A bungalow is a small one- or two-story house often marked by dormer windows and wide verandas
The bungalow home style originated in Bengal, India, and rose in popularity in the U.S. in the early 20th century. Bungalows are relatively small, low homes that come in a variety of styles often built on large plots of land. They’re perfect homes for individuals and small families who don’t need a ton of space to stretch out, and (bonus!) their curb appeal is off the charts.
What Are the Characteristics of a Bungalow?
A bungalow is a small house or cottage that’s low-rise and standalone, usually including a veranda that’s perfect for relaxing with a glass of lemonade on a summer afternoon. While there are many unique styles of bungalows, they are all typically one or one-and-a-half stories with dormer windows, an overhanging roof, and support columns. Inside, you’ll see an open floor plan that eliminates wasted space.
Bungalows are square-shaped homes, usually built on large plots of land perfect for featuring lush gardens and a variety of trees and shrubs. For that reason, this style of home offers plenty of privacy.
Bungalows are ideal for singles, couples without kids, or very small families—especially if your household includes older persons or those with mobility concerns. These low-rise homes often don’t have stairs, making it easy for homeowners to get around.
Pros and Cons of Living in a Bungalow
Like all home types, bungalows come with both advantages and disadvantages. While this home style is a great fit for some people, it’s not everyone’s dream home. Before buying or renting a bungalow, consider your family’s size and budget.
Relatively low cost
Because bungalows were most popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century, most of the ones you find today are older. Historic homes like these often come with their own charm, such as built-in bookcases and unique molding around door frames and windows. If you’re looking for a home with character, a bungalow might be for you.
Bungalows can often cost less than other home styles because of their small size. They typically only include one story and one or two bedrooms, and their market price reflects that. That’s welcome news for young families on a budget! Just know that if your family grows, you’ll need to move into a bigger place.
May need renovations
Poor natural light
If you have plans to grow your family and adopt a puppy or two along the way, you’ll quickly grow out of a bungalow. Bungalows are fairly small and are therefore not suited for larger families—unless you want to be packed together like sardines.
Some bungalows will require a lot of maintenance or even renovations. Old exterior siding may need to be replaced after experiencing years of wear. If you can spot holes, cracks, or water damage, your siding is worse for wear and needs repair. Repaint any faded siding and watch out for misshapen shingles, too, as moisture can warp them over time.
Lead and asbestos, materials used in homebuilding until the public recognized their health hazards in the 1970s, could also be an issue in an older home. Foundation or structural problems can occur over time, even in homes that are solidly built. Major cracks and damaged columns should be inspected by a local foundation repair professional.
Low homes generally mean less natural light, and this applies to bungalows, too. They often feature large front windows that attempt to mitigate this issue, but they still typically lack natural light. If you like to keep things dim, this might not be an issue. But to brighten up the space, add tall windows wherever possible, position mirrors opposite windows to reflect light, and be liberal with accent lamps.
Types of Bungalows
There are various types of bungalows, each exhibiting its own unique style while maintaining the classic small, square, and low bungalow look.
Typically built from natural materials including wood and stone, craftsman bungalows are simple, classic homes seen all over the world. They are street-facing homes, traditionally with low-pitched, shingled roofs. Craftsman bungalows are often painted in earth tones, especially brown or forest green. They’re one or one-and-a-half stories tall and feature simple square columns and broad verandas.
Tudor bungalows are distinguished from traditional bungalows by their relatively intricate design work. They have steeply-pitched roofs that feature large chimneys, detailed doorways, wall cladding, and tall, decorative windows.
Similar to the Craftsman style, California bungalows are simple one-story homes with large porches and shingled roofs. But unlike the Craftsman style, California bungalows are typically built with stucco and wood. Their breezy layouts perfectly suit sunny Southern California.
A Chicago-based architectural movement (which included Frank Lloyd Wright!) known as the Prairie School developed this style of bungalow. Prairie bungalows feature low-pitched roofs with large piers used to support porch roofs. They also often have flat chimneys, contrasting wall materials, and rows of Prairie-style casement windows.
Chicago bungalows are rectangular with brick siding and usually include a full basement level. This type of bungalow has an entrance located off to one side with a small flight of stairs leading to the front door from the street. Chicago bungalows are single-family homes that often feature low-pitched, overhanging roofs, and several large windows.
No matter what bunglow style you have, maintaining your home is essential. Not only does home maintenance keep your house looking great, but it also keeps you safe—and happy.
Most bungalows are decades old, so they may have some components that are less-than-safe. Check if everything is up to code before you buy any home. If you find hazards that need to be taken care of ASAP, have a plan to address those issues before you move in.
In general, bungalows themselves are easier to maintain than other home types because they’re so small. As with all other homes, they require regular floor care, window cleaning and moisture prevention. But because they are only one or one-and-a-half stories, most bungalow homeowners find these responsibilities perfectly manageable.
Old houses can often have outdated electrical systems, which are unsafe and could cause fires if they malfunction. If your bungalow has old wiring, hire a local electrician to repair or replace it. This is typically a one-time fix, so you won’t need to upkeep your system unless it becomes damaged in the future.
Bungalows typically feature shingles, which can warp or wear over time. If you notice curling edges, cracks, or balding, it’s time to replace or repair your shingles. Shingles can last up to 30 years, but harsh weather will cause them to wear out more quickly.
Because bungalows are relatively smaller than other homes, they won’t put a lot of stress on heating and cooling systems, which are more efficient in smaller homes with open living spaces. These systems can therefore last a bit longer in bungalows compared to other home styles. But vents will still need periodic cleaning and filters will need occasional replacement to keep your system running smoothly.
You should also consider yard maintenance before you commit to a bungalow. These homes typically come with large plots of land and can include gardens and trees. While you can contract out your yard work and lawn care by hiring a local pro, it isn’t always cost-efficient. If you have a black thumb, condos may be a better small home option. Keeping greenery alive is a full-time job!