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why 9 and 10 foot ceiling?

edwardh1's picture

Whats driving that craze? For a time in the 70s I thought 7 ft ceilings were in, to save energy. These hi ceilings along with lots of yard lights will really cost when energy goes up

(post #103911, reply #1 of 79)

Well, for some it's aesthetics. For some they feel lower ceilings are claustrophobic. Some places have hot weather and the higher ceilings allow more air circulation.


Many older homes had 9' or higher.


Don K.


EJG Homes     Renovations - New Construction - Rentals

(post #103911, reply #2 of 79)

9- 10- and 12-foot ceilings have been around a long time.  In my opinion, we're just getting back to what was.  From that perspective, the "fad" was the ubiquitous 8-foot ceiling (perhaps initiated by the introduction and industry-wide acceptance of sheetrock).


There's a lot more room with higher ceilings to put in light fixtures and not worry about accidentally hitting them with your arms, etc.  But mostly, I think a 9- or 10- foot ceiling just "feels" a lot better.  Less claustrophobic.  More scaled to a full-size human.  ;)


As far as the heating goes, my guess is that a 9-foot ceiling won't make a huge difference.  If it did make a difference (with 12-foot ceilings, for example), it'd be easy enough to put in ceiling fans to gently mix up the air.  Eliminating the thermal stratification would fix that problem.  For that matter, I suppose the location of forced air registers and returns could be intelligently laid out to eliminate stratification (and stagnation) as well.



Edited 5/3/2007 10:38 pm ET by Ragnar17

(post #103911, reply #35 of 79)

Ragnar, I bet you are correct about the cost of heating a 9 foot tall room vs an 8 foot ceiling not costing you much more.  On the face of it you could figure that you are heating 12.5% more air which should cost you 12.5% more.  However, what costs you is not the heating of the air but the heat loss.  Since heat rises and most heat is lost through the ceiling and not the walls and since the sq ft of ceiling remains unchanged between the different heights the cost is pretty much the same.  As far as wasting heat because "it" all sits up at the ceiling and does no one any good up there, I doubt the heat differential is all that great in a 9 foot ceiling.  Perhaps you could get some dead air up there in a 12 foot ceiling, but with a little help it too get get moved around easily.

(post #103911, reply #36 of 79)

9, 10 and 12 foot getting back to once was?  You have not been to New England have you?  IT was the norm for "once was" to be 6' 6" or 7 foot if you were lucky. 


You are right in that ceiling heights did go up from there and of course if you measure what once was by the palaces of Kings in Europe you would also be right.  LOL!

(post #103911, reply #39 of 79)

I am in New England last time I checked and almost every old house I work in or have lived in here has ceilings at 9-10 feet downstairs and anywhere from 6'2" to 8'4" upstairs. The only ones I can think of that have less than 8' on the main floor are hovels and converted chicken coops

 

 


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(post #103911, reply #64 of 79)

89464.40 in reply to 89464.37 

I am in New England last time I checked and almost every old house I work in or have lived in here has ceilings at 9-10 feet downstairs and anywhere from 6'2" to 8'4" upstairs. The only ones I can think of that have less than 8' on the main floor are hovels and converted chicken coops


Really old capes, (i.e. 1750 ish) especially in Southern New England, often have ceilings well below 7 feet. 


My more or less federal style two story hovel in mid-coast Maine has about 8' ceilings in the new section (about 1810) and about 7'4" in the old section (about 1780).  Most of the houses around here are similar and I hardly ever see anything as tall as 9' in older houses.  You must hang out in the fancier neighborhoods.


The chicken coop does have very low ceilings. 


 


 


Edited 5/10/2007 11:32 am ET by smslaw

(post #103911, reply #65 of 79)

Remind those chickens to duck
;)

 

 


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Taunton University of
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(post #103911, reply #66 of 79)

"You must hang out in the fancier neighborhoods."


I almost responded to Piffin with the same sentiment.  When I think of "Old New England," I think of low-ceiling houses like you describe.


I'm 300 miles from New England, but, by comparison, my modest 1830s house has ceilings at 7'3", 7'11 and 8'2" downstairs, and 8'0" upstairs.


