Building up and out is the choice of many home owners who need more living space, but don't rule out the idea of building down and incorporating a cellar or open space beneath the home into your living space. Working with a 7-foot ceiling height is a good rule of thumb to follow for a basement. However, local building code may require the basement to have a specific ceiling height or fall within a certain range of dimensions.
Standard recommendations for a basement ceiling height requires at least a 7-foot height. However, validating that dimension with your local building agency is recommended. Your local building code may require a specific dimension or range of dimensions for a basement ceiling. A permit to build is usually required for any type of remodel, addition or new construction whether residential or commercial. Building permits include an inspection of the basement to confirm the builder has built to the correct ceiling height and meets all other code requirements.
City and county building departments manage building codes and construction permits for many structures including basements. Contacting the government's main office to locate the building and permit department is the place to begin a building code search. Some cities may place building code information online through a city government website. Building department personnel can verify whether building or remodeling a basement requires a permit and what the ceiling recommendations are. When a particular dimension is not required, the 7-foot height is the standard to use. It is important to note, a building inspector can immediately shut down a basement construction site when the proper permit has not been obtained.
Some exceptions may apply to the ceiling height in a basement such as duct work, pipes and structural beams. These obstructions may require the basement ceiling height to vary and dip below requirements. Exceptions may or may not be listed in a local building code making it important to contact the local inspector before finalizing construction decisions. Most inspectors understand many obstructions cannot be moved and are usually willing to work with the homeowner and builder to resolve issues.
Contacting an inspector during the planning stage of construction, or as soon as a problem is discovered, can help resolve ceiling height problems quickly. Building inspectors are more sympathetic when a problem is approached proactively than when a basement ceiling issue is ignored until the last minute. Remember, inspectors have the authority to demand the removal of any construction that does not meet code. To contact a local building inspector, reference the construction permit to see whether a particular inspector or contact person is named and to locate the permit number. Schedule a site review with an inspector by calling the local building permit office.
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- Smart Guide - Basements, Step-by-Step Projects: Mark Feirer