Ceiling height question

I am considering purchasing a house to update and sell as an investment. The house has two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and a couple rooms in the basement, none of which I think were used as bedrooms. The basement ceiling height is 7’, more than comfortable for me (and I’m 6’5"). I know that code requires newly built houses to have 7’6" ceiling height. My question is: is this a safety issue, or just a comfort issue? Many old houses have lower ceilings, and my current bedroom height is abouth 7’ and I have no issue with it. I’m worried that if I renovate the basement and advertise as a 4 bed/2 bath house, the home inspector will raise a red flag and the house won’t sell. Comments? Opinions?
Note: egress is not an issue.
Thanks for your input.

I am not sure that 7’ is not an adequate ceiling height. However, the main problem with putting bedrooms in a basement is likely to be secondary egress. Bedrooms are required to have a window of 5.7 SF or larger, with the sill not more than 44" above the floor.

Jim King

The only hight issue I’m aware of is 6’8" at stairways. I wouldn’t even mention a 7’ ceiling hight.

Minimum height is 7" per R305.1 2003 IRC
There are a few exceptions but in what you have described ,you should be ok.

I was looking at the UBC, which states a minimum of 7’6". But if the IRC states a 7’ ceiling is good enough, than that’s enough for me.

Egress won’t be a problem, as I plan on digging window wells and providing more than adequate window size.

Thanks for your input.



General Ceiling Hight Requirements are listed below. Your jurisdiction may vary. Check with your local authorities:

A. Habitable rooms. At least sixty (60) square feet of floor area of every habitable room shall have a ceiling height of at least seven and one-half (7 1/2) feet and the floor area of that part of any room where the ceiling height is less than five (5) feet shall not be considered as part of the floor area in computing the total floor area of the room for the purpose of determining the maximum permissible occupancy thereof. Habitable rooms in dwellings legally erected or converted prior to 1951 shall have a ceiling height of at least six and one-half (6 1/2) feet.

B. Common spaces other than habitable rooms. Every bathroom, water closet compartment, utility room, hall and passageway shall have a clear ceiling height of at least six (6) feet eight inches. Bathrooms, water closet compartments, utility rooms, halls and passageways in dwellings legally erected or converted prior to 1951 are exempt from the six (6) feet eight inches ceiling height requirements, but shall meet the ceiling height requirement prevailing at the time each of such dwellings was erected or converted.

In my city which uses the National Property Maintenance Code to inspect property before they issue an occupancy permit states> Habitable rooms must have a ceiling height of 74". Bedrooms, halls, and laundry rooms must have a minimum height of 7. Bedrooms have a minimum of 70 sq. ft. or 50 sq. ft. for each of 2 or more persons.

As always, simply check with your local Authority Having Jurisdiction…that trumps anything. If they say it’s ok, then it’s ok.


Where I come from the square footage of a basement is NOT calculated with the overall sf of the home. Therefore if you add 2 additional bedrooms in the basement you can not advertise the home as a 4 bedroom home. You can however say that the basement is finished with 2 additional bedrooms.


Very good advice!!

The basement rooms may predate current codes, and may have been legal when they were built, provided a building permit was issued at that time. You should check with the local Building Department to see if there is a valid Certificate of Occupancy which specifically covers the basement rooms as they now exist, as bedrooms. If you find one, they are “grandfathered” and are legal.

If you don’t find one, then the local Authority Having Jurisdiction will likely require that a building permit be obtained, and that you submit a letter from a licensed architect or engineer stating that the rooms as built conform to **current **codes, and obviously the rooms do not.

Don’t undersestimate the egress requirements, A pretty huge window is required, as well as an areaway which allows occupants to climb up and out. Bilco manufactures a plastic modular areaway which meets code requirements, and also an egress window that meets requirements. there is no reason, though, why their window must be used with their areaway.

However, the ceiling height requirement of 7’-6" remains a code issue.

If there was a building permit issued for the rooms when they were built, they may be legal. See if the local building department has a certificate of occupancy for the rooms as they exist, as bedrooms. If so, they are “grandfathered” and are legal.

If not, you will probably be asked to apply for a building permit, and will also be asked to have an architect or engineer certify that the rooms conform to current building codes. You can see by what others have posted here that they will not.

The egress requirement can be met. Bilco manufactures modular plastic areaways which allo occupants to climb up and out, and also a window which conforms to code requirements. You can also use other windows, and the window will be pretty big to get 5.5 square feet of clear opening.

However, the ceiling height issue remains.


I interpret your question as looking for more than just a H/I’s opinion from a H/I’s point of view.
As a small, one time property investor in the past, doing what you are trying to decide to do, my concern was what will the market bare when it come to condition, design, finish, etc.
If the marketplace you live in will accept a 7’+/- ceiling height in a finished basement setting, then you will probably be OK. In my marketplace, it would be an absolute deal killer, in most cases.
Check with a local R/E Agt. you know, that you can trust to give you the straight scoop. You may be fine, but it could be investment suicide.

My question turns out to be moot because I didn’t get the house.
Many thanks to those who offered advice.


I do not agree. Different municipalities have mush different rules (and not always up-to-date or written with safety in mind).

Sure, it trumps as a minimum standard, but who wants to buy a house biult only to the minimum?:wink:

BTW: I am 6’8" tall and I jump around alot. (and hit my head alot, this the post).