Should we ditch 10 ft. ceiling?

gobrunoMarch 30, 2009

We were contemplating whether it was worthwhile to have 10 ft. ceilings on our first floor? It was one of the things that was initially one of our "must haves" after being in several homes with 10 ft. ceilings, but now we're wondering if it really makes a difference. For those who opted for 10 ft. would you have been ok with 9ft.? What made you go with 10 ft. over 9 ft.? Does it make a huge difference? Our house is fairly large; so, I think it would support 10 ft. ceilings fine. Our great room will have vaulted ceilings and our foyer is open too. So, part of our 1st floor already has open ceiling spaces. I'm just wondering if I'll regret it down the road. What if 9 ft. ceilings become the 8 ft. ceilings of today 30 years from now?


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Just remember that in the 70s energy crisis, lowering ceilings became an industry all it's own.

I believe that if the large rooms have vaulted ceilings, contrasting those with lower, more intimate ceilings in more intimate rooms makes a home more interesting.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 12:07PM
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Do you really truly care what some hypothetical others may think in 30 years?! And which "others"? you? your MIL? your grandkids? a local style magazine? an architectural digest? that nosy biddy down the road?

Proper ceiling height is very, very subjective. Within certain structural and architectural limits, what you want (and can afford) is what you should have. My opinion is of value only to me and my house, and it should not affect your opinion of what you like and want for your house.

Having said all that... I rather like 10' ceilings in very large rooms (especially with elaborate crowns), and dislike them in average or small rooms. OTOH, most of my family and friends stand at close to or more than 6', so I won't be using the common 8' ceiling in shared living areas, but nor will there be 10' ceilings. Personal choice of what feels suitable to the house style and my life style.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 12:25PM
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I don't think it's necessary to have 10'. We have friends who just built with 10footers and the house has quite a 'massive' feel (very open floor plan and large rooms). Keep in mind that having 10' ceilings may impact your decisions about window, door, trim sizes, etc, which will increase your cost.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 12:33PM
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In a larger than average home--3,500 sf and up--I wouldn't have anything less than 10ft. on the main floor. (As of 2006, the average US home was 2,460 s.f.) But it's also a matter of scale--small rooms with high ceilings feel uncomfortable and out of scale for most people.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 1:30PM
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We had 9 ft and 11 ft ceilings in our last home (city condo) on the 1st and second floors, respectively.

The ceilings are all 9 ft in the home we're building. We just didn't need them any higher...

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 6:43PM
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I live in Houston and find having 10+ ceilings a cooling feature.
I do think two storey houses with high ceilings look really weird from outside.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 7:56PM
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Our last home had 9 foot ceilings and they were ok. Now we have 10 foot ceilings and I really like them. We are in TX and it is nice to have the hot air up higher.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:05PM
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we originally had planned for 10 ft ceilings on the first floor, and 9' on the second. we visited my cousin's new home and i was surprised her first floor ceilings were 9' as i really thought they were 10' (our last home had 12' for the first and second floors; so it's not like i haven't lived with and appreciated extra high ceilings.)

i also liked how her kitchen cabinets hit the ceiling. still need a step ladder to get to the very top but at least it would be doable. the higher 10' ceilings would make it much more difficult. so, we switched to 9' on both floors, including basement. we have a few open-to-second-floor spaces so there's no shortage or "openness".

we were also very happy to see a substantial reduction in the overall cost of the build. obviously 10' ceilings would be beautiful, but so will the 9'. and there is NO WAY anyone is going to scoff at the ceiling height. it's much too beautiful a home!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:14PM
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Thanks for all the feedback! I'm still on the fence about this. I've always envisioned 10 ft. ceilings, and actually dropping to 9 ft. doesn't save a whole ton of money. Kate, how much of a savings was it for you? Since we'd still keep the 8 ft. doors and large windows, but with shorter transoms, even if we did 9 ft. ceilings, our builder was saying that it wouldn't save more than a couple thousand dollars. Does that sound right? Anyway, I'm going to continue to agonize about that one. We were trying to figure out little tweaks we could make to finishes or the plan that would save some money, but we're finding that the savings are always minimal, and to really save money, we just need to cut out rooms! Oh well.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 10:14AM
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How big is your house? Do you have 'a few big rooms' or a lot of smaller ones? Will both stories be the same height? What style is it? Are you in the South, where higher ceilings have been traditional?

We have a single-story, 2900 sq ft home with 9-foot ceilings -- and two catherdrals, and a barrel vault over the kitchen window, and an angled ceiling up to 12 feet in the master bath. We have 'a few big rooms' kind of house, and a casual country-French look -- cream stucco and oversize cream brick.

The house next door is two-story, 5000+ sq ft with 10-foot ceilings down and 9-foot ceilings up. It's a formal style, center-entrance, dark brick house.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 10:46AM
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How much you save will depend on what's involved. The actual square footage of changing from 10' to 9' really is not very much. A 20x20 room has 400' running feet of circumference, and a one foot drop down is only 400 sqft less or about a quart of paint less, lol. Walls -- on an itemized square footage cost basis -- are usually the least expensive portion of construction. Okay, there would be a savings on the insulation, siding, studwork, and etc ... but I doubt it would amount to enough to be considered useful. There just isn't that much difference between a 10' wall and a 9' wall.

The oversized/upper-sized doors and windows are expensive in a cost comparison (and so will be the drapes and window finishes), but if the height change doesn't affect those items, there is no savings.

