4 floors) with my kids. The best thing about living in a multi-level house is PRIVACY. You can get away and have your own space on a separate floor from the kids providing they are older, but if the kids are small, it's very hard to keep an eye on them. The bad thing is that you have multiple floors to maintain. Cleaning windows on the top floor from the outside is a pain. Ranch homes are easier to maintain and if you have little kids, they are safer and it's easier to keep an eye on the kids. With a colonial, it's hard because you have to block off the stairs with gates when they are little. Also, if you find a colonial with a high staircase, that too can be dangerous with small children unless you keep them on the lower floor until they are old enough. The best type of colonial would be one where your laundry room is located on the same floor as your bedrooms and linen closets--that way you aren't carrying clothes baskets up and down stairs. Because if you are taking clothes up and down stairs with little ones around, you will have to keep shutting gates--that's a hassle, trust me. Overall, if you are planning on having more children, I would seriously consider a large ranch with a finished basement. From my experiences, if you have young children, ranch homes are the best--easier to maintain, less dangers. When your children are older, you could always move into a multi-level home.

Good luck in your decision,


one thing that I like about our colonial is taht the bedrooms are upstairs so if guests are over they are not likely to wander into our bedrooms and see any unmade beds or general clutter.

what I dont like about my colonial is walking up and dwon the stairs..

It might be hard to find a big enough ranch for your growing family.

L. ~
I agree with Kathy. I had a townhouse apartment when my son was young (he was 4 when we moved in), and it was fine as far as safety...for the most part. He did fall down the stairs once...but what a pain when doing laundry...carrying baskets up 2 flights of stairs! My husband and I are in our 40's and bought a house 1 1/2 yrs ago...we intentionally bought a ranch...I know we will never buy another house, and when we're older, I don't want to worry about the stairs.
good luck!


We too built a new home when our boys were very young. I intentionally went with a ranch because I thought it would be safer for us all to have the bedrooms on the main floor. I have a terrible fear of fire and knew that we could always get them out of the house if one ever broke out in the middle of the night. Also the thought of having little ones going up and down stairs was another concern. I remember as a child taking more than a few tumbles down our stairs at home and how scary that was. Our builder encouraged a two story house because you can get more space that way, which is true and something I would desire now very much, but with our ranch house we have a full basement that is just like having two full floors anyway. From a safety stand point you can't go wrong with a ranch style, but I really do love those old victorian ladies with towering ceilings and multiple floors. Maybe someday!


I like the look of a two floor house better and wanted one with an upstairs so the kids could have their own space away from Mom and Dad when they have friends over. When we have a lot of people over it is definitley quiet cuz all the kids are upstairs. However, I did not want to be upstairs and them downstairs or vice-versa - I wanted to all sleep on the same floor.

We have been in our two story (from a one story) for one year now. I still love our house, but it is true that the stairs are a lot of work. It's healthy for you though! LOL

A lot of older people do not like stairs and I would say it depends on how long you plan to live in this house. But also ranch style homes are usually older homes because they aren't very economical. They are very expensive to heat and even when they are smaller they still make you feel like you are very far away from each other when on opposite ends of the home. My grandmother has a ranch and when the children are in the bedroom playing and I'm in the kitchen it is like we are in different homes. Stairs are only dangerous for a small amount of time and a cheap gate can fix that. Personally I like a ranch 65% of the time but live in a 2 story home and love it. I would weigh your choice on different facts. Appliances, heating, air, water heater, date built, neighbors, whether the house was cared for... Are all very important things. When we moved into our house it had all matching appliances that looked new. But when we moved in we had to replace the dishwasher, airconditioner, refrigerator, water softner within the first 3 months. We had it inspected before hand and it still seemed to nickel and dime us.

Safety, from the standpoint of children, is a non-issue: put up a gate until they can navigate! Everyone is talking about the great basements in a ranch - well, that would involve a stairway! I think that if you are looking at a "California" style ranch - very long and spread out - that would work with children. What I don't like about a smaller ranch is that there is not enough separation of bedrooms from noisy areas - kitchen, living, etc. There is really no place to go ~ On the other hand, you will be doing a lot of stair-climbing in a colonial, especially when your children are infants, but the upstairs is much more private and quiet. I also feel very vulnerable during the night, sleeping, in a ranch when the windows are open, but that's just me.

I too have lived in both. Currently in a colonial. I get so sick of running up and down stairs. With 2 kids under 10 it can be a lot sometimes. Also my kids have a fear of being upstairs at night (bedtime) by themselves. Don't get me wrong, I love my house, but if I had it to do over I would go with another ranch. We also have heating and cooling issues with the 2nd floor.

Since moving to a 2-level home with a basement almost a year ago, I have lost more weight than ever with the least amount of effort! I now weight less than I did when I got married ....and that was also 3 children ago. :) If that's not a "pro" for a colonial, I don't know what is.

Having lived in both (and currently in a colonial), I would go for the ranch! I miss my ranch so much! : ) I hate the stairs, it seems like I am always forgetting something and having to run back up! Don't get me wrong, it is nice having the bedrooms upstairs and not having to worry about if the bedrooms are messy, when people come over they normally have no reason to go upstairs in a colonial. But in a ranch, sometimes to use a bathroom, you have to walk down the hall and can see into the bedrooms. But the thing I miss most about my ranch is the big basement!!!! My colonial only has 1/2 a basement. It is so small and cluttered. Since you do have a little one and are planning on having more, having a ranch with a huge basement, you can always have a play area for the kids!! Good luck on your new home!!!

We have a ranch and I miss the privacy of a colonial (which is what I grew up in). Even ranch style homes have basement stairs. We always used the gates that lock on the staircases. Good luck :)

colonial if your going to have more than one kid.

What are the basement situations on both homes, does one have a walk out entry (easier to get out of if you are down there in an emergency such as a fire). I have lived in both, but miss my ranch mostly because the basements are bigger in ranches and we really use our basement for additional living space. I had never lived in a colonial until now, and I love everything about it (except the smaller basement). The stairs while I thought would be a big deal never were because the only time we are up there is to sleep. Now that my daughter is 5, she is up there more because we moved her play room up to the extra bedroom.

Dear L. G.,

Right now you are your husband are both likely healthy, but if you intend to live in that same house all your lives, a ranch style is your best choice. When my husband and I bought the house we are now in we were both healthy but now we are not and cannot afford to move and this is not a good time to sell. If we could have thought ahead we may have bought a ranch style and been in a better situation for our health now. Stairs are hard on both of us; he is disabled for his health and I was injured on the job and cannot do stairs very easily even though it happened nearly two years ago and will have this problem the rest of my life. The doctor put me on permanent restrictions so I keep them in mind at home as well because if I don't it makes me experience more pain where I was injured at work.

L. C.

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