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Can You Upgrade the Height of Your Basement Ceiling Once the House Is Built?

Once construction is completed on a home, upgrading the height of the basement ceiling is a major undertaking. To truly increase the ceiling height, the floors above would have to be jacked up and supports would have to be installed between the basement concrete walls and the floor's joists. There are other options worth considering that are far less costly and time consuming, and may be just as effective.
  1. Increasing Ceiling Height

    • Basement ceilings are, in simplest terms, the underside of the first floor of a house. To increase the height of that ceiling, the first floor must move up in height. This creates quite a project in a completed home. The process requires permits, engineering, electrical and plumbing extensions, and a great deal of time and money. While it technically is possible to do, it is the last recommended option in almost every case. Instead, it may be better to consider less involved, more affordable options that ultimately accomplish the same goal of more headroom in the basement.

    Free Space

    • Finished basements often include a false ceiling built with either floating ceiling tiles suspended from a metal frame structure, or constructed out of Sheetrock. In either case, these ceilings typically are built lower than they need to be to simplify and reduce the cost of construction. Basements generally have ducts, drains and other protrusions from the floor above coming out of the ceiling. To hide these items, the false ceiling is created at the lowest common point, which can be 1 foot or more below the actual unfinished ceiling. A carpenter or a skilled do-it-yourself craftsman can build a bulkhead to cover the ducts and other fixtures in the ceiling, and thereby gain approximately an additional foot of space by moving the false ceiling up in areas where there are no obstacles.

    Drop the Floor

    • Dropping a floor is not a small project either, but it doesn't involve a full structural change like raising the ceiling. This process involves removing the concrete floor in the basement using a jack hammer, digging deeper into the dirt below, pouring concrete retaining walls around the perimeter, then pouring a new concrete floor. There are engineering implications as the retaining walls must provide proper support for the existing basement walls. Plumbing, electrical and other utilities that may be buried in the basement floor need to be relocated in the new slab. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this option is that there is little room to work in a basement. Typically, it is not possible to get machinery in to dig or haul materials in or out, so most of this work is done by hand. Concrete generally can be poured using a hose or long extension slide through a basement window.

    Combination Approach

    • The most realistic approach to creating more headroom is to use a combination of different solutions. Depending on the layout of the basement and the first floor, it may be possible to lift the ceiling in some areas and drop the basement floor in others. It is not necessary to maintain the same ceiling level or floor level throughout the room, so gain additional space where it is available. Every little bit counts in a basement, so be sure to use the lowest profile light fixtures possible, which almost always are recessed halogen fixtures. It also is possible to reroute plumbing or ductwork to less-conspicuous locations.