You don’t need much convincing to realize this obvious truth; one challenge common to most basement finishing projects is low ceiling height. Frankly, there is not a national builder around (and very few local builders) who build homes with any regard to future basement finishing.
Aside from your furnace being in the wrong spot, posts littering your rooms, and beams in unfortunate places, this means you’ll need to effectively deal with low ceiling heights.
In a recent article, I suggested 7 top tips for dealing with low ceiling heights (search “The Ceiling Height Dilemma in Your Basement Finishing Project and the 7 Top Tips to Overcome It”).
Today, we’ll discuss the first tip from that article: Arches.
One creative and effective way to overcome ceiling height limitations in your basement finishing project is the creative use of arches. They will be strictly for decoration (no structural importance), so the type of arch used is completely up to you. We seem to use a basic “flat” arch more than anything else today (ask your basement design consultant for details on what a flat arch is).
In my humble opinion, the most functional application of an arch is to hide a beam in your basement. A low beam in the already-low-ceiling of your basement is kind of like adding insult to injury.
Take for example the 8′ basement ceiling (e.g. from the floor of your basement, to the floor joists overhead that support your 1st floor and will be your future basement ceiling). Oftentimes in constructing the home, a beam is used to help support the 1st floor joists. This is typically done by running a steel beam perpendicular and below the floor joists. This means that your 8′ ceiling is now only a little over 7′ for basement finishing purposes.
Major problem right! No one wants a 7′ ceiling! However, there is a solution. Most of the time these beams are placed in areas of the basement with a natural separation between spaces. In other words, the beam is located where a family room could adjoin a hallway, or flex space, etc.
A good basement finishing designer will come up with a plan that uses this natural separation to your advantage. Once you have an effective space design, all that remains is to add a small arch underneath this beam. Now, instead of focusing on the low ceiling height, you and your visitors will “ooh” and “aah” about the arch.
Some basement finishing projects have the addition of a post supporting the beam which supports the 1st floor (adding insult to injury, THEN kicking you while you’re down!). By creating equally sized arches to either side of this post, you can again create an architecturally appealing look that will disguise the problems underneath.
For a video collage of this arch & post solution in action, visit Colorado Basement Finishing T.V.
The key to remember is that you don’t have to be satisfied with what your original builder left you with. By knowing some effective techniques, your basement finishing project can have all the appeal and style that you could dream of.