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High Ceilings: What You Need to Know

Many buyers seek out homes with high ceilings. Should you do the same?

[Updated: Apr 16, 2021 ] May 09, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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If you're in the market for a new house, you may have your heart set on certain features -- for example, an updated kitchen, a large master bathroom with high-end features, and an oversized living room. But if there's one feature you may want throughout your entire house, it's high ceilings. Homes with high ceilings offer lots of aesthetic appeal, and a more generous ceiling height can add to a home's resale value. Here's what you need to know about buying a house with high ceilings.

What's considered a high ceiling?

Most older homes feature eight-foot ceilings, which was once considered the standard ceiling height to aim for. Newer homes, meanwhile, tend to come with nine-foot ceilings. But anything above the nine-foot mark is generally considered a high ceiling. You might, for example, find a house with rooms that feature 10-foot ceilings. Or, you might find a home with a single room with a much higher ceiling than that.

Two-story living rooms have grown increasingly popular in recent years, especially in new-construction homes. These rooms can feature 20-foot ceilings, which makes for a beautiful open space.

What are the benefits of high ceilings?

There are plenty of reasons to seek out a home with high ceilings in several rooms, or at least one room:

  • The illusion of added square footage. High ceilings can make an ordinary space seem larger. And if you're the claustrophobic type, you can consider them an investment in your mental health.
  • Tons of natural light. Rooms with tall ceilings tend to feature extra windows. The result? You get lots of natural light shining into your home, which leads to more aesthetic appeal. It can also save you money on electricity.
  • More decor options. High ceilings make it possible to explore unique interior design choices that can help your home stand out. For example, if you have a living room with a fireplace, instead of sticking a standard mantle over it and calling it a day, you can instead build a beautiful, tall stone wall that shows off your high ceiling. You can also play around with more ornate light fixtures that serve as a focal point for that room or paint an accent wall to add a nice contrast to your space. And if you have extra windows in a room with high ceilings, you can put up different window treatments that add color and life.
  • Increased home value and easier resale. High ceilings are a desirable feature that buyers today tend to covet. If your house features high ceilings, you may find that you have an easy time selling it once you're ready to do so and that your home commands top dollar from interested buyers.

What are the drawbacks of high ceilings?

Clearly, tall ceilings are a much-desired house feature, and there are plenty of good reasons to seek out a home that has them. But there's a downside to having high ceilings, too:

  • Complicated and costly maintenance. Ceilings can crack over time, and you may need to paint yours again every few years. The higher your ceiling, the more difficult it will be to perform that maintenance safely. In fact, you may need to bring in a contractor to fix up those rooms with high ceilings if you have a fear of heights, thereby adding to your costs.
  • Trouble with heating and cooling. Utility costs are a major expense that homeowners need to plan for in general, but those rooms in your house with high ceilings may prove challenging -- and expensive -- to heat and cool. Because heat rises, any room in your house with tall ceilings could struggle to stay warm enough in the heart of winter. And high ceilings could lend to higher air conditioning bills, since it's hard to maintain that cold air in a larger space. That said, a ceiling fan may be able to mitigate this issue by circulating warm air during the winter and cool air during the summer. You can also install energy-efficient windows to prevent heat from escaping those rooms with high ceilings during the winter, and to block out warm outside temperatures and intense sunlight during summer.
  • Added noise. Tall ceilings may be aesthetically pleasing, but they also lend to added noise. That could make home a less pleasant environment to be in. If someone in your house plays an instrument, prepare to hear music blaring as sound travels easily through the open space. And if you have young children at home, you may find that your tall ceilings make sounds echo, which can keep little ones awake at night.
  • Higher building costs. If you're building a home from scratch, you'll generally pay a premium for high ceilings. But you may decide that your money is better spent on other items that make your home a more pleasant place to live, like higher-end kitchen appliances or hardwood flooring throughout your living space. And if you're buying a home that's already constructed, you could end up paying more for tall ceilings.

Should you buy a home with high ceilings?

High ceilings are certainly a nice feature to have in a house, but they're not for everyone. Some people prefer the feel of smaller, cozier spaces. If that sounds like you, then tall ceilings may not be ideal.

Also, high ceilings and open floor plans tend to go hand in hand. If you don't like open floor plans and instead prefer defined rooms that are closed off from one another, then you may not want high ceilings.

Furthermore, homes that feature high ceilings may cost more than those with standard ceilings. If you're on a budget or are looking to keep your housing expenses as low as possible, then you may want to forgo the high ceilings.

On the other hand, high ceilings are a widely desirable feature, so if you're looking for a home that could offer a great return on investment, you may want to favor one with tall ceilings. Though you may face a few challenges, there's a good chance you'll wind up happy with your decision.

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