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bustedstuff88 08-19-2012 06:27 AM

Obnoxiously low basement ceiling height....Finishing basement.
We moved into our home about two years ago now. It is a one bedroom, one bath, 600 sq. ft. It is my wife and I, and our two kids. Yes, it is TINY, but we are creative with our space and dont have many possessions, so its been working out.


Since the kids dont have a bedroom of their own, I have been thinking of finishing off our basement space. The big hangup is the ceiling height. From floor to fllor joists, it is barely over 6', and some of the support beams running across go below that, and the cold air return for my HVAC stands at 5-1/2' from the floor....:eek:

My kids are tiny, so im not worried about them hitting their heads, but how on earth do you go about framing and drywalling through low things like my ducts, and the beams?

I think about my only option is going to be spray painting the ceiling flat black, to preserve what little height I have, but to draw the eye away from the low ceiling.

We bought our house as a foreclosure and got it for next to nothing, so we are happy with it (mortgage ends in 2 years!!!) It was also completely renovated 5 years ago. The previous owners took out a MVAC loan of 40,000 and lost the house in the end. We dont want to move, I just want a bedroom for my kids. Pleas help me.

Chuck Kiser 08-19-2012 07:02 AM

I don't know where are located but in many, if not most, municipalities you need a finished clear ceiling height of 7 feet to meet code for living spaces. And for bedrooms you need 2 egress routes as well.

bustedstuff88 08-19-2012 07:09 AM

Even if im not selling it as a two bedroom? I just want to drywall and carpet because my kids are scared to play and sleep in the "basement".....They wont even give me a permit?

I live in Minnesota....

Chuck Kiser 08-19-2012 07:25 AM

Well if you don't care about a permit you can do whatever you want. Keep in mind the next owners may care. The loan docs ask for permits on any work that was done to the house. At any rate, what you do to the basement is based on your skill level and cash. If you are going to hire this out be aware that a contractor cannot legally build without a permit if the work requested requires one by the local codes.

Sorry, your question is not just black and white.

Fix'n it 08-19-2012 08:06 AM

you NEED the space. so just "do it". but don't get carried away with the cost and finishes, as you may have to take it down some day. and don't try and sell it as a 2 bedroom.

ddawg16 08-19-2012 11:02 AM

I concure with the above....But I wouldn't spray the ceiling will not reflect light....I would put up drywall...

Go on the assumption that it is going to stay a basement.....

Then in 2 years when the house is paid off....add in 2 more bedrooms and another then we should have helped you answer all your questions related to the build......

Windows 08-19-2012 12:21 PM

One thing I would at least consider is digging out the basement to give yourself more head room. I don't know if that aligns with your budget or your ambitions -- I was just thinking if you picked it up for a song and you're almost mortgage free, more legal square footage could add some serious value to your home.

creeper 08-19-2012 01:41 PM

Nevermind resale value..speaking as a parent, no child of mine will be sleeping for even one night, in a place without proper means of escape in case of a fire.

Maybe your money is better spent going towards an upstairs addition

bustedstuff88 08-20-2012 06:05 PM


Originally Posted by ddawg16 (Post 992088)
I concure with the above....But I wouldn't spray the ceiling will not reflect light....I would put up drywall...

Go on the assumption that it is going to stay a basement.....

Then in 2 years when the house is paid off....add in 2 more bedrooms and another then we should have helped you answer all your questions related to the build......

I thought about drywall, but in addition to the crazy low ceilings, my ductwork especially the cold air return drops down well below 5 1/2 feet off the basement floor, as well as various beams and just seems like it would be alot of rigamaroll to box it all in with drywall. I thought perhaps black would draw the eye away from the low ceiling yet still leave me with access to pipes and electrical wires.....Anybody personally tried this?

bustedstuff88 08-20-2012 06:10 PM

We originally got a quote from a local contractor for an addition on to our house......2 bedrooms, one bathroom, roughly 600 sq. ft of added space, quote came to over $60,000, not including finishings:eek:.....

That seemed ludacris to us.

Thing is, we are not completely sure we will be sticking around in the long term. Alot of that will depend upon where my wife can find work once she completes her masters degree. At least the house will be paid in full by that time.

shadytrake 08-20-2012 07:31 PM

I don't have children myself, but as another mentioned, safety is an issue. Since you are being creative, why not put up a Murphy bed in your living room to create a 2nd bedroom? If you are wanting to finish the basement to make it usable, finish it into a den-type area.

That way, you have the kids in a safe exit area in the event of a fire.

Basically you would swap your living room area to another floor. Without a picture or a drawing, I'm having trouble visualizing your space. 600 sq ft is pretty small so you must be cramped.

Could you post some photos?

Duckweather 08-20-2012 08:10 PM

If you "have to do it" is there an outside cellar entrance? One that could be made into a doghouse type with a regular exterior door for a second exit. There is no reason you have to call it a bedroom. You can call it a den or whatever. Just to give another option, I have worked on many jobs where jacking it up and adding a couple rows of blocks, and reconnection of pipes, ducts, and wires, was the cheapest way out.

bustedstuff88 08-20-2012 11:57 PM

Ill try to post pics ASAP, but i dont think a murphy bed in the living room is really an option. As far as a basement exit goes, we were plannign on having an egress window dug in, but we had wondered if a trencher or backhoe could access our backyard (it is completely fenced in.....I could remove a panel to gain an 8' opening between posts, but that is it).

Anyways, this kinda sucks because we love our house. It is a really solid home that is wonderfully done on a corner lot with a two car garage, as well as a new k-12 school that is getting built out in what is now the cornfield.... Perhaps we should have bought something bigger, but i pat myself on the back every time our gas bill comes and it is never over $15.

As far as the addition goes, for $60,000, we could easily buy a bigger house in our area so that was just kinda out of the question once we saw the price.

I just wish my children had a place to be other than in the wife and I's can only go so far on being "creative":)

oh'mike 08-21-2012 05:10 AM

You can hand dig the window well opening---you will need a helper to haul up buckets of dirt---Power digging next to a foundation is often avoided.

AllanJ 08-21-2012 10:12 AM

You could lower the basement floor about 18 inches, excavating under the foundation and putting in new footing and building a foundation extension downward using concrete blocks (or pouring concrete), about two feet worth of foundation at a time. (It may be possible to have four 2' sections in the works at once, starting one on each side wall.) This is best done by a professional and must have a permit.

While you are at it, put in a perimeter French drain system at the new footing level.

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