If you are planning to build your own house, you may not think too much about the ceilings. While the ceiling height may not be the key element in interior design, it can have a big impact on the feeling of a home. It can even dictate what you can do with other parts of the design, and it can affect your compliance with building codes.
” What is the standard ceiling height for a house? How many feet in a story? ‘you could ask. On the ground floor, an 8-foot ceiling was the norm in the mid-20th century. Nowadays 9 feet is considered the “standard”, but many people go higher as everyone is looking for that feeling of space and light. 12 foot ceilings are not uncommon in modern homes.
On the upper floors, 8-foot ceilings are generally what you’ll find in most homes. You will appreciate this extra height downstairs in the living areas. It will also help if you come to sell the house as each foot increases the attractiveness of your home.
In the rest of the article, we’ll talk a little bit about the history of average ceiling height. We’ll also discuss ceiling styles and the pros and cons of higher ceilings.
Modern ceiling heights
Image source: Jim Bell Architectural Design Inc.
What is considered the standard ceiling height for a house has changed over time. People now want luxurious houses with high ceilings to create bright, functional spaces. In the past, the average ceiling height was determined by several factors:
- Wood is generally cut to a length of 2.44 meters (eight feet), so a ceiling height of eight feet was an efficient use of materials.
- House builders used a “balloon frame” at the beginning of the 20th century. With this system, the frame went from floor to roof. Nowadays they use a “platform frame” where each floor is a separate box placed over the previous story. This means that it is much easier to have different ceiling heights on each level.
- The problems in the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s led to an embargo on oil imports into the United States. This made energy efficient buildings with lower ceilings more attractive.
Image source: J Sullivan construction
It is also true that in the old days people were a little smaller and less entertaining. The modern home has become much more of an extension of our personality, and as more and more of us work from home after the corona virus crisis, it becomes even more important to have a nice, accommodating home.
What is the standard ceiling height these days? How many feet is a story? A good architect will tell you that nine feet is the minimum ceiling height, but richer customers want ten or even twelve foot ceilings – they don’t care about energy or construction costs. Often only the building regulations determine the maximum ceiling heights, with the total building height being a factor in the building regulations for zones.
When you’re planning a new building, nine-foot ceilings have almost become standard. Many top builders have built nine-foot ceilings in their costs, but it’s worth checking out! Always make sure that your preferred ceiling heights are specified in the building contract. Always make sure that all additional costs are clear.
Ceiling heights for different architectural styles
Three-dimensional coffered ceilings
Image source: Steven closets
Cassette ceilings have profiles that arouse architectural interest. They reduce the height and are best used in conjunction with a high ceiling. Using cash registers in blankets less than two meters feels claustrophobic. The lower the cash registers, the higher the ceiling should be to avoid overloading the room.
Image source: Lowery Design Group
Using a tray, inverted or sunken ceiling has the same effect as the cassette. It draws the eye upwards and adds architectural interest with its 3-D effect.
Image source: Intact kitchen designs
Sloping ceilings follow the line of the roof (think of attics of houses with sloping roofs). They are increasingly found in living areas as well as in bathrooms and bedrooms. Higher ceilings make it easier to comply with building regulations. Typically, the lowest point in a sloping ceiling is seven feet and rises to ten feet. Over half of the ceiling should be over two meters high. However, check local regulations to be sure.
Image source: Michelle Thomas Design
Ceiling heights over twelve feet are dramatic in old or new buildings. You open the building and expose the elementary beams of the structure. They can draw light into the rooms below and they raise the spirits with their size and drama. They are often found in the entrance areas to leave a great first impression on the visitors – they set the scene for the rest of the house.
Luxury blankets come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common high ceilings are:
Image source: Nick Noyes architecture
These generally follow the roof lines to the top as seen in the aisles of the cathedrals.
Image source: L. Lumpkins Architect, Inc.
These are like the cathedral ceiling described above, but they come to an arch rather than a point.
Image source: Bella Custom Homes, Inc.
A groin vaulted ceiling consists of two barrel vaulted ceilings, which are arranged at an angle of 90 degrees to each other. This style is seen in many churches around the world.
Image source: Morning Star Builders LTD
The ceiling of the cloister vault consists of a dome that rises from a square base to a central high point. The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in New York uses a number of cross vaulted ceilings to make a great impact.
Positive and negative effects of higher ceilings
Positive – higher ceilings:
Image source: celia welch interiors
- Increase the feeling of light and space
- Add drama and interest
- Enable more flexibility in architectural designs such as coffered ceilings
- Increase the natural light
- Show the world that you are successful and rich
- Increase the value of your property when you sell it
Negatives – higher ceilings
Image source: Pillar Custom Homes, Inc.
- Lead to louder rooms – you need to think about the materials in the rooms to avoid an echo of rooms
- This leads to higher energy costs – you need to insulate more or be prepared for higher operating costs
- Are more expensive to build
- Are more difficult to keep clean and decorated
Final thoughts about the standard ceiling height?
Ceiling heights are crucial for design decisions about your home. If you want great living space, you have to understand this. Make sure that the ceiling heights are specified in your building contract. Today nine feet are considered the “standard”.
Increase the ceiling height to increase the size, create an airy feeling and increase the light. Lower ceiling heights ensure inviting and warm rooms. Also think about ceiling styles – they can spark so much interest and you have more options with ceilings higher than standard height. Always take into account the fact that higher ceilings with more interesting architectural details require more maintenance.
Don’t forget the basics when designing ceiling heights:
- You need adequate ventilation.
- You need the right amount of natural light.
- You must comply with the building regulations.
- You have to build within your budget constraints.
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