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How to Modernize an Old Ranch House

Old ranch house with modern windows

A ranch house is considered an integral part of American architecture for almost a century. Even nine out of ten homes were ranch houses in the US during the 1950s. However, demand for ranch houses fell drastically in the 1970s leading way to more traditional and ornamentation colonial-style homes.

But a new generation of homeowners is appreciating the popular design today because they find it easy to update the architecture according to their taste. So, how to modernize ranch house in the best possible way? Here are some ways to make the most out of these affordable, livable, and popular homes. 

Start by adding more light to the house

One of the biggest issues that many homeowners face with ranch-style homes is darkness. However, there are several ways to do that.

1. Installing skylights

The best way to counter the low ceiling effect is by adding skylights. And, you can choose from lots of designs that include domed lights, window-style skylights, and tubes running through the attic. Because skylights come in different sizes, you can find the right one that suits your preference and budget. 

While this is a DIY project, you can always hire a professional. Each type of installation requires a different approach. So, read all the instructions carefully.

2. Replace dark flooring

Commonly, many ranch-style homes feature dark flooring. But you can update it by improving how light reflects from the surface. You can remove dark carpeting by replacing it with a light version.

If the house has dated, dark vinyl flooring, you can replace it with a pale-colored tile. Besides, you can apply a light stain on an existing dark-colored wood floor.

3. Add windows

A typical ranch house features a large window along with a few smaller windows. When you compare them to other structural styles, ranch houses have fewer windows. So, replacing the existing windows or adding a few brings more light into the house. 

Depending on your experience level and the scale of the project, you can do it on your own. But hiring an expert is recommended if you are planning to enlarge some windows and build new ones. 

4. Remove dark paneling

Another problem in ranch-style houses is dark wall coverings. When combined with low ceilings, the dark walls create a cave-like atmosphere. Removing darker panels is an inexpensive renovation and brings instant airiness to your living space. Here is the basic process of removing paneling.

  • Use paint to mark the panel seams in each room of the house
  • Remove the trim in the house including those around the windows, door, and on the ceiling and floor
  • Make use of a pry bar so that it can lift the paneling along the seams. Because paneling is nailed to the wall stud oftentimes, it will take some time to remove it
  • Look out for the condition of the walls. Most of the time, paneling is attached to the studs directly and there is no wall behind. For situations like this one, you need to hang drywall or hire an expert to complete the work
  • Paint the walls with light color and replace the trim

If you are looking for a quick fix, paint over the paneling directly.

Next, improve the exterior

The long, low shape ranch houses are designed to fit well in wide-open spaces. But this visual style doesn’t work great in the suburbs. So, try some of these ideas to improve the exterior of your house.

1. Remove anything that gives a dated exterior touch 

Because most of the ranch-style houses were built during the 60s and 70s, they will have dated exteriors. Here are some ideas that you may try. 

  • Replace an old front door with a new, modern version 
  • Remove dated window awnings and install shutters instead
  • Replace the wrought iron black railings with wood or other alternatives 
  • Remove vertical trim and use overlapping shingles to modernize the ranch house

2. Add a patio area or porch in the front of the house

The best part about ranch homes is their connection with the outdoor environment. While you can always find sliding patio doors in the backyard, how about creating a similar effect at the front? There is no denying that ranch-style houses appear cramped and narrow from the outside. 

However, adding a porch can help a lot when it is about increasing the visual appearance of your house. For that, you need to extend the roof and use pillars to support them. Also, you can add a raised deck or pour a concrete patio for the floor. 

Add a short railing for more appealing visuals. Because this part of renovation requires extensive skill, it is wise to hire a professional. However, you can get involved by assisting them in the finished work. 

3. Try adding different heights in landscaping 

Because ranch houses are one-story construction consisting of a shallow roofline and horizontal lines, it helps a lot if you add some vertical height elements such as decorative detail, potted plants, or landscaping. 

In short, adding trees in your front yard can add shade and improve the curb appeal as well. Moreover, you can plant bushes that grow fast near the corners of the house. That will help soften the sharp angles. When the bushes grow, they will provide some kind of vertical interest. 

Lastly, remove popcorn ceilings

It is common to have popcorn ceilings on a majority of ranch-style homes built during the 60s and 70s. It is a bumpy texture that traps dirt and dust, causes shadows, and gives you a dated feel. However, removing the ceilings isn’t that hard, but a little messy. Here is how to do it.

  • Certain types of popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, which is a cancer-causing material. So, you need a professional to remove it
  • If the ceiling doesn’t have asbestos, you can start working. But, cover the floor with plastic sheets and remove furniture 
  • Spray water into the ceiling and allow it to soak
  • Remove the wet ceiling using a scraper
  • When the popcorn material is removed completely, patch the uneven areas and paint it with a light color of your choice

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