ranch vs. two-story home design

Ranch or Two-Story Home: Which Should You Choose?

Which is better, a ranch or a two-story home? It’s a debate that prospective homeowners have grappled with for decades. Before you choose between a ranch and a two-story, it’s important to understand what each design offers as far as layout, functionality and cost. In this blog, we explore key aspects of the two styles and how working with a custom home builder to construct each design might enhance your lifestyle.

Key Considerations

Space Utilization

The traditional ranch-style home – also known as a “rancher” or “rambler” – has been popular since the 1920s and is known for its long, low profile and open layout. On the other hand, a two-story condenses the footprint of the house by having two stacked levels of square footage.

Ranch Home

One-story ranch homes are well-known for their sprawling, open-concept floor plans. These homes generally include all the important rooms – kitchen, living area, bedrooms and bathrooms – on one floor, creating an easy flow from one area to another. Many are rectangular in shape but it’s not uncommon for a ranch home to be built in a ‘U’ or ‘L’ shape.

The “ranch house” plan is so named because it is similar to the unpretentious, low-lying structure you mind find on a cattle ranch. Ranch homes quickly gained in popularity in the years following World War II, when soldiers settled down in the suburbs to start families. Ranches were comfortable, practical, affordable and proved to be the perfect style of home for tens of millions of Americans.

Two-Story Home

Two-story homes have their square footage divided into two levels, allowing for a more efficient use of space in suburban and urban areas where land is expensive and scarce. The main floor often contains the common areas such as the kitchen, dining room and living room, while the bedrooms are on the second floor, separate from the social areas of the house.

Comparing the two, a ranch home will often cover more land because of the expanded horizontal footprint. In contrast, a two-story home features a smaller footprint and is better suited for a small or narrow lot. The choice between a ranch and two-story home will primarily depend on your land options and your personal preference in design.


If you are a prospective homebuyer working with a custom home builder, there are some financial implications to consider with these two home designs.

Ranch Home

When it comes to a rancher, the construction cost can be higher because it requires more roof and foundation, two of the most expensive components of a new home build. And because it has a larger footprint, it requires a larger lot size than a two-story home. However, repair and maintenance costs for a ranch tend to be lower due to the ease of access to the roof and exterior walls.

Two-Story Home

By contrast, two-stories often have a smaller footprint that requires less land, reducing the cost to build. They also allow for more design flexibility when it comes to the configuration of living and sleeping areas, which may boost a home’s value. On the other hand, the height of a two-story home makes any maintenance task more challenging. This can lead to the need for professionals and specialized equipment to access the roof and other areas.

Lifestyle Suitability

As our lives change, so does what we require from our homes. The ranch and the two-story home offer distinct advantages for today’s homeowner.

Ranch Home

The one-story construction of a ranch home makes it highly suitable for lifestyles where easy accessibility and safety are prime considerations. For seniors and those with mobility challenges, ranch homes offer access to all rooms without the need to climb stairs. Parents with young children can keep a close eye on their kids since all rooms are located on one floor, while not dealing with the risk of children falling down stairs.

Two-Story Home

For families with teens or couples seeking privacy, the two-story home allows for the creation of separate and secluded spaces within the home. It may also offer more outdoor living area since the footprint of the home can be smaller compared to a ranch home with similar square footage.

Basements in Ranch & Two-Story Homes

In a ranch home, the basement is often finished to double the available square footage without increasing the home’s footprint. This creates extra space that can be used for a variety of purposes such as a family room, game room, gym or guest suite.

Two-story homes can also include a basement to create additional living space and storage, but the demand for basements is less because they naturally offer more living area.

If you live in an area that is susceptible to tornadoes, a basement is a smart addition to either design.

Gateway: Cheyenne’s Leading Custom Home Builder

In the end, the decision to build out, down or up depends on your unique situation. To save on construction costs, build up. If you have small children or mobility issues, building out is the best bet to avoid navigating stairs. Whether you’re leaning toward a sprawling ranch or a spacious two-story home, Gateway can help you build the perfect place to call home!

As Cheyenne’s custom home builder of choice, Gateway brings a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping you choose the right home design to meet your needs. We offer a selection of versatile ranch and two-story floor plans that have proven to be popular with Wyoming homebuyers. Is one of our plans not quite right for your family? Let’s talk about how we can modify your favorite plan to better suit your needs. We can also design a fully custom home from scratch. For more information, call us today at (307) 632-8950 or complete our online contact request form. We look forward to building your future today!

Stay connected with Gateway by following us on our social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, X and LinkedIn. You can also check out the latest videos on our YouTube channel!


Get $1,000 OFF a Gateway Home!

Sign up for our email list and we’ll send you our latest updates and new listings, along with serious savings on your next home purchase.