One of the challenges that comes with remodeling the basement is the fact that many of them have low ceilings. Since they were never originally intended to be living spaces, this is understandable. However, with the increasing attention to remodeling basements, it is important to deal with this for the sake of comfort. Building codes require that basement ceilings be no lower than six feet after any renovation. This excludes any support or utility structures such as girders, beams and ducts. Here are some tips that can keep a low ceiling from becoming too much of a problem.
- Make careful lighting decisions. This is an obvious step, as basements usually have limited light, even with an egress window. A lighting plan will keep shadows to a minimum, giving the space an open feel. This means limiting the use of lamps except for cases where task lighting is needed. Cover the space with light, but it should not cause a strong glare. Recessed lights and track lighting are good options for low ceilings.
- Make use of natural light. Take a look at the egress window and decide whether it is big enough. An adjustment can make a big difference to the space, or if possible, you can add another window. The use of window treatments should be avoided since your goal is to let more light in.
- Deal with the sub floor. Basement floors are usually made of concrete, and a new flooring material is placed on top during a renovation. Your best options are to simply color the concrete, or to choose a material that does not need a sub-floor. If you don’t want to paint the concrete you can carpet the area. Another alternative is to use engineered wood which only requires a simple underlayment. Ceramic tiles can be installed directly over a concrete floor. However, if the surface is too smooth, some preparation will be necessary.
- Ceiling choices. The best step is to simply cover the ceiling without adding inches to it. Painting ductwork and points is simpler, and will maintain the ceiling height. If you prefer a finished look, use wood paneling or drywall, but do not create a drop ceiling as this will take up more of the available space.
If you cover the ceiling, keep in mind that at some point you may need access to plumbing, ducts and electrical cables. A contractor may be able to add a door which will give you access to shut-off valves and electrical panels.