Ceiling Height

MichelleJuly 21, 2014

We are continuing to work on reducing our build cost.

One area that was mentioned was changing the ceiling height on the main level from 10' to 9'. Builder wasn't able to give me a good answer when I asked how much it would save.

The main level is about 2,000 sq ft. Kitchen, dining, living are one long space. Are we talking a savings of a few thousand? Or more like $10k plus?


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I doubt it would be more than 2k at the most. Your only saving a very little bit in material and the labor will be about the same.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 6:35AM
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At a guess, I think it'd be closer to the 10K. Remember, it's not just the sheet rock to bring the ceiling up another foot -- it's all the other things that go with it.

Example: Yesterday I was looking at some pictures of great rooms, and one just had an . . . odd look. I kept looking at it, wondering why it wasn't particularly attractive, and I realized the problem: It had 10' ceilings, but only standard sized windows. When you reach 10' with your ceilings, you NEED the transom above the window, or the windows look odd.

Then you'll need the taller, more expensive drapes.
Then you'll have to heat /cool that extra space.

Be sure you're looking at the big picture, not just the wall itself.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:00AM
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Hi Michelle! Our builder charged more than $6k to go from 9ft to 10ft. We didn't go with the taller doors though, mainly because it felt so big to me, and also because the doors in the main floor are not in significant locations (tucked away powder room and play room, pantry, WIC etc), in my opinion. I remember we were told that the bigger doors will add substantially to the cost.

We have no transom in the windows, but I think they are big enough. Here is a shot of the window openings in the dining. The one on the right is smaller because of a buffet on the wall.

So far we like the effect of the 10ft ceiling. Our basement is 9ft and it doesn't feel as big, even though it is a walk out. I hope you figure it out!

This post was edited by northpolehome on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 0:25

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:11AM
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Thanks everyone...keep those opinions coming. Northpolehome, what is the height of your windows?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Michelle, about 6ft.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:55AM
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MrsPete is correct, and NorthPole hit on a key cost driver: taller doors. 8 ft doors are much more costly than standard 80" units, and if you have a lot of doors, that translates to a lot of $$$.
A cost-saving substitute for taller doors is to go with standard 80" and make the top (header) casing taller - it gives the appropriate appearance (height) and costs a fraction of a 96" door. A 1x8 header trim does the trick nicely.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:44AM
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I also believe the materials to build 10 foot versus 9 for walls are not hugely more, but then there are associated costs such as taller windows, taller doors, possibly more kitchen cabinets (depending on your preference if you want them at ceiling height), more exterior materials to cover the additional surface area around the entire house, need to have more room available for longer staircase (if you have a 2nd floor), etc. I like the look but that all pushed our decision to go with 9 foot ceilings.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:55AM
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We discussed the same thing with our builder. In our area about 2k to go from 10 to 9'. We were really surprised that it was so little.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 12:16PM
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Just met with our architect and decided to go with 9 ft on all three floors. I'm still torn though.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:16PM
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I was speaking of framing, sheetrock, insulation and labor sorry not including windows and doors. My thinking was that you do not necessarily change those items to go to 10'.

This post was edited by millworkman on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 13:23

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:22PM
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The clients on a custom home I built couldn't decide between themselves on 8' or 10' ceilings, so they compromised with 9'. The framing costs for nine foot were more than 10' ceilings. That's because nine foot studs weren't available. So I had to order 10 footers and cut them down to size, requiring a few more hours of labour.

Aside from the very significant costs of larger windows and taller doors, as others have noted, you have higher exterior veneer costs, longer stair runs and more to paint. But in practice, all these extra costs can be recovered in obtaining economies elsewhere.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 2:03PM
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But in practice, all these extra costs can be recovered in obtaining economies elsewhere.

Unless someone is already obtaining economies elsewhere to make up for other "must haves".

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 3:18PM
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we paid $7000 to go from 8 ft. to 10 ft. for 2700 sf of living space. We thought that was definitely worth it. I would never go lower than 9, but nine isn't bad. We did pay to have larger windows, but the doors are standard with 3 1/2 trim on top and they look fine to me. I feel like a hobbit with tall doors, but to each his own. :-)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:12PM
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What our builder suggested was doing coffered ceilings from 8 to 9 feet or 8 to 10 feet. When you do that you save the labor, framing, brick, etc. You can also buy smaller windows and doors which are less expensive. You get the feeling of a higher ceiling without having to pay for it.

