8' vs 9' ceilings on a new build?

tkfinn97April 22, 2012

We are planning to build a "new old farmhouse" in the near future, and I am currently stuck on the height of the ceiling. I have only ever lived in houses with 8' ceilings and they have never bothered me. My husband wants 8' ceilings since he can't see the benefit of that extra foot (knowing we'll have to pay a little bit more to heat it). However, reading everyone's posts, it appears that we may be making a horrible mistake, and I cannot stop thinking about it! :) All of my friends suggest we need 9 or 10' ceilings. I need to make a decision before we order materials. I am definitely not concerned about the bedrooms since they are smaller and I want them to feel cozier anyway, but what about the kitchen, living room and dining room? Will the openness of the large area make the ceiling feel even lower? Will my tall windows help? Is there anyone out there who has 8' ceilings and like them?

Here is my main floor plan if that makes a difference...excuse the mess, I've been making notes all over them (each small square = 1 foot, ie, master bedroom - 14x14). Any other critiques of the floor plan are welcome :)

Other notes: Built on slab, no basement, there is an upstairs level, 3 girls under the age of 9, I am 5'5" and DH is 5'10".

Thanks in advance for your input!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You want a mix of heights, with the public areas being taller and more spacious than the private ones. I would want 10' for the central "box" and 8' or 9' for the smaller areas off of it. But, this has to be coordinated with how you plan your second floor space as well as the exterior. Nothing is designed in a vacuum and every decision you make has a ripple effect on the whole home plan.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Was thinking about a shallow coffered (or basically paneled ceiling) over the dining room and/or tray ceiling around the perimeter of the living area to add some interest. What about a soffit over the island for canned lights? My thought is that these lower elements may make my 8' height look taller...would that work?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We ended up doing 8' ceilings as we had to consider final roof height as we were adding a second floor. However, I was comforted by the fact that Sarah Susanka author of the Not So Big House series, talked about having ceilings at a human height. She does like 8' ceilings (cozy), and also likes to vary the ceiling height as Green Design spoke about. The same author was less keen on 10' foot ceilings. If you have not already done so, you may want to check out one of her books from the library so you can see what she says about ceiling heights. If I had had a choice, I would have gone with 9' ceilings in some of the rooms - best of both worlds (roomy but still cozy).

Good luck with your decision


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I recently built a log house and all of my ceilings are 10 feet and I love it. However, it's about the feel of the house. I have expansive mountian views and lots of windows so the high ceilings complement that. It's a very open feel. Depending on the situation of the house, a cozier feel may be the better option.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well it is often a preference thing but 99% of people probably prefer 9 foot ceilings at least in the open areas. I am a bit of a real estate junky and I also rent vacation homes - many of which are old and have 8 foot ceilings. I am 6'1" so that jades me a bit.

We have 11 ft in great room/kitchen, 10 in other downstairs areas and 9 for bedrooms. It is a large house so those proportions work. We have a vacation home with 8 foot bedrooms and that works well - and they are small rooms. That house has 10 ft open great room - and that works well.

Higher ceilings allow a much better view and better sun light into a room. Even tall windows can't compensate. The larger the room with 8 foot ceilings, the darker it will be. Some people like dark but most don't. I personally like darker bedrooms so the 8 ft ceilings can work there. We were just at a rental house with 8 foot ceilings in a large room and we couldn't get over how dark it was. Lights on during the day is just a shame.

You mention heating. You have a design with a very deep overhang on the south side of the house. That decision will cost far more in heating than an extra foot in wall height. An extra foot in wall height means an extra 12% in wall losses. In my house wall losses are about 20% of heating losses so the extra foot is roughly 2% extra heating. A good southern wall of glass can easily save 50% on heating costs.

You have a design of a dark house with that overhang also. You only allow northern light into the open area. Northern windows only hurt in regards to heating. They also give the least sunlight into the house. Add in 8 foot ceilings and it is going to be dark.

