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How to Increase a Basement's Low Ceiling Height

Updated on January 5, 2012
Renovate a basement to include the proper ceiling height according to local building codes.
Renovate a basement to include the proper ceiling height according to local building codes. | Source


When looking to expand the living space of a house, many homeowners consider the available space in the basement. Oftentimes the square footage of the basement matches the available square footage of the main floor, but finishing a basement requires more than a bucket of paint. In order for a basement to receive legal status as living space, the ceiling height must meet or exceed local building and fire codes and standards. Sometimes minor adjustments make the difference, but when all else fails, correcting the problem becomes a major remodeling project.

Remove the Drop Ceiling

As a common basement ceiling solution, drop-ceilings hide electrical wiring and plumbing, while keeping them easily accessible through the removable ceiling tiles. A 4-inch gap between the drop-ceiling and the ceiling beams means with its removal, the ceiling gains a few inches. Check the required ceiling height measurement to determine if these few inches correct the problem, and if so, remove the drop-ceiling system, insulate the ceiling and install fire-rated 5/8-inch-thick sheetrock to enclose the ceiling.

Dig Out the Basement

If going up leaves the problem with the ceiling height unsolved, go down, as long as drain lines run closer to the walls and not under the the center of the basement floor. Hire a professional builder or foundation specialist to determine the best approach to removing several inches of the floor withour disturbing the house's foundation. Break the ground, haul the concrete and excess soil away and level the ground prior to installing the new concrete floor and floor material.

A Combination Solution

Some houses require more than one fix to remedy the basement's ceiling height. Some basements have extra inches to claim from the ceiling but still need the extra height gained from digging out the basement floor.

Jack Up the House

Raise the basement ceiling height by raising the house. Use this option to raise the ceiling height up to 10 inches. The size and construction of the house matters in this feat, since smaller wood-frame houses seem like the only types that work with this solution. Left only to the professionals, lift the house using screw jacks with at least a 20-ton capacity and a raising height of 10 inches. Mount them to jack stands, such as pyramid jacks constructed of 2-by-8-inch beams.

Strategically align each screw-jack ensemble to the correct beams. With several critical, preparatory steps and correct timing, small cranks of the jacks gradually raise the house to the desired height. Once raised, the professionals install support beams along the sides and across the house's foundation to stabilize and secure it at its raised height. The project's completion concludes with finishing the exterior and interior walls and the basement ceiling to blend in with the existing finishes.

Basement Remodeling


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