The Boulder Tri Level Home

What Makes Boulder Colorado Tri-Level Homes Unique?

A Boulder tri-level home, also known as a split-level home is a home with multiple “levels”.  Instead of a main, separate, level with additional living spaces  a full floor up, the levels are all staggered.   This staggering defines the home type.   The main entrance level is often linked directly to both the top and bottom levels simultaneously.  Generally with a short flight of steps. 

Living in Boulder Co you are apt to see this layout frequently around town, whether it is a seller or buyer market.

Evidence of Boulder homes sell for full price or better. This stack of cards at a listing only 36 hours on the market.
Very common to see stacks of business cards when showing homes around Boulder CO.

History of The Boulder Tri Level Home

Split level homes started to increase in popularity around the 1960s. They were influenced by the design of the ranch house.  These homes were able to take advantage of smaller lots. 

Ideal for a populace coming off of the monumental changes of war that had defined the 1940’s and was starting to move into the ‘Burbs.  

Eventually, it became more desired among America’s middle class. As more and more people moved to suburbs – including Boulder –  after World War II, they desired something practical.  Plus, with a bit extra.  And it had to be affordable.  

With its smaller footprint equaling less land – less taxable  Boulder realestate — it wasn’t an instant Boulder home buyer hit.  But it caught on quickly enough.  In the USA, the popularity of this home style peaked in the 1970’s.  Boulder has large sections of the town built during the post war era through the seventies – thus a fairly common layout to spot around town.

Three Distinct Boulder House Sub Genres Around Town

I’ve noticed at least three different types of trilevel.  In no particular ordeer there are: 

  • Raised Ranch
  • Split-Entry
  • Traditional Split-Level.

Each type of Colorado tri-level house has its own pros and cons for when it comes to living in one.  Of course, you can’t get away from the basics.  Each of these homes is made up of levels and small flights of stairs. 

Raised Ranch

This type of TRI has an entrance met by two stairways. One going up and one going down. The top of the home includes the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms. The bottom floor usually has a game room and a garage. 

Split Entry

The split-entry tri-level home is close to the raised ranch tri-level. It has a larger entrance or foyer. Sometimes the larger entrance is designed as an additional living space. This additional living space can be extensive. Sometimes I refer to this layout as a Front-Back Trilevel house.

Another difference that can occur – what level the garage is on.  You might see the driveay and garage line up with the main level, or the lowest level.  Sometimes the driveway dips down to a lower level, such that when you bring your groceries into the house to disinfect from Covid-19, you have to go up a flight of steps to the kitchen.

boulder tri level home with snow on the ground out front

Traditional Split-Level

Traditional split-level homes’ entrances lead to a middle floor. The middle floor then has two small staircases.  One leading down to a lower level or to the basement.   And a second stair case going up, generally to bedrooms and bathrooms.  Generally, the stair cases are not right at the entry to the home.  With this layout you might see another floor – a basement that is an additional staircase down and located back under the kitchen level.  If you are finding it a bit confusing, something to keep in mind.  Split level homes move common rooms to different levels – your family room is frequently not on the same level as the kitchen. And this can be a drag for a family – being so spread about while all home.

Boulder Affordable Housing! 

One of the big reasons the tri-level became so popular in the Colorado house market is affordability.  This layout is actually more affordable than competiting layouts with similar square footage. One article states that traditional colonial style-houses can be almost $100,000 more costly than the split house. Since it became so popular and so many were built, there are still some great tri-level homes to purchase even today.  Start your custom Boulder home sales search now!

boulder in blue ink and search homes in pink with link to boulder home search page

Practicality of The Tri-Level Boulder Home For Sale

Buying a tri-level house really depends on you.  What is your preference when it comes to stairs?  Are looking to have some separation of space? Or do you prefer everything together.   The longest while, the Kitchen/Nook/Family room has been a much sought after layout.  But it has its drawbacks.  Someone working in the kitchen can be disruptive for others watching TV or studying in the family room.  The split level distances these activities naturally.  

Ranch layouts are popular for the lack of stairs.  Would you be comfortable going up a half flight for your bedrooms? Or down a half flight for the laundry?  The flip side to all the positives to consider: stairs.  One reason for the decline in popularity of trlevel houses is the aging Boulder Colorado population.  This floor plan by definition requires steps to your future bedroom!

Does you garage need to be on the same level as your kitchen? For some clients, this is a must.  Answering these questions will help you narrow your Boulder property search! 

Why You See So Many Boulder Tri Level Homes Around Town

boulder tri level home exterior
The Bi Level – a type of Tri Level or its own category? You decide.

Practicality is not a very sexy word.  But it does explain why the Boulder tri level home also became very popular.  It was a simple and straight-forward process building them. These stick built homes often take up less land, because of their stacked design.  And the layout really lends itself  being constructed on a slope. This was common in suburban areas. The houses are also practical in that they provide multiple places for people to find privacy. 

As we self isolate our way through the Coronavirus, imagine having space for a bedroom, home office and family room without all being in the same space at the same time.

In this day and age of Pinterest and Houzz.  In this time of the Do It Yourself home remodeling movement. When every evening there are television and YouTube shows to glamorize the Fix and Flip.  It is no surprise to discover the Boulder tri level home is prime for a makeover in 2020 and really coming into its own once more as the go-to contemporary house for sale in Boulder. 


Glance at Pinterest and you’ll discover hundreds of tri-level houses that have morphed into modern beauties.  For the Boulder first time home buyer, this layout is a great affordable option when it comes to buying.  Especially if it’s your first. Do keep in mind these homes are frequently older, built decades ago.  Budget for updating and code improvements when working on a project of this magnitude.   As you complete the interior, don’t forget to address curb appeal. Especially when it comes to resale.  What’s outside your house can sometimes be even more important in making that big first impression!

Student Rentals

They are also great houses if you have roommates, making them ideal for students attending CU Boulder.  Covid-19 aside, college rentals near campus can fetch $800 to $1200 dollars per bedroom.   Split levels can give students plenty of space to get away from one another and study.

boulder couple packing box with their dog assisting
Set aside a water bowl, pooper scooper bags and a leash for Fido when making your move!

Pet Friendly Layout!

Several real estate agents I trust at 8z real estate agree.  Split levels make great homes for families with animals.  That lower level generally has an out of sight sliding glass door. Ideal for adding a pet door that is out of sight, out of mind to passerby’s yet gives our four legged friends flexibility.  When you gotta go, you have got to go!   And while we don’t own a split, our stair case is multiple levels and our cat loves hanging out on every level of the staircase.

I’ve frequently also seen owners add internal cat doors to the lower basement levels so pets can access litter boxes that are out of sight and sound (and smell).

Buying And Selling Your Colorado Tri-Level Abode

Affordability in our Boulder Colorado real estate market is going to be a factor.  The tri/split level homes around town are generally better priced than their next door two story neighbors.  Buyers looking to get into the community might find this floor plan a good starter.  What About You? Have you ever lived in one? Could you see yourself happily ever after in this layout? Or are you interested in a custom search of houses for sale Boulder Co? Give me a shout. I look forward to hearing about your real estate needs.


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