How Can You Increase the Height of a Low Ceiling in a Basement?


A basement offers an opportunity to expand your home's living space. When the time comes to renovate your basement, you may discover that the ceiling height falls short of local building and fire code. With a low ceiling height as an obstacle, a basement's legal use is often restricted to use as a nonresidential space only. When backed into a corner, though, you may discover ways to make your dream basement conversion a reality. For instance, you might gain a few inches of headroom by removing an existing drop ceiling, or you might dig out the floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Safety goggles
  • 2-1/2-inch screws
  • Insulation
  • Utility knife
  • Staple gun
  • 5/8-inch drywall sheets
  • Joint compound
  • Paper tape
  • Feathering knives
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint rollers
  • Jackhammer
  • Shovels
  • Wheelbarrow
  • 5-gallon buckets
  • Plate compactor rental
  • Moisture barrier
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Level
  • Leveling concrete
  • Floor finish

Drop-Ceiling Removal

  • Remove the drop ceiling's tiles. Lift each one up and turn them to pull them down.

  • Pull down the drop ceiling tracking. Unscrew the tracking from the ceiling beams with a drill, then pry and pull down the pieces with a hammer and crowbar.

  • Remove any nails or screws remaining in the ceiling beams with a hammer or a drill.

  • Install the insulation between each ceiling beam. Tack it to the sides of the ceiling beams with a staple gun.

  • Install drywall panels over the overhead floor joists. Enlist the help of others to lift each panel to the ceiling. Screw the drywall sheets into the ceiling beams using 2-1/2-inch screws and a drill. Space the screws 8 to 12 inches apart.

  • Complete the installation of the ceiling with joint compound, paper tape and feathering knives to camouflage the seams and screw holes.

  • Paint the ceiling to match the basement's new wall cover.

Basement Floor Dig-Out

  • Consult an architect and builder to plan your approach to digging out the basement floor to avoid compromising the house's foundational supports and underlying plumbing.

  • Use a jackhammer to break up the basement floor.

  • Remove the broken concrete with a shovel, push it out a basement window, then haul it away in wheelbarrows.

  • Dig up the dirt beneath the basement floor, down to the recommended depth for the correct ceiling height. Haul away the dirt in 5-gallon buckets or something manageable.

  • Level the floor. Smooth out the dirt, compact it with a plate compactor and use a level to check the evenness of the floor.

  • Roll a moisture barrier over the dirt's surface to prevent moisture from seeping into the new concrete structure.

  • Add sand and then a gravel layer over the moisture barrier. Level and tamp them down with the plate compactor.

  • Pour self-leveling concrete to complete the new basement floor. Allow the concrete to flow over the compacted dirt to cover the entire floor.

  • Finish the basement floor with floor paint, tiles, wood, carpet or other flooring material.

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