How Tall Do I Need the Walls for a Basement to Be?

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Whether you are building a home or remodeling your basement, ceiling height must meet minimum building code criteria. You also want it to be a comfortable living space for your family and guests.

Constructing a Basement

  • If you want your basement to be a comfortable, livable space, an 8-foot or higher floor-to-ceiling height is ideal, according to University of Missouri Extension. If you are constructing a home, a 9-foot basement should be dug out to ensure an 8-foot ceiling. Up to 12 inches will be lost to the concrete slab and pipes and duct work for the floor above.

Building Code

  • Verify your local building code for basement wall height so the space can be considered livable space. A minimum floor-to-ceiling height of 6 feet 8 inches is a standard requirement. Depending on the municipality, a couple of the inches can be above above the joists and beams. New houses might have a stricter requirement, often 7 feet.

Benefits of a Taller Basement

  • If you construct your basement so it has a 9- or 10-foot ceiling, you will have ample room to install a drop or tray ceiling. Consider also the height of the ceilings on the other floors in your home. If you install a shorter ceiling in the basement, the it will feel more like a basement rather than an extension of the rest of the home. This could play an important role when selling your home.

Short Ceilings

  • In most areas, in order to legally finish a basement, you must have a permit. If your ceiling is shorter than the minimum requirement, ask for a waiver. If the waiver is denied, call a contractor to see whether you can raise the ceiling height. The only solution likely will be to dig through the floor to create a deeper basement. This project should be done by an expert and by permit only.

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