Allen

(post #103911, reply #67 of 79)

The one I grew up in - I think you saw it - had 8' downstairs and lower upstairs. Don't know that measurement but I could easily run my hand across it when I grew to adulthood - say 7'2"

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

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(post #103911, reply #75 of 79)

"The one I grew up in - I think you saw it "


Yup, sure did.  And the ceiling heights sound typical for a simple farmhouse from that period.


Allen

(post #103911, reply #76 of 79)

Around here tracts were built with 88 5/8 precut studs.

Subfloors were 2X decking , layed on top of the PT sill. Using the short studs allowed an 8' sheet of siding (T-111 generally) to be nailed from sill plate to top top plate without a seam .
Homes ended up with a 7' 8" ceiling hgt.

Had nothing to do with energy efficiency and everything to do with cheaper to build.

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(post #103911, reply #43 of 79)

You have not been to New England have you?  IT was the norm for "once was" to be 6' 6" or 7 foot if you were lucky. 


You are correct -- I'm basing my experiences on west coast architecture from the Victorian age onwards.

(post #103911, reply #3 of 79)

My old house in the south has 11 and 9' ceilings, like all 2-story ones here.  One-story houses typically had 12s.


It "feels" much better, and I think the "energy cost" of the higher ceilings is negligable.  Summer heat goes up to where you're not, and it's easy enough to push the heat down in winter with ceiling fans.


Being used to my house, I can walk down the street to my parents, where I grew up, and feel like the 8' Ranch ceiling is riding on my back.


Forrest - designing a single-story house with 17' ceilings as we speak - two tiers of windows, so it looks like two stories from outside.


 

(post #103911, reply #5 of 79)

The guy I work with pointed one thing out that made sense--if you're going to have a higher ceiling, makes more sense to go all the way to 10', since materials come in 10' lengths, not 9'. If you go with 9', you'll have 1' cutoffs that are pretty much wasted. (Especially drywall.)

(post #103911, reply #6 of 79)

Drywall is available in 54" widths, for 9' ceilings

(post #103911, reply #7 of 79)

I can get 9' drywall from my supplier.  It occurs to me as I write this that maybe they cut 10' sheets down!

(post #103911, reply #8 of 79)

Well, as Shoeman pointed out, most professionals put drywall up "sideways" anyway, but we always put it up vertically. Nonetheless, I don't think I've seen 2x4's in 9' lengths, although I suppose there are uses for the 1' offcuts.

(post #103911, reply #9 of 79)

9ft studs are pretty easy to get from my lumberyard. 


I like the high ceilings, and can't imagine a whole house with 7ft ceilings and in fact I probably couldn't live in 8ft ceiling house again.  They do make a room more comfortable to be in; not sure if it's from the perceived affect or actually being physically more comfortable. 

(post #103911, reply #58 of 79)

They extrude it, and cut it to length when it is manufactured.  So, they can make anything less than 12-foot, but would typically cut in 8, 10 and 12, unless they had a special order. 

(post #103911, reply #10 of 79)

"makes more sense to go all the way to 10', since materials come in 10' lengths, not 9'."

9' studs are also readily available. So is 54" wide drywall.

So I think the guy you work with is wrong.

I'm the outdoor type.
As soon as a woman mentions commitment, I'm out the door.

(post #103911, reply #12 of 79)

I don't think there is anything wrong with 8' ceilings when properly sized to the room or appropriate to the home. 


Taller is nice, but so is the effect of going from our smallish foyer with 8' ceiling into our greatroom with 17' ceiling.


For our MBR we went with a tray detail to get the area over the bed to 9' (to accomodate the fan better and provide for a future alcove lighting detail.


I know this thread is not all about economy; however, From an economy standpoint, yes, it's not much.  Typically, though, none of the single decisions you make on a house saves you 10% on the whole deal.  8' ceilings are one of the small steps that add up to overall savings. 



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(post #103911, reply #14 of 79)

It wouldn't surprise me that he's wrong, but maybe because we're in a small town, I don't recall seeing 54" wide drywall or 9' studs (but, then, we no longer have any "real" lumberyards here--just Lowe's and HD). I'm sure we could pick the drywall up at a drywall supplier--we do have a good one in town.

(post #103911, reply #49 of 79)

I too am in a small town and when I did my latest I had my local yard get me 22-12' boards of 54".  The pricing was by square ft by the way.  I can go get it from two or three different drywall/material wholesalers if I  wanted to but they are about 38 miles away and hardly worth it for that # of boards.