Our old house had a cathedral ceiling in our master bedroom. Although it was nice and airy, it took a long time to heat and cool. I wouldn't have a cathedral ceiling again even if I had the opportunity.

This post was edited by aimless07 on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 20:14

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 6:55PM
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Michelle, we went with 9 foot ceilings in every room except the vaulted LR and we are very happy with them. All of our doors and windows are standard sizes but we set the top of the windows (not all of them) at 8 feet and they seem normal.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:28PM
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We went with 9' on the main floor and 8' upstairs. With just the kids bedrooms and a bathroom we didn't see a need to do 9 there. (No living space per se, just sleeping mostly). The basement-well that was planned and drawn at 9' and due to some excavating woes ended up 8'. I would definitely keep 9' there, big frustration, still as I walk down there even now...grrr.

I think the difference in feeling between 8 vs 9 is much greater than 9 vs 10. Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:47PM
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Kathy Harrington

We have 10 ft on the main level, 9ft in basement and just raised the third floor to 9 ft from 8 ft. We only have bedrooms there as well, but they are on the smaller side and the extra height in the ceiling helps. We also are putting 8 ft doors on the main level with 10 ft ceilings and 7 ft doors on the other 9ft floors.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:37PM
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This decision is driving me nuts. Our architect mentioned doing 9'6". Has anyone heard of this? Or done it?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:54PM
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Michelle...we have lived in a home with 9ft ceilings for 14 yrs and the home has always felt very open while still remaining cozy. I agree with what an earlier poster suggested that there is definately a big difference in feel when you go from 8' ceilings to 9' vs 9' to 10'. When it came time to plan the new build, we kept the ceilings at 9' (except for the 2 story foyer) because we already knew we liked how they felt...and worried going to a 10' ceiling would make the rooms loose their feeling of coziness, especially when the room sizes were already becoming larger. We just made sure that the widows were tall and it gives the illusion of the ceiling appearing even taller. I will post pics tomorrow from my cell just to give you an idea of how the tall windows look in a 9' ceiling (can't get it to work from my iPad:-( ).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:00AM
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Pic of 9' ceiling w/ tall windows

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:22AM
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We have 10' ceilings on the 1st floor, and one thing I love (among many things) is that the very wide, substantial millwork looks very proportional and lovely. I think my baseboards and crown would have been too big for 9' ceilings.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Our architect mentioned doing 9'6". Has anyone heard of this? Or done it?

Cannot speculate on why this was suggested, but as far as "have you heard of this"... My house in Minnesota which was built in 1918 had 9'6" ceilings throughout the first floor.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:27PM
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This is a pic of 10' ceiling with 7' long windows, no transom. I don't think there was room for a transom! The windows were a standard size.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:20AM
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I think 9 foot ceilings will be wonderful, and is considered an upgrade already over 8 foot ceilings. I don't think you will miss the 10 foot ceilings at all. Our house will have 8 foot ceilings on all levels, and while we would have liked 9 foot ceilings, it was not advisable as would have placed us much taller than houses beside us (8 foot is standard around here). I can think of many other upgrades I would want before 10 foot ceilings. Given you are trying to cut costs, only upgrading to 9 foot and not 10 seems like a very wise decision. Good luck.


This post was edited by OntarioMom on Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 18:08

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:23PM
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Our house came out 9' 6", oddly enough. It is built of ICF blocks which are 16". I didn't want 8', so I went one more course of blocks, which put us at 9' 4". I used a double plate, which works out to about 9' 6" after the drywall was hung.

I've never lived in a house with ceilings higher than 8'. One old house I lived in had ceilings of about 7' 6", and another house had a ceiling of just over 7' in the living room.

Back to our new house- I set the tops of the windows and doors at 8', as it was a natural break point with the ICF. The doors are standard 80" plus a transom. The overall impression is that the ceilings are plenty high enough, and a lot of extra light comes in the taller windows. One little snag with the windows, though. The little spring plunger to remove the screens is 84" off of the floor- too high to reach without a step-stool. I don't know if we could have ordered them closer to the floor.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:58PM
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The client had a long list of must-haves and a tight budget, so I wrote "Must halve" on it and sent it back :)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:56AM
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