Walk-Up World: Pros & Cons of Living on the First Floor

published Aug 20, 2013
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

When you’re looking for a new apartment you no doubt have a laundry list of what you’re looking for and what you’re not looking for. Some criteria you may be uncompromising about (like the maximum price) but there are always secondary criteria that are more flexible. Which floor the apartment is on likely falls into this category and there are pros and cons for each floor.

I live in Brownstone Brooklyn where most apartment buildings are 4 story walkups. There’s a smattering of newer, bigger, elevator-endowed buildings, but 4-5 stories is typical. Husband and I moved into a first floor apartment and now we’re still there with our two kids. If you’re considering a first floor apartment, especially with kids, here are what I consider the major benefits and drawbacks:

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

First Floor Pros

  • Gardens/Yards: One of the biggest plusses is that first floor occupants often have use of a garden or yard. When my husband and I moved into our current apartment the outdoor space (a perk neither of us had enjoyed in well over a decade of city living) blinded us to some of the downsides of the apartment. But not only do we enjoy eating outside and container gardening, it’s great to have an easy outdoor space to paint furniture or do other diy projects.
  • Neighbor Noise: There’s no one below you so don’t have to worry about bothering a neighbor with your foot traffic. This is especially important if you have children who run, stomp or dance around (approximately ages 1-18). You also cut your chance of having a loud neighbor in half (or a third, fourth, etc., depending on whether you’re in a floor-through or not).
  • Steps: There are fewer steps to climb, especially with groceries, when moving or with a stroller in tow. This is also nice when older people (hi mom) visit. It’s also easier to dash out to take out the garbage or recycling whereas residents of other floors usually wait until they are going out for another purpose.
  • Cooler temps: As we all learned in science class: heat rises. Everyone in our building has a window air conditioner or two, but we still keep cooler on the first floor. Not only are we more comfortable in the dog days of summer, we save a bit on our energy bill.
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

First Floor Cons

  • Lack of privacy: If your apartment faces the street, as ours does, you’ll likely want to cover your windows with blinds, shades or curtains to prevent the whole world from seeing your overflowing hamper or, worse, watching you sleep (eek!).
  • Less light: See above. The first thing we did when we moved in was install cellular blinds that are “top-down/bottom-up” so we could lower only the top and preserve some privacy. It lets in some light, but not a ton. And we also have trees right outside our windows which blocks a lot of light.
  • Proximity to the street: You are closer to the sounds and smells of the street: car alarms, garbage cans (ours are kept right below our bedroom window – lovely), garbage trucks, people rummaging through your recycling cans in search of deposit bottles…you get the picture. Also, more dust, dirt and mosquitoes seem to make their way into our apartment than when we lived on higher floors.
  • The View: Yeah, we don’t really have a view.
  • Ringing doorbells: For reasons I’m unsure of, traditionally, superintendents often live in first floor apartments. With only 8 units our building doesn’t have a super and our landlord lives off-site. While there is nothing on our doorbell/buzzer to indicate we are the super and, to the contrary, I put up a “no key to basement” sign – utility companies constantly ring our bell asking for access to the gas and electric meters. We also get a lot of rings from UPS/Fed Ex/USPS wondering if we’ll accept packages for neighbors since we’re “so close.” (Which I’m happy to do, actually.)
  • Security: This is perhaps a pro and a con. First floor apartments may be easier to break into since the windows are at street level. Unless we’re home, we don’t leave our windows open which can make it a bit stuffy. That said, I like to think that being so close to the street and in easy view of onlookers discourages cat burglars.
While I’ve listed more “cons” than “pros” above, in my mind the pros mostly outweigh the cons at this stage in our lives. Having outdoor space and not schlepping up stairs with babe and groceries in arms are probably the most important to us right now.

Re-edited from a post originally published 08.31.2013 – LS