The #2 Tip to Overcome Low Ceiling Heights in Your Basement Finishing Project

If you’re considering a basement finishing project to increase the usable square feet and value of your existing home, you might have realized a significant challenge that has you a bit concerned: low ceiling height!

Perhaps you’re worried about low ceilings throughout the basement. Or maybe you’re more concerned about beams, pipes, and vents that seem to all be in the wrong spot.

Whatever your concern, these are the challenges and limitations that almost everyone faces when completing a basement finishing project. Your particular situation may be unique to the vision you have for your completed project, but the several tried-and-true techniques for disguising low ceiling heights are sure to rescue you.

Recently, in another article we suggested 7 tips for dealing with the ceiling height dilemma (search “The Ceiling Height Dilemma in Your Basement Finishing Project and the 7 Top Tips to Overcome It”).

Today, we’ll discuss the second tip from that article: Tray Ceilings.

You might refer to these as coffered ceilings, recessed ceilings, inverted ceilings, etc., but for the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to all types simply as tray ceilings.

A tray ceiling is an ideal architectural element to add to your basement finishing project if you are trying to camouflage a low ceiling, or disguise pipes or vents running horizontally along your ceiling.

A common basement hindrance, you may have a drain pipe from an upstairs bathroom or kitchen, or a trunk line (ductwork) that supplies or returns air to or from the upstairs. Simply boxing around this (a soffit) is the most conspicuous way to hide it.

For a quality basement finish, you’ll want a better solution to the problem.

In rare cases, you may be able to simply move these mechanical elements out of the way. So, if design and budget allow, your best solution is to move them.

However, even with the best design and an unlimited budget, you might be unable to eliminate mechanical elements from interfering with your basement finishing efforts.

If this is the case, take a look at the pipe or vent running down the length of the ceiling. Is it running down the middle of the room, or on one side?

If it’s running down one side of the room, imagine that another set of pipes/vents are running down the opposite side (a mirror image). Now imagine a set of pipes/vents on each adjacent side of the room (by now the picture in your mind should be of pipes/vents running around all four sides of the room).

Now, imagine this room finished with walls, and these pipes covered by a soffit. You should be envisioning finished walls and a finished ceiling, with a rectangular box at the top corner of all four sides of the room. Each soffit should be the same width as the other so the room achieves symmetry.

What you’ve imagined is a tray ceiling, a fabulous basement finishing technique to deal with low ceiling height. If pipes or vents are running down the middle of the room, can you envision two equally sized tray ceilings? Be creative and realize there is always a solution!

I love using this technique to hide pipes and vents, but its application isn’t limited to that. Tray ceilings are used as an architectural feature to draw the eye up and give the illusion of height.

So, even in a room without pipes or vents, a tray ceiling may be the perfect basement finishing technique to give a low ceiling the illusion of greater height!

Tray ceilings can eliminate much of the worry you may be experiencing over the outcome of your basement finishing project. In future articles, we’ll discuss additional tips and techniques to maximize the beauty and comfort of your home; tips that can be used independent of, or combined with tray ceilings.

For a video collage of this tray ceiling solution in action, visit Colorado Basement Finishing T.V.

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