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MLB Construction
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)

JLMCDANIEL
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

t_manero
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.

JLMCDANIEL
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 9½ ft ceilings downstairs and just under and just under 8 ft upstairs.

Jack

dj1
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.

McGrai37
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. :)

freeleoni
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.

A. Spruce
Re: Low Ceilings in Old House
freeleoni wrote:

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.

sauron
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.

artedetimo
Re: Low Ceilings in Old House

Not a construction expert and live on the other coast, but wanted to share how difficult it can be to know how a house is put together without being in the attic.

I have a house of almost identical dates, but the ceiling is low throughout the house (not quite so low, though; maybe 6' 9") We thought there wasn't attic access when we bought it, and had a contractor out to inspect. Underneath, everything looked good, and not too far off code; the contractor informed us that code only applies for renovation, and remodel, but technique being more important. We had lots of new wood, and reinforced timber down there, so we bought it.

The house has survived a few large earthquakes and bouts with termites, so no worries on it standing another 100 years if needed. After a month of working on it, I finally found the attic access in a closet. A hole had been cut and panel put in place over the whole closet, so it wasn't apparent that it opened up at first.

When I got up there to rewire some circuits, I found a rats nest (literally, and figuratively) of knob and tube wiring, blown in cellulose insulation etc. Once I cleaned it up, I found that the whole original structure is old growth redwood, and that the ceiling is 1.5" of cross laid 6" planking with rough cut timbers on top. Then the roof is pitched on top of that without the A members. So imagine that the roof is just sort of tacked on to a solid redwood box.

The construction is somewhere between a barn and a boat, with no chance of remodel or structural additions.

We learned to be OK with short ceilings.

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