And for some more completely unsolicited advice - 30 inch deep counters make overhead space harder to reach. And windows at 1 foot above the floor have to be tempered by code and that is roughly double the cost. Code (everywhere?) requires that windows need to be 18 inch above the floor or they must be tempered.

Building on a slab yet you are concerned about heating? I am wondering where you are building. Generally, slabs are used in the South where heat is in excess. Where I live in mixed climate, slabs are used in the most basic of construction - typically townhomes. In a colder area, locating ductwork for HVAC is harder to do with a slab. You can do it of course but it is harder. I could ramble on and on about this but that is a different topic.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 6:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Even a 6 inch increase in the height of the ceiling is a very noticeable improvement so don't feel constrained to 8 or 9 feet. I have found that most people think an 8-6 ceiling is 9 ft.

Windows should be placed as high as visually acceptable from the inside in order to maximize the depth of light in the room and to increase the view if there is one. Don't feel constrained by the height of doors unless they are part of a window and door assembly. I don't know what the advantage would be of a window with a low sill next to a dining table.

Except near doors, the IRC requires safety glass in a residential window when all of the following conditions occur:
- an individual pane is larger than 9 square feet
- the bottom edge of the glass is less than 18 inches above the floor
- the top edge of the glass pane is more than 36 inches above the floor.

I make kitchen counters 30 to 32 inches deep whenever I can because it puts the upper cabinet face farther from the faces of tall people, allows a lower cabinet placement for shorter people and it also allows direct task lighting of the counter from the ceiling without lighting so much of the cabinets and the heads of the users. I usually put a raised shelf at the wall 6" above the counter and use standard depth counters and lower cabinets. The space behind the cabinets is useful for plumbing and dishwasher hoses in cold climates and allows enough room for a deeper refrigerator or range.

I would redesign much of this house especially the kitchen because it has too little work space and too much walking space and apparently no view to the outside.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you never plan on selling your house, then go with the 8' ceilings since they don't bother you. However I personally would never buy a house with 8' ceilings, so if selling at some point is a concern you may want to consider potential buyers like myself that you'd be excluding.

To your question about large spaces with lots of windows and 8' ceilings. A friend has an older remodeled home with a space like that, and it really doesn't feel any more open or less confining to me.

This is all IMHO. There's plenty of people on this forum that like 8' ceilings just fine and get offended by people that say it feels cramped.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your input everyone!

David...good to know about tempered glass! I am okay with moving windows up from the floor if it decreases the cost. All the things a person doesn't think about! The slab will have radiant heat - my dad is a plumber so labor is free :) I did have concerns about it being dark...and the loss of winter sun getting into the house, but we will have windows along the front, just haven't decided on placement yet - I may need to revisit those concerns. I was going to do a 6-8' porch, but consensus also seems to be that 10' is necessary if we want it as a social area.

Renovator - also good info on placement of windows, and I have already changed the dining room window :) also, great info on the codes. I was happy to read your comment about deep counters as from what I have been reading, most people like them if they have done them (even if they weren't sure about the advantages up front). Do you keep the uppers at 12" deep or 15"? Do you think the walkway between the kitchen is too wide? or is the length of the kitchen too long?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would think about 8.5' or 9' for the first floor public spaces, and 8' on the second floor. That said, there are always going to be some people who will not like your house for whatever reason. Perhaps it faces the wrong direction according to Feng Shui or the chimney is on the wrong side in relation to the tallest tree on the lot ...

You get the idea.

