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Why are Houses Mostly Two-Storey? Why not Three or Four?


A photo of modern type two-storey house.

For hundreds of years now, it appears double-storey houses have just been rising everywhere, completely taking over from their single-storey counterparts.  Interestingly, just the other day, my five-year- old intelligently asked, “but why are houses mostly two-storey, why not three or four?”.

The question got me wondering. After some seconds of awkward, dad-brainstorming-silence, I finally responded, “Well, that’s because two-storey houses are cheaper, safer and generally better.” I had put my foot in it. I now had to defend myself.


I think it’s a no-brainer that most bungalows, depending on their size,  are cheaper to construct than a two-storey house. Similarly, a two-storey is undoubtedly cheaper than three or four storeys. “When it comes to pure economics, two-storey homes are surprisingly the more affordable option.”

Depending on its design, it requires less of almost everything-less cement, less wood, fewer window and door frames, fewer labourers and so-less cost.

I have since found that a two-storey maximises space and construction costs.   This is especially as plumbing and roofing are not built over a broad landscape. Accordingly, since most people can barely afford a bungalow anyway, let alone a two or three-storey house, it’s not surprising that most houses hardly go beyond two levels.

Security and Safety

A cctv camera on the house serve as a security.

After building a house that’s within your budget, I believe the next best considerations are security and safety. Two-story homes offer more privacy and security. If the bedrooms are on the second floor, this prevents guests from wandering into your personal living space.

On the other hand, there is the opportunity to separate the bedrooms, “having one owner’s retreat on the first level and the other bedrooms on the second floor”. Having bedrooms on the top floor also means that an intruder cannot have easy access to the bedrooms.

Depending on where you are in the US, for instance, it is best to consider the geography of the site before building a house that’s more than two stories. That’s because most US states like Kentucky, Illinois, and San Francisco are prone to deadly tornadoes and earthquakes, respectively.

I can just imagine the death and destruction “as tornadoes and storms hit several US states, toppling buildings and trapping people inside” after being pounded by gale-force winds or shaken by an earthquake.

I will admit though, that double-story houses cannot provide as much refuge from floods as multi-story ones. That as it may be, you can still keep away from the rising waters, safely tucked away on the second floor-praying the water doesn’t continue to rise!

Unlike two-story houses, three to four-story ones often mean a flight of stairs or, at best, an elevator. However, since having an elevator in a private residence is quite pricey, more often than not, most multi-story houses have steep stairs. This is until old age kicks in.

Not only are stairs tiring, but they are also dangerous. Apart from the danger, they pose in old age, accidents on stairs occur frequently regardless of age. According to one study, “An estimated 24,760,843 patients were treated in emergency departments for a stair-related injury during [a] 23-year study period” in the US alone.

Adding another level, therefore,  is almost like inviting accidents and possible death into your home.

Sadly, the problem with multi-story buildings doesn’t end there.

Heating and Cooling

As if that isn’t enough, multi-level houses tend to have poor heat circulation. In summer, hot air rises and tends to settle in the upper levels of a three-plus story house, causing uncomfortable temperature rises. It doesn’t end there.

During winter, the first level of a multi-story house is near freezing. You will spend a lot of money on heating systems to regulate indoor temperatures. Heating and cooling a multi-story house can, for that reason, cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year.

Convenience and Attractiveness

A exterior view of modern type two-story house.

Fortunately, it appears that the world over, the hazards and inconveniences of multi-story houses are fewer than a two-story homes.

The Japanese take full advantage of two-story living by building innovative, convenient two-story ‘micro homes’ to evade their country’s stringent tax and land laws. Similarly, in places like Hong Kong, where more rooms are desirable in their rental housing market, having two levels means more rooms can be built than in one.  In this way, more yard space- if any-is freed up, increasing the value of the property.

In terms of attractiveness, I understand double-story houses are often more so than multi-story ones. Firstly, you’re spoilt for choice in terms of design. Secondly, a double story can easily be adapted to any style, be it either traditional or innovative contemporary architecture.

Double-story houses can also be built on most terrain, especially on slopes. Doing so can reward you with just enough height, which offers scenic and clear views of both nature and the commoners below. If you’re lucky, that is. Otherwise, like me, you’ll be stuck with the dissatisfying view of your neighbor’s yard as is the case in some housing estates.


By the end of this story, a double-story is a lot more accommodating (pun intended) than other multi-level houses. Indeed, while in our ever-shrinking world, multi-level buildings are quite common, the ideal house for most is a two-story. It is less expensive, more convenient, and the least problematic.

For these reasons, two-story houses will remain the house of choice and characteristic of most residential areas -I am sure for years to come.


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