You’ve found yourself wanting to raise the height of your basement ceiling. Perhaps it’s because the current ceiling height is too low to do anything useful with the space. Or maybe, the basement is the only place where you can viably add square footage to your home. For whatever reason, you now find yourself faced with a remodeling challenge. Is it possible to raise your basement ceiling height? With a good plan and a skilled build team, it is.
As a design-build firm serving the Portland-Metro Area, we’ve seen projects like this before. The team at Lamont Bros. has extensive experience in the process of increasing basement ceiling height. In this article, you can read all about how to raise your basement ceiling, including the options, process, and cost.
By the time you reach the end of this page, you’ll have a firm understanding of what lies ahead for your basement ceiling project. We’ll cover:
- Why you might choose to raise your basement ceiling
- The two main methods of raising basement ceiling height
- What to consider when choosing how to raise your ceiling
Why raise my basement ceiling height?
Also known as “head height,” the height of your ceiling affects how you can use or change a space. In a basement, by far the most common reason to raise the head height is for finishing the space.
Often, people choose to convert their unfinished basement into a finished basement to increase the overall living area in their home. The problem they often encounter is the legality of the ceiling height. To get a construction permit to finish a basement, the ceiling must be at least 6’8”. If it is shorter than this minimum requirement, then you have to raise the ceiling before finishing the basement.
The benefits of a finished basement are only sometimes enough to justify the complex process of raising your ceiling height. While it does increase the value of your home, it’s also one of the most expensive methods of adding usable livable space. For this reason, many people choose to use a finished basement for a game room, media room, or additional bedrooms.
What is the process for raising a basement ceiling?
Believe it or not, there are two methods to increase a basement ceiling’s height. The first method is to dig the basement down deeper. The second method is to lift the house and build the basement walls higher. The method that works best for your home will depend on several factors relating to its size, shape, and location.
A dig-down is exactly what it sounds like – you dig your foundation lower, moving the floor further from the ceiling. In a dig-down, you’ll have to move several thousand pounds of dirt out from under the house to make room for the new basement floor.
In this type of project, the first step is to strip out the basement to clear the space for work. If you have a utility basement, this may mean temporarily moving your furnace and electrical systems. Then, your construction team will build temporary supports inside the basement to take some of the weight off the exterior basement walls.
Once the space is prepared, then begins the long, difficult task of digging out the basement. While most crawl spaces have dirt floors, even a short basement will have a concrete slab floor. This often presents even more difficulty, because the builders must demolish the concrete slab and remove it before digging out the dirt below.
A dig-down will usually begin by cutting out a large hole in the side of the foundation to drive digging equipment in. Depending on the space, your build team may choose to use a conveyor belt to carry the dirt out, instead. The digging begins at the outer perimeter of the basement and works its way inward. This process is very labor-intensive and often requires weeks of digging. Once the home’s footprint has been dug down to the desired depth, a concrete team will pour the new footings and slab to extend the foundation. Once this is done, all that’s left to do is replace the utilities and finish the basement.
Another method of raising your basement height is by lifting the house. This way, you move your basement ceiling further from the foundation floor.
The first step in a house lift is to sever the home from its foundation. This includes separating the home from the structural concrete underneath it, as well as the electrical, water, and HVAC systems. Once separated, a team of professional house lifters completes the rest of the actual lifting process. The usual procedure is to attach the home to temporary steel I-beam supports and use jacks to lift the house. As the house raises, the team will add structural cribbing underneath to support the weight. They’ll typically raise the house 1-2 feet above the desired height to give themselves room to work.
Then begins the process of replacing the foundation, which is often the only way to ensure that the structure is secure. Foundation work for this type of project should always be done by a professional concrete team. Once the foundation is complete, the lift team will then lower the house back onto the foundation and reattach it.
Which option is best for me?
Between the two options for raising your basement ceiling height, one is likely a better option for you over the other. Which one depends on the specifics of your home and what you want out of the project.
How much does it cost to raise a basement ceiling?
Fortunately, the cost isn’t one of the factors that will determine which option you can choose. The good news is that both typically cost about the same. The bad news is that neither option is very inexpensive. Whether you choose a dig-down or a house lift, you can expect to pay between $275,000-$375,000.
A dig-down typically has more labor costs associated with it because of the time it takes to demolish the old slab, dig out the basement, and build a new foundation. A house lift costs just as much because it requires more work to the exterior of the home, more mechanical and utility work, and almost always requires replacing the entire foundation. Not to mention, you’re quite literally lifting a house several feet into the air.
How will raising my basement ceiling affect my house?
One thing to consider when choosing how to raise your basement head height is the current state of your foundation. The type of foundation you have, its age, and its structural stability will determine which option is better for you.
For most older homes with structurally compromised foundations, a house-lift is almost always the better option. It allows you to totally replace your old foundation while the house is detached. This can greatly extend the life of your home and improve its safety.
However, if you currently have a low-ceiling basement and your foundation is in relatively good condition, a dig-down is likely the best option. Since the basement is already there, it makes for a good staging area from which to begin the project. It also means you won’t have as much digging to do.
Want to start designing your new basement?
Now that you know the process for raising your basement ceiling height, keep up the great research! Take a look at our basement remodel portfolio to find ideas and inspiration for what your basement could look like!
Every great basement remodel needs a great design to get started. If you’re thinking about remodeling your basement, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with our design team. We’ll walk you through the process of remodeling your basement, step by step.