+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Low Ceilings in Old House

    Hello, my wife and I are looking to buy a new house and we're really interested in an old house. The tax sheet says it was originally built in 1890. There's been an addition since, supposedly in the 1950s. We really like the house but one major issue is that the biggest bedroom's ceiling is too low. I don't have the measurements on hand, but I'm 6'4 and my hair brushes along the ceiling as I walk. We probably will not be interested in the home unless we can affordably raise the ceiling.

    It is a flat ceiling but under a peaked roof but there is no access anywhere to an attic. From the outside of the house you can see a vent in the wall that is above the ceiling. It was speculated to me that it was for the purpose of blowing in insulation.

    I'm somewhat handy but clueless as far as the actual concepts that go into construction (See nail hit nail). Is raising a ceiling a major structural issue or is it similar to putting up a wall.. just horizontally? Does anyone have an idea of a range of costs to have someone do it? Is there any critical information I'm leaving out? Any help would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    821

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    very tough to say without seeing it.

    #1 all the work would be structural because the ceiling is most likely tied into the roof and supporting it in some fashion.

    #2 due to the age of the house, some of the structural work required might be complex because the house was most likely built without any permitting and could be post and beam construction.

    #3 it is definitely possible to raise most of the ceiling but the issue is going to be.....what has to be done structurally.

    #4 if you are truly interested in the house, have a good contractor come over and assess the situation.

    #5 best case scenario would be $3,000-$5,000 (just guessing)...worst case scenario would be $10,000-$15,000 (again, just guessing and barring any major disasters in the attic)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    You really need the advice of a structural engineer or experienced contractor that can inspect and evaluate the situation. Any structural changes may require massive changes to bring it up to current code. No being able to see the house or knowing the location, I will venture a guess it is not post and beam in which case changes could require such things as installing cross ties higher up and removing the existing ceiling, and creating a modified cathedral ceiling.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    140

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    I often get it wrong, so excuse me before people jump on me . . .

    First, don't old houses tend to have higher ceilings like victorians & federal town houses ??

    Can you assume that the large bedroom is an addition given the low ceiling height, access & footprint, etc. It seems to me someone converted attic space to living space, and may have been "lazy" about it. This implies very little structural construction (a big maybe) ? Are there dormers ? Where are the windows ? Maybe the room was the attic so that's why there's no attic above ?

    My house is "cape cod" layout and the 2nd floor is the attic -- the telltale signs include a 8 ft ceiling that shows the roof pitch lines along the long, side walls and closets left & right of dormers that have the roof pitch intruding into the closet top shelf. This was the original architectual design . . . nothing wrong.

    My point is that do you see all similar details that exist to create a 8 feet ceiling when the roof line & pitch get in the way - - - do you think the ceiling was 6 1/2 feet to hide the roof pitch line along the walls ? For example, if my ceiling was dropped about 1 foot, the roof pitch line would disappear along the long walls.

    If I were to remediate the low ceiling, I would look at the possibility of removing the ceiling and creating an A-frame cathedral . . . a soaring ceiling is very impressive, but several posters already mention potential structual issues. Once you have 9 ft or higher, 8 ft feels like a submarine living.
    In the same vein, I would reduce the value of this "large" BR as part of the house price -- a 200 sf 6 1/2 ft ceiling BR (likely unpermitted or maybe not tax rated) is not the same as a 200 sf BR w/ 8 ft ceiling.

    In terms of contractors, my experience is that most are R&R - remove & replace. A contractor who knows about working with 1890 houses, and cares how it turns will be likely be in the 10-15% group. You won't find Mike Holmes, Tom Silva, etc. in the usual way.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    t_manero, no the situation discribed by the OP is not unusual for homes of that vintage. The average height of individuals has increased over the years. While what he describes is on the extreme size, my home built around the same time has 9 ft ceilings downstairs and just under and just under 8 ft upstairs.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    5,089

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    Before you jump in, find out if it's feasible and affordable. Like suggested, contact an experienced general contractor in your area for ideas. Keep in mind that you will have unexpected items/upgrades/code to deal with, making the project more expensive than planned.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    Thank you for the replies everyone. We are planning on bringing in a contractor before we decide whether to offer on the house but I'm glad to be more educated on the matter. It's also good to know that it will in fact require a contractor and won't be a diy job. I'll also be checking the code in the town and bring that to the attention of the realtor if in fact it's in violation.

    To answer a couple of the questions I saw there are no dormers, and the pitch is visible on one side. I would say between a foot or two worth. I don't know enough to tell you what kind of construction it is, but it's located in Upstate NY. A cathedral ceiling sounds pretty nice and would definitely be one of the options we discuss with the contractor, even though I can't imagine it would peak at a very impressive height.
    Last edited by McGrai37; 05-21-2013 at 09:43 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    Hi There. We're currently experiencing a similar issue "Low Ceiling in Old House" and i was wondering what did you end up doing.
    any tips/advice will be appreciated. thank you very much.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,481

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    Quote Originally Posted by freeleoni View Post
    Hi There. We're currently experiencing a similar issue "Low Ceiling in Old House" and i was wondering what did you end up doing.
    any tips/advice will be appreciated. thank you very much.
    Unless the thread is active, it is always best to start your own thread with questions, rather than reviving an old post, this allows us to focus on the specifics of your needs. Having said that, without intimate knowledge of your home, it is very very difficult to provide you with any worthy answers. Basically, it depends on how your home was built whether or not the ceiling can be raised and how much something like this will cost.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

    This would only buy a small amount of height, but perhaps you could remove the plaster or whatever is covering the ceiling and expose the joists? I've seen some exposed-joist rooms that look nice - you can use paint on or between the joists to be decorative.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •