Ideal Ceiling Height?

newhouse123March 6, 2013

Our build is going to have a 9' 4" ceiling height....what are some thoughts on this?

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It's higher than 8' and lower than 10'. Any aprticular reason for your ceiling height?

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 9:19PM
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"Our build is going to have a 9' 4" ceiling height....what are some thoughts on this?"

Higher than mine!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Actually, there is no such thing as an "ideal" ceiling height. Builders use cliches such as a 9' or 10' ceiling as one way, among many, to try to suggest a house is more "up scale" and therefore justify a higher sales price. That's all there is to this cliche and the many others--huge ogee edged granite islands the size of Ohau, 3-6 car garages, mud rooms with storage for a battalion of troops, corner soaking tubs sized for an elephant herd, etc.--we typically find in tract and builder housing that's striving for "upscale" status.

From a design point of view, on the other hand, ceiling height is all about proportion, illumination and what's appropriate for a given use. For example a 4' X 6' half bath is perfectly appropriate to have an 8' ceiling (it could even get by with less), while the Hall of Mirrors or Grande Galerie at the Palace of Versailles measures 239.5' L X 34.4' W X 40.4' H with its 17 windows, 578 mirrors and its arched ceiling decorated to display the many wonderous achievements of Louis XIV. If you've been there, you know the space looks perfectly appropriate given its historical significance.

If one is striving for upscale, this is the building to beat!

The point is that simply having a ceiling of any height is really pointless. It's how the proportions of the room are created, how light (natural and artificial are used) and most importantly, the how the space is to function that should determine ceiling height. That's called design.

Just a thought--not trying to start a war over ceiling heights.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:36PM
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Well, it gives you neutral turf in the 9' or 10' debate LOL! Our ceilings are going to be 9'4" as well, due to the way ICF construction works out. It was that, or a little under 8', which we didn't want.

Having lived with 8' ceilings all of my life, I find taller ceilings make a home feel bigger, as long as the rooms aren't too small, leading to an 'elevator shaft' effect. Regional differences can come into play as well, with taller ceilings in the south, and lower ceilings in the north.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:49AM
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After you've lived in homes with 10 and 11 foot ceilings in appropriately sized rooms, eight foot feels like you're confined in a chicken coop.

Ceiling heights have a lot to do with the standard sizing of dimensional lumber. Putting in odd heights means a lot of cut-offs for the scrap pile.
Ah, if only North Americans could learn to live like Europeans, happily confined, leaving large homes to their natural betters--aristocrats, royalty, movie stars and the uber rich! The nerve of those Mac munchers!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 7:33AM
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Anything over about 8'6" feels psychologically spacious with your "average" 12x14 room dimensions. When the rooms are larger, the ceilings can be proportionately taller. WHere people get into trouble is the "more is better". It's not. Definately NOT!. 20' ceilings in a "great room" make the space the size of a church. Churches use super tall ceilings first of all because, yes, it's proportionate to the square footage of the room. But the primary reason for the super tall ceilings is the psychological unease that it generates in the human to be in such a tall ceilinged space. It creates dissonance as it mimics the open savannah where we would have been targets of predators in our developmental days. That translates into "the awe before God" that medieval cathedral builders were trying to create in the illiterate masses. And that the uber rich took over to make the serfs tremble before them. And that the robber barons also took to enhance their aura of power. And thus has trickled down to the insurance executive with the McMansion to try to mimic the real thing---but missing all of the other correct proportions and proper scale. It just feels uncomfortable and "off" in most residential projects. And everyone retreats to their "cozy" 9' ceilinged bedrooms and the family dynamics suffer.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:11AM
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I think 9'4" is perfect!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:31AM
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It may be my plebeian background, but to me 10'+ ceilings look out of place in homes that aren't really high end or look old enough to have needed high ceilings to accommodate large windows to bring daylight further into the rooms pre-electricity. Unless they're done right, I think it's easy for really high ceilings to look out of scale in a house with mainstream furniture and finishes (because mainstream stuff is scaled for standard height rooms).

I think 9'4" is fine, but *I* wouldn't go higher for the house you're building, because I don't think you're building a "new old house" or something designed to make people's jaws drop when they walk in.

A lot of this comes down to personal taste. I'm sure that some rooms I find uncomfortable other people would find airy and spacious and rooms I find cozy, other people might find cramped. I think you should think about spaces you really like to spend time in, and take your cues from that.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Whether it's kitchen appiances, closets, or ceiling heights, I think we see a great deal of the "bigger is better" philosophy when we're talking about home building. I disagree.