I have 8' ceilings today and like them just fine, but we live in a high COL area (pretty near to Boston) and many people are happy/thrilled to have two bathrooms in a house :) So it might depend on your local market conditions. Our last house (in a diff state) had 9' ceilings and I liked them fine, but wouldn't have wanted 10' ceilings. It would have felt too ... open or whatever the opposite of "cozy & home-like" would be.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 7:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

8.5 - 9' ceilings are the way to go based on your wanting tray ceiling in the living room & coffered in dining. You mentioned the house has a second story, so if you go 8' on the first floor, that means to get your tray ceiling, the open middle part will be 8' and the surround will be somewhere between 7-7.5'. For your coffered areas, again, the ceiling is at 8' then under the coffers will be somewhere between 7-7.5'. In either scenario, the room will feel short & closed in IMO. I had a hard time in a Parade home with coffered ceilings at 9', granted the coffers were approx 1' deep so the ceiling height underneath was 8'. The last thing you want is for the home to feel clausterphobic.

Most people can't tell the difference between 9' & 10' ceilings, but most all can tell the difference between 8' & 9'. IMO, 9' is a good investment for you as a homeowner wanting the space to feel open yet cozy, for increasing light through the windows, allowing for deeper porches and for resale purposes.

I will say that our home also has front & rear porches with the front of the house facing due south & the rear facing due north. Everyone said the house would be dark especially with how deep our porches are (8' on the front & 12-16' on the rear). I don't find the house dark at all. It doesn't have direct sunlight streaming in the windows that blinds you in the mornings when you're trying to sleep in and causes awful reflections off the TV making it unbearable to watch, but it does have plenty of ambient light. We don't need to turn the lights on inside until just about when the sun goes down.

I would definitely post your kitchen layout in the kitchens forum and see what they recommend for your space over there. Also, will there be a back door from the kitchen?

Porch depth for entertaining definitely needs to be 10' or more. I would sketch out what you plan to put on the porch (i.e. table, chairs, sofa, etc) and make sure there is plenty of clearance on all sides for the furniture and for people to move around the furniture even with someone sitting at the table.

Just some things to think about...

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We went with 9 ft on both floors and 10 ft in the great room so we could have coffered ceilings there. The cost to go from 8 to 9 was about 3500$ Materials. We kept ceilings flat everywhere and that saved us back out the materials cost from the framing labor cost.
The house is framed now and we love the 9 foot just feels really spacious.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our previous home had 9' ceilings up and down. It was fine. After we sold it, we lived in a rental for a year while we built our current house. It had 8' ceilings and we could not get over how absolutely DARK the main living room was! Lights on all day, even when sunny! Ugh, I had SAD the whole time we lived there! We have 10' down now and 9' up...and I must say, I LOVE the 10'. I think what I love the most is the fact that the doors and cased openings are 8'...everything feels so spacious. I love those big thick doors! Around here (near a large city in NC) I haven't seen a custom home built in the last 10 years that had lower than 10' on the first floor. The production builders around here don't even do 8', they do 9.. If resale is at all an issue, I'd think hard. My 6'4" dh said he would never buy a house with 8' ceilings.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No brainer - 9 ft ceilings. If you had then once, you could never go back. It is not that expensive to do if you are building and you will never regret while you live there or if you decide to sell.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 9:10PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
homeowner's association
totally OT, but... would you, did you, or will you be...
Window/door trim thickness---not width
Time to specify our interior trimwork. I'm stymied...
Please critique floor plan, thanks!
I posted a similar plan Oct. last year and got some...
After building....items you wish you would have thought of..
Hello, for those of you that built a house. After...
Need Layout Ideas
Hello - we are purchasing the lot shown below. As you...
Sponsored Products
Pink Micro & White-Trim Club Chair & Ottoman Set
$99.99 | zulily
2Lt Linear Ceiling a White
$48.00 | PLFixtures
Del Mar 7-pc. Rectangular Outdoor Dining Set, Patio Furniture
Fabbian | Stick F23A04 Pendant Light
Elias Pendant/Semi-Flushmount by Kichler
$374.00 | Lumens
Elements Hi Lo Plush Cord Bedrest Lounger - 19-24400CHA
$27.41 | Hayneedle
Dulin Gold Oushak Rug 7'9" x 9'9" - IVORY/GOLD
$2,539.00 | Horchow
Aztec Lighting Cosmopolitan 5-light Chandelier
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™