House Ceiling Heights – high or low?


A modern extension to a period home in Swallow Street Port Melbourne - space and light in abundance here!

A modern extension to a period home in Swallow Street - space and light in abundance here!

Are ceiling heights important? Most people would agree that they are very important, for a variety of reasons.

Generally, most marketing campaigns for houses for sale will highlight tall ceilings and for good reason: quite simply, the rooms are more spacious and feel better. Tall ceiling heights  are nearly always found in old period or high-quality contempary homes. One house we recently visited (which sold quite strongly) was a renovated period home in Swallow Street, Port Melbourne. The original rooms had tall ceilings (these were now used as bedrooms) and the extension toward the rear was modern and had even higher ceiling heights. This combination created such a powerful effect, and was a real key to the success of the house.

Why do most 1970-80-90 builder spec. homes  have low ceiling heights? The answer is generally related to cost cutting. The houses are cheaper to build while the footprint of the room size remains the same.

Low ceiling heights do have a place  in house design. Often they work well in utility areas and also in transition spaces like hallways. Walking through an area with a lower ceiling into a larger space with tall ceilings helps to accentuate the sense of space and this is a very effective architectural design trick.

A quick and easy test (for most people of average height) to ascertain ceiling heights when walking through a home is to simply raise your arm straight above you. If you can (or almost can) touch the ceiling, then the ceiling heights are probably about 2.4 metres. In living areas and bedrooms, most people will not like this as it is just too low.  As a rule, 2.7m is OK and 3m or higher is best.

In summary:

Tall ceiling heights (say 3m or more):


  • air circulation (particulary important in bedrooms)
  • space!
  • more opportunities for light via highlight windows
  • house feels grand
  • can always be lowered in time if need be


  • heating cooling costs can be higher, as the room volume is greater
  • acoustics can be a problem, as noise reberation (or echoes) is longer

Lower ceiling heights (say 2.4m) –


  • spaces can be more intimate (particularly over dining room tables)
  • areas are cheaper to heat and cool, as the room volume is smaller


  • rooms feel cramped or small
  • can be stuffy, due to limited opportunity for air flow
  • house feels cheap

Ceiling heights in houses can make or break the design but is often overlooked by buyers. It is a key facter we use when rating houses and rightly so.

Design Smart.

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