Remodel A Basement With Low Ceilings

Not all basements are built the same — even the unfinished ones! If you’re currently scoping out the possibilities in your unfinished basement space, you may notice some irregularities like mechanicals that aren’t yet installed or a lower-than-normal ceiling height.

One of the first questions we ask when discussing your basement finish is how high your ceiling height is. Older homes, especially, can often see lower-than-normal basement ceiling heights. Depending on where you live (as we service Denver, Minneapolis, and West Chicagoland), your neighborhood may have code restrictions to how high your ceiling must be to complete a basement remodel. 

You can rest easy knowing that FBC Remodel’s inspection and planning process will help you identify any potential issue prior to remodeling. In the meantime, though, here’s our quick guide on assessing your ceiling height, and what your options may be to bring your basement up to code.

Basement Ceiling Requirements Depend on Your Area

As we mentioned, FBC Remodel has locations in the Denver metro area, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro, and the Naperville, IL, area. Each location has its own set of code requirements, and with it, the height your basement ceiling must be for an easy remodel. 

Please note these are general rules of thumb, and each jurisdiction within each major city is subject to change.

For instance, if you’re in the Twin Cities, you generally can’t have an obstruction below 6’4’’ — that includes your ceiling. If there is an obstruction, the basement can be finished but can’t be deemed a habitable space. This means you can’t add bedrooms to your basement. Stairs to your basement also have to have the same minimal clearance as well as a 26’’ landing. 

If you’re a Naperville or West Chicagoland homeowner, the rule of thumb for a pre-1980 home is a 6’8’’ ceiling height for a habitable basement space. If your home was built after 1980, a 6’8’’ ceiling height is allowed at non-habitable spaces and a 7’0’’ is required to add bedrooms into your basement. You also have to check your stair configurations for compliance; otherwise, it will have to be adjusted to meet code. 

In the city of Denver, homes built prior to 1990 will be required to have a minimum finished ceiling height of 6’8’’ to be able to pull a permit. Homes built after 1990 have a required finished height of 7’0’’. The ceiling height can be as low as 6’4’’ where there are existing HVAC ducts and pipes as long as the rest of the space scales up to that required minimum height. 

Again, these are general requirements for large metro areas. If you live on an outskirt of the city itself, these rules may differ. We recommend searching basement code requirements in your area, and consult with your remodeling partner on inspecting the space. If any of these heights are not met in your area, a dig down will be required to pull a permit and complete your basement finish. More on that below.

What if My Basement Is Too Low? Can I Remodel?

We get this question a lot for homeowners in those older homes with low ceilings. You can still finish your basement, but your remodeling partner will have to bring your basement up to code by getting your ceiling to the required height. This will require a dig down

A dig down consists of digging into your basement, beneath the current floor, to create more floor-to-ceiling space. It’s worth noting though, that a dig down will significantly impact the cost of your remodel. In general, a dig down runs roughly from $10,000 to $50,000, so make sure to plan for that added cost prior to planning your basement design. The cost would ultimately depend on what parts of the space you need to expand, in addition to any mechanicals that need to be installed.

How FBC Makes Basement Remodeling Easy

As you can probably tell, there are a lot of inspection elements in play to ensure your new basement is not only beautiful but also meets the code requirements in your local area. When you work with FBC, we complete all permitting and inspections on your behalf. Throughout your design consultation and your first project manager meeting, we’ll walk the space and point out any issues that may delay construction or add cost to your project. 

FBC’s proven process ensures no detail goes unchecked. Not only do we discuss your ceiling height in your first call with our design coordinator, you’ll also have a designer personally come to your home, measure the space, and note any immediate needs. Your dedicated construction project manager will also walk your space and note any potential issues before you move forward with our process and put down a deposit. If a dig down is required, we’ll help you find the right partner to complete that dig down before you remodel your basement with us.

Remodel Your Basement with FBC Remodel

FBC Remodel has been finishing and remodeling basements since 1997. As your trusted local design-builders, we ensure that no detail goes overlooked. In addition to a construction and build process that puts you at ease, our incredible custom designs and quality craftsmanship ensure your basement dream will be brought to life. 

Have questions about your ceiling height and what’s needed for your remodel? Take a moment to measure your floor to ceiling height and give us a call today to chat with our Design Coordinator about your project. We can’t wait to show you what’s possible.

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