If I remember correctly, the volumetric difference would be [in very rough figures] approximately one-fourth, that is, the 10' ceiling presents about 25% more volume of cubic air to heat and cool than would an 8' ceiling. But you're thinking of only a 1-foot height change (? 12% difference from 10 to 9?) then that difference may or may not noticeably affect the cost of required HVAC -- you'd expect it would, but the truth is that there is an awful lot of flexibility in both the HVAC contractor's estimate and the equipment's capability so I doubt there'd be much change in cost.

And, as already mentioned, how would the overall design be affected by the change? If you would find it noticeable, then I'd suggest looking elsewhere for savings. There are many areas where savings could be found more effectively, without changing wall height.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 3:22PM
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Thanks again for the great advice. Chisue, our house is pushing close to 6,000 sq. ft. I know it's big. I think that would make a topic for a whole other threat! :) It sounds like your neighbors house in terms of volume.
meldy nva, I think you are right that for us, it doesn't end up saving very much. We are getting close to finalizing our plans. So, of course, the finality of it has caused us (me) to second guess everything. We feel like we've been doing things to keep costs in line, but do you have any ideas or suggestions that would create savings but not change the overall design? Just curious. We're already planning on doing some things in stages. For example, we're not getting any elaborate trim right (crown, wainscotting) now and will add that on at some other stage of our lives. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 1:56PM
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We decided to go with 10 ft. ceilings in our new home we're currently building. Our friends had 9 ft. ceilings in their home and they just didn't feel tall enough. I read an article once that said you in general you don't want your ceilings to be taller than your room is wide so we framed down to 9 ft ceilings for the kids bedrooms wich are 12 x 14, bathrooms, laundry etc. because i though 10 ft would make the rooms feel small. If you are thinking it will be a cost issue I believe that anything over 8 ft. you will be buying longer studs for anyway so there won't be a price diff. If I'm incorrect I doubt the cost adds up to much.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 7:23PM
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It depends on the design of the house. In my experience older houses with many rooms and doors benefit from high ceilings. Modern homes with large open spaces and few doors often do not.

I recently completed a home with 9 ft ceilings and a 10 inch higher beamed living room ceiling and it feels much too cavernous. My home was built in 1891 and the 10 ft ceilings are fine. The first 6 inches above 8 ft. is the most important. Above that height there are many other more important design factors to consider. Focusing on one design element at a time can hurt the overall design.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 8:13AM
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our GC cut 10K off our estimate when we dropped from 10 to 9 ft ceilings. that's a pretty good amount. at least i thought so.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 11:41PM
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Wow! $10K is a lot of money. We GC our own house and we only had 10 ft. ceilings in the main area so it wasn't that big of a cost difference for us. Just the small amount of materials and a little bit of extra labor.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 12:10PM
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Kateskouros ~ $10K does sound like a lot (unless maybe for 10,000sf house with plaster walls and custom brick, lol). Did changing the wall height also change the door/windows height? Did the windows/door change from custom sizes to standard sizes? (if so, I can more easily see a $10K drop in cost).

Did you ask him for details? or just say thanks!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 11:42AM
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the door height will be at 7' for the nine foot ceilings, dropped down from 8' doors when we were going to go with the 10' ceiling. the house is around 7500 sq feet.

every little bit counts. of course i then decided to make our outdoor covered patio larger so it's all a wash. it ain't over till it's over!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 12:07PM
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I don't think you should make a blanket statement of "10 foot throughout" or "9 foot throughout". Secondary rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms will feel more cozy with 9' ceilings.

Larger rooms like a great room, kitchen, etc. you might want 10 foot. Although personally I kinda like the feel of 9' ceilings in the family room where you hang out and watch tv.

In fact my previous house had a "great room" design with the kitchen open to the family room. We had 10' in the kitchen and stepped down to 9' in the family which helped to define the space and give a little of that cozy feel, all in a subtle way.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:44PM
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I'm sitting in a great room with a 14' ceiling, and it feels wonderful. That same ceiling height in the kitchen feels cold.
The difference is that the great room has interior details (beams, ceiling fans, cabinets) that reference to 8' and 9', so the room has some human scale. The kitchen just has a white ceiling and the cabinets reach up to 10'.
I always want/need higher ceilings, and interior details which vary in scale. I'd cut costs in the floor plan...6K sf. is a lot of money to heat and cool. You don't even want to know what your housekeeper will charge to clean (try 2-4 people all day) and it's too large to clean yourself. Unless you plan to scuff everywhere in "dusting slippers" your dust bunnies will be big enough to rope and ride.
I realize that you probably really need that much space; we run 3 businesses out of our house. You might have 22 grand kids. Think "bunk rooms", shared spaces, flex spaces. We build up, into lofts, and let the agile kiddies climb the ladders. They think it's great fun. They like "dusting slippers" too.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 3:01AM
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I haven't read all the responses, but let me say we went from 10 to 9 and have said many times that we are VERY happy we did that. One of the better decisions we have made. It helps in figuring out kitchen cabinets too--at least for me. Mine go to the ceiling. I think they would have been really tall at 10 or I would have had the space above them.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 7:10PM
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My 2 cents from central Florida... regardless of what people try to tell you about how you have more cubic feet to cool, cooling bills are lower with a 10 foot ceiling. Remember, all the A/C system sees is the data from the thermostat at about eyeball level. The 10 foot ceiling lets the heat rise up away from the level you live in and makes it much more comfortable in the summer. Getting up on a ladder confirms that it's REALLY uncomfortable up there at ceiling level. Of course, in the winter, that same strategy makes it more costly to heat but here in cent Fl, heat is required so infrequently and for such short period, it's not really an issue. I'd say your location should probably dictate the ceiling height if saving energy cost is important to you. Gary

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 7:42PM
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