A higher ceiling may or may not work for any particular space, and raising the ceilings in the entire house somewhat negates the whole point. Read what Sarah Susanka says in her Not So Big House series: She suggests that larger rooms /higher ceilings can feel "out of proportion" to human beings, and they can rob the rooms of the cozy feeling that the owners wanted. She suggests that you consider a change in ceiling or a change in height to denote "spaces within spaces". For example, you might have a higher great room attached to a lower-ceilinged dining area -- that provides a visual cue that this area is different, and it "works" emotionally.

Also don't forget to note that higher ceilings do cost more money. Wall materials come in 8' heights; thus, higher ceilings mean more material, more cuts, more labor costs to install. And then they mean more heat /air conditioning later. If budget is important, this is something you can't ignore.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:39AM
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If you want cozy, install an 8 ft ceiling. I like spacious and dislike cozy so I like tall ceilings. If you are indifferent, install a 9 ft 4 in ceiling.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:58AM
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I am in the south, so I guess I am used to taller ceilings. Our old house had 9' ceilings with standard sized doors. When we built, I wanted 10' ceilings with 8' doors, for several reasons. I knew this house was going to be larger than our previous, with larger rooms...I wanted increased volume to go along with the bigger scale. Also, I admit that I am a sucker for really big, fat millwork...9.5" baseboards, 5" casings, and 8" crown might look a bit much on a 9" high room. Lastly, most new custom homes around here have this ceiling didn't make sense to do differently.

I freely agree that my powder room and pantry definitely have an elevator shaft vibe going! Worth it, though, to get the light airy feeling in the rest of the house!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:58AM
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In hot, humid climates houses were traditionally built with higher ceilings so that the hot, humid air would rise and exit out transoms and central halls. Conversely, in cold, windy climates houses were traditioinally built with lower ceilings, smaller rooms, fewer windows--all in the name of keeping the interiors warm enough to be comfortable.

All of this went out the window (pun intended) when controllable heating systems (folowed by air cooling/conditioning systems) became readily available. These systems, with the then low energy costs, made it possible to standardize construction into more consistent and economical applications. Voila--the universal 8' stud and ceiling were born!

Interestingly, we now face much more expensive energy costs, materials and labor expenses, but we continue to mimic construction types and ceiling heights of the late 1800s!

Buried in there somewhere is a message struggling to get out.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:29PM
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I always have to be the contrarian. "Much more expensive energy costs" - since NG is the principal fuel for heating in the US and is very cheap, I can't agree with the above statement.

Our electric utility has asked for a 8% rate increase. That seems like a lot but it has been ... 20 years since the last rate increase.

I don't know about you but that means with inflation our energy costs are roughly 1/2 what they were 20 years ago.

Obviously every region is different and electricity costs have climbed a decent amount in most regions of the country in the last 5 years. But - solar panels are far cheaper than they ever have been. And the cheap NG has really calmed the electricity price increases...

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:53PM
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Assuming proper energy-efficient construction, higher ceilings shouldn't add that much to the energy usage. I'll put my 9'4" ICF home up against the 200 year-old 7'6" cape I grew up in. It had NO insulation- in Connecticut!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:54PM
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My opinion is to build what you love. Everyone has a different opinion on what is "ideal". What I love someone else might hate. It's your house so unless you are planning on quick resale, do what YOU like!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Ceilings should work for you architecturally just as much as doorways and windows.

We used 9' generally, but ceiling heights should work with the space you have....small narrow rooms shouldn't have high ceilings or they feel like elevator shafts....large rooms shouldn't have low ceilings or they feel like an envelope. Ceilings also can help define spaces in open spaces, so we used a soffit to help visually separate our FR from our kitchen without an actual separation. We used a coffered ceiling in the hall way area to add visual separation between the library and dining room without an actual separation...we used a tray ceiling in the downstairs rooms to hide duct work so it doesn't look like we're hiding duct work when we are.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Epiarch Designs

Taking cues from proportional designers such as FLWright, the spaces relate to the function and the people within. Now he was a short man and am certainly not suggesting 7' ceilings, but the concept it there. Mine under construction has multiple heights to reflect the space and the use. My wife and I are not very tall...I am 5' 10, she 5' 4, so 8' ceilings affect the comfort within the space. Bedrooms and bathrooms are getting 8' 2 ceilings while larger public spaces get different heights. The kitchen gets 9' 2, the large great room gets a sloping ceilings from 11' up to 16' at the peak within clerestory windows to fill the height with natural light. The dining room slopes from 9' up to around 11'. The foyer also does the same to draw you into the larger spaces. Importance of color is also taken into account with ceilings. You dont always need to use white! Color can really make a ceiling more dramatic and effect the overall perception of the space you are in.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 11:04AM
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