For those who have fought for it Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.

(post #103911, reply #11 of 79)

The best reason for a ceiling at a certain height is to make thing proportional to feel comfortable and look nice. sizing a room to a material is a rediculous concept.
besides, nine feet of wall and a floor frame comes close to ten feet which is an efficient use of sheathing amterial.

Keep that guy driving nails instead of designing

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #103911, reply #17 of 79)

I've always assumed that the "energy savings" from the low-ceiling designs of the 1970s was just hype.  Kind of like the aluminum windows of the same era; great idea to make a "thermal" window out of a highly conductive material.    ;)

(post #103911, reply #18 of 79)

10ft ceilings generally mean 10 ft walls.

that's 25% more surface area to bleed heat to the outdoors compared to the outside.

12ft ceilings... 50% more wall area.

And I bet your window sizes scale up too.

It's not a myth. Ignoring stratification, you have more cold area wicking heat out of your room.

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(post #103911, reply #21 of 79)

Rob,


I see your point: minimizing the area of the house's envelope will reduce heat transfer.


I'd argue that's not exactly the same concept as exclusively focusing on the sole parameter of ceiling height, but I'm probably splitting hairs.  But I'm looking at the issue more from an architectural perspective.


For example, lots of houses from the low-ceiling era were designed to be one-story structures.  This has the effect of maximizing the ratio of the area of the roof to the area of the floor plan, which of course maximizes heat transfer.  So what I'm saying is that the "design objective" of minimizing heat transfer via shortened walls is a myth.  I don't think it was a thought-out approach, but rather a fad driven by what designers thought looked "groovy" at the time.  The argument from a heat transfer perspective was most likely an afterhought in my opinion.


Just my two cents.

(post #103911, reply #23 of 79)

Smaller is more efficient. This has been a known principle in building design for quite some time now. I don't think it's coincidence that houses were built like this primarily when energy got expensive. And it does have an effect. Ranches have been popular because they were cheap, and are becoming so again for mobility reasons as people get older and sick of stairs. All that means is that sometimes, factors beyond energy efficiency matter. Which is quite obviously the case, or we would have no windows and all of our walls would be 12" thick.

It's a much larger effect to control your window sizes, but still, a lot of smaller choices can really add up quickly as well. even a 9' wall is 12.5% more surface area to lose heat with. If I can get a 10% reduction anywhere else and save money doing it, I'm certainly going to consider it.

There is no myth to smaller spaces using less energy. If those other concerns win out when considering a specific measure, great, so be it. But you don't get to pretend it's not true. do a load calc on a geodesic dome sometime... it's impressive.

Now, do a hip roof and a tray ceiling, lots of a R-value in the ceiling.. probably no practical difference. Higher than normal wall R-value... no real practical difference. Mild climate... not a big deal. This isn't a decree from above or anything. But it should be considered, that's all I'm saying. And certainly NOT called a "Myth".

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www.NRTradiant.com

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(post #103911, reply #25 of 79)

I don't think it's coincidence that houses were built like this primarily when energy got expensive.


Well, keep in mind that the architectural trend towards low, one-story structures occured much earlier than the energy crunch of the 70s (if that's what you're referencing). 


Weren't "ranches" very popular in the 1950s?  I'm sure there's regional variation, but out on the west coast, nearly every single house I see from the 1950s and 1960s is a one story, rambling house.  Tons of roof area for tons of heat loss.


Sorry to argue, but I still don't see how one can logically state that low-slung architectural design was in response to high energy costs given this evidence.


And to be clear, the only "myth" I'm debating is what sparked the design of the 8-foot (or lower) ceiling.  All the heat transfer observations you make are absolutely correct.


Edited 5/4/2007 12:32 pm ET by Ragnar17

(post #103911, reply #28 of 79)

I don't think anything in those 50's and 60's ranches was built intentionally for any purpose other than speed of construction and cost.

But in the 70's, they started pushing for efficient building around the energy crunch. They forgot real fast in the 80's though....

-------------------------------------
-=Northeast Radiant Technology=-
Radiant Design, Consultation, Parts Supply
www.NRTradiant.com

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-=Northeast Radiant Technology=-

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www.NRTradiant.com