Basement Shop Ceiling Height

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Blog entry by shimster posted 03-22-2010 06:24 PM 3402 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Trying to decide on the ceiling height of my future basement shop. I’m not looking for other LJ’s shop heights per se, but more of a gut reaction to my many limiting criteria:

I am 6’-3” and hate bending over in fear of bumping my head in life.

I am pouring a slab in my basement to mitigate confirmed radon anyway.

Since I am pouring a slab, I am choosing to dig out for the shop project. The minimum height I will have is 7’-2” to underside of joists. The maximum would be around 8’-3”.

My ceiling joists (or 1st floor floor joists) are solid oak from 1852 and therefore, very strong, but very shallow. 6” in height in joist bays.

My excavation/ concrete sub-contractor has told me that digging deeper than the 7’-2” from slab to joists will cost “hundreds more, not thousands”.

The operation as a whole is rather technical as you can see in this photo the granite basement wall IS the footing. This operation will ultimately include a structural and geo engineer to ‘extend’ the footings deeper into the ground.

I want to do this (as opposed to renting a shop, or building an addition) because I have to mitigate the radon anyway, and it would be great to have the finished shop in the house. The footprint of my house is maxed out due to our small lot.

My buddy (master woodworker) recommended I do 8’-3”-ish so I could stand up a sheet of 4×8 ply. Although this would be nice, I just don’t see needing to do this, too, too much. Wouldn’t 8’-0” do?

Should I consider dust collection at this point effecting ceiling height?

The dimensions of the floor plan are roughly 29’x34’. Nearly 1,000 s.f. Access is via exterior bulkhead with a potential interior stair in the future.

Height recommendation? Thanks in advance!

Basement Wall

-- Less is More.....expensive

9 comments so far

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3413 days

#1 posted 03-22-2010 07:16 PM

No hesitation – go as high as you can – 8’3”. I honestly can’t believe you’d even consider stopping at 8’0”. Speaking as someone who once had the chance to go bigger (in area) and didn’t, you’ll always regret it if you don’t. I can’t overemphasize this: always, always, always, take another 3” if you can get it for little or no additional cost (both in money and trouble).

My garage ceiling is 8’3” over most of it, except for a raised section of floor 3’ wide along the back wall, where it’s about 7’11”. I have 6” dust collection ducts and light fixtures along the ceiling, and so far it hasn’t been a problem – but I have hit the ceiling with bigger pieces of lumber and ply where the floor is higher.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3943 days

#2 posted 03-22-2010 07:41 PM

If I had a choice I would go as deep as possible. I have just under 8’ to the joists and it gets to be challenge when moving sheet goods, long boards and tall cabinetry to avoid the light fixtures. When we built the house this was simply going to be a garage so the ceiling height was not a major issue. If I had realized that the garage would be converted to a shop down the road I would have gone for at least 9’ to address the lighting, ductwork and vent pipes that run through my shop.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View BOB67CAM's profile


269 posts in 3193 days

#3 posted 03-22-2010 07:46 PM

i agree with jj swinging boards around that are already 8 footand especially if theyre 8’6” or something ull want the rxtra, if they are exactly 8 foot youd still need to rub the floor and ceiling and if u werent plainning on cutting off a bit you will after the face of it gets peeled from just barely squeezing over the rough floor and splintering the end
and the plywood is even more fragile in that aspect… the best way to go is to not regret anything you could/should have done, especially when you already know it wouldnt have added anything to the price
i would out of my garage which has 9 foot ceilings which is great except for a 10 foot board or in odd cases i had a 14 foot board of cedar that was im[possible to do anything with or turn around without opening the big door in the middle of winter

-- if you dont have it, build it, especially when its a stupid idea

View shimster's profile


96 posts in 3128 days

#4 posted 03-22-2010 08:06 PM

I see where this is going…. Am starting to feel silly for asking!

-- Less is More.....expensive

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3265 days

#5 posted 03-22-2010 08:16 PM

Never feel silly for asking. I’m willing to bet you made JJ, Scott, and Bob feel good for answering, and helping out a fellow LJ. I know I don’t get the chance that often, and when something comes along that I know , I jump on it.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3602 days

#6 posted 03-22-2010 08:32 PM

I agree with everyone…I would go as high as possible. When you’re building a tall cabinet, its sometimes nice to put it on the bench and if you have limited ceiling height it might prevent you from doing this. Also moving lumber around etc its nice to have the higher ceiling. Mine is only 7’ 6” and I wish it was 10 ft.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3295 days

#7 posted 03-22-2010 08:53 PM

You can’t be too rich … or too thin.

You can’t have TOO much ceiling height … or … too big a shop.

I’m pretty darned new at this, but … with 9’ to my joists … I’m verrrrry glad I have it, and would certainly take another foot, if I could.

Even the silly things … like … where my JDS Air Filtration ends up, when hung from the joists (barely clear it with my 6’2” height) are HUGELY better than they would be with an 8’ ceiling.

I also guess that … all things being equal … more cubic feet means that shop noise dissipates over a larger volume of space. Lower = closed in and noisier.

More CF should also = more expensive to heat and cool, but … that ol’ Earth—as it turns out—is a great insulator.

There will, clearly, be a point of diminishing returns, but … your excavator can help you evaluate how deep = how many $$’s, and where the sweet spot lies.

Good problem to have :-)

And … it really IS true: no silly questions….

-- -- Neil

View MrHudon's profile


114 posts in 3331 days

#8 posted 03-22-2010 09:13 PM

The higher ceiling also gives you more off the floor overhead storage space.

-- Mark,

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3413 days

#9 posted 03-23-2010 02:37 AM

Heh – I just noticed your signature line. Just what I meant.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

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