Expanding Ranch Style Homes

Serving the Washington,
DC Metro Area
Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is a practicing architect whose
insights on residential architec-
ture have been published in
House Beautiful, the New York Times, Southern Living, the Washingtonian, Washington
Post, Colonial Homes and Other periodicals. Ask the Architect appears frequently in the Times Mirror news group, and has been featured in titles published by Media General, Network Communications and others.
From House
to Home:

An Architect’s Perspective
On Remodeling
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“Bought a ranch style house on two acre lot. The attached garage is connected by a narrow breezeway. There is "dead space at the front entry and between the "garage" area and the end of the original house. I would like to take advantage of this space and "bump out" over the breeze way to give more room inside and renew the front porch while maintaining the basic roof line. All is a single level addition. Thanks for any picture ideas.”

- D.A., Pennsylvania


It’s always exciting to study a house and figure out the best way to remodel it. I suggest that you get a copy of the book A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester. The 2013 issue is the most up-to-date. On page 596, you will see an entire chapter about Ranch style houses with photos and tips. I think this reference will be very helpful in planning the work, and I recommend you get a local architect to help you with the design.

Expanding a Ranch style home generally takes homeowners on one of two possible routes: up or out.

Ranch Style House Additions

If your goal is to substantially increase square footage, and the lot is small, the savvy remodeler can implement what is humorously referred to as a “pop-top.” This involves removing the existing roof and building a new second floor above the existing single story. “Pop-tops” can accommodate drastic changes to the home’s original architecture, mainly because a full-scale remodeling of this magnitude will impact all aspects of the existing house. Among other factors, the plan requires altering the first floor to accommodate a new stair well, reconfiguring existing living space and developing a new façade. As little of the existing house is untouched, “pop-top” remodeling requires vision, commitment and deep pockets.

On the other hand, if you have a large lot that accommodates a new rear or side wing (and there are no setback restrictions), you can minimize costs with a new same-level addition. This simpler approach will often allow your family to continue living in the house during the remodeling. Building a wing that forms a courtyard within an “L” plan configuration also has the benefit of creating space for a patio—a change that often improves the home’s indoor/outdoor continuum. For a cost-effective architectural solution, Ranch houses are most easily elaborated in a contemporary style.

Read more in our article Home on the Range: Enlarging and Elaborating Your Ranch Home.

Have another question? Want to know more specifics about additions for specific period style homes? Feel free to contact us!

About Bruce

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is a practicing architect whose insights on residential architecture have been published in House Beautiful, Southern Living, Washingtonian, Colonial Homes, and other periodicals.