I would like to make a den in my currently unfinished basement and I
have two issues I need to resolve in order to accomplish this:
1) The clearance on the ceiling in the basement now is fine unfinished,
but putting in a regular drop ceiling requires 4 inches as I recall, and
I'd like to not take up that much of the overhead space. Is there any
other drop ceiling technology out there that requires less space? If
not, is a drywall ceiling feasible in a basement? I am reluctant to put
one in because having access to the piping and wiring above is
important. Any thoughts?
2) The current steps to the basement are somewhat steep and face the
back wall of the basement. I would prefer the stair itself to turn 180
degrees so that when entering the new basement den, you enter right into
the room instead of having to do a turnaround at the bottom of the
stair. I have lived in old homes before which had a "fan" type of stair
(each step is about an inch wide on one side, and each step "fans out"
to be full width on the other edge next to the outer wall). Would that
be something I could easily get built by a contractor/carpenter
nowadays, or not? (I'm just not sure if such stairs are commonly built
Thanks in advance for any ideas.
Both of my sons have dry walled the ceilings in their basement for just
this reason. However, make sure that you have access hatches or
whatever to get at any valvles, etc. If you do have to tear some up for
a plumbing job, it is no great thing to re-do the dry wall.
Do you mean a spiral staircase??? I have had one in a condo. GREAT
space saver, but one of my dogs was not happy about it, as he could see
between the treads!
I think I know what you mean, perhaps. A farmhouse my son lived in once
had such a staircase. Real PITA to move stuff up and down.
The house I am moving from was built in 1820 and it has such a stairway
and it is not too bad for moving things, you just have to move the item
straight up. There are limitations, but I have heard that any stairway
that turns, even if you use landings instead will have this issue...
From experience...there are alternatives to boarding the basement ceiling.
Some of the tile manufacturers sell a zero clearance type of ceiling tile
and grid. It is WAY!!! more expensive than board, but if you need to get
under the first floor to get at pipe etc, it is WAY easier than tearing down
By the way, I boarded my ceiling, then had to tear part of it down to get at
We do two or three basements a month., all have drywalled ceilings.
Never had to open one up to get at something, but then we move all the
shutoffs to an unfinished area before we board.
You can buy eight by eight access panels at any Home Depot, bigger if
you need them.
My personal view is that a dropped ceiling makes a basement feel like
a retail store or a dentist office.
Yup, they are commonly built.
Check the yellow pages under Stairs. ( If there are builders in your
area, they buy the stairs pre built). Take the stair guys a scale
drawing of what you have ... doesn't have to be purty... ask them
what the options are.
Absent that, get a decent carpenter stop by
1) The ceiling is easy- Google for 'zero clearance' ceiling panels. You
attach runners across the joists, and the panels flex and snap into place. I
have even seen people just put up (fireproof) black fabric, or just shoot
the ceiling space with matte black paint, to give a finished 'studio' look.
Drywall is also an option, but you want to stare real hard at whatever you
are covering, and put access panels where needed.
2) The stairs are harder. A fan-shape or spiral stair section is possible,
and available from companies that sell custom-order. However, it is
expensive. Most people just put in a landing to turn the stairs. Headroom is
the killer- you need 6 1/2 feet or so between the steps and the ceiling
directly above to avoid making people duck, even if they won't actually bump
their heads. Changing stairs is easy, changing the shape of the stairwell
hole through the floor above is much harder. A low landing, even just a step
or two off the basement floor, may be enough to give the effect you want, if
you have the headroom. Just take the treads off the bottom 2 steps, frame
over to the opposite wall, and reuse the treads you removed on the new steps
you build leading up to it.
3) Although code only requires egress windows in sleeping rooms, in practice
most people find basement offices claustrophobic. You may not notice,
because you built it, but when it comes time to sell, buyers will find a
daylight room much more appealing. I'd recommend at least costing out what
it would take to add or enlarge a window opening, and build a deep window
box so the room gets some daylight. The only expensive part will be cutting
the hole in the wall- digging the well and laying up a box is something you
can probably do yourself. (Of course, this idea is a non-starter if the
corner you are using is under the patio or garage or something)
Watched a show once; where they built fake beams (pipe chase) with 1X,
stained it to simulate heavy beams on a ceiling . In this case the OP
needs space, but a fake pipe chase for access...??
"Well, it doesn't happen all the time, but when it happens, it happens
I understand the access panels. I was guessing something more
appeasing to the eye than a metallic look with panels everywhere,
pardon me. I did not expect the need for so many panels. BTW, your
post was excellent.
"Well, it doesn't happen all the time, but when it happens, it happens
I'm not sure what type of window that is, but I'll look it up. The
basement already has windows, but they are the standard basement windows
you would find in a house from the 1940's/50's....
Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions! I really appreciate
Drywall is fine, as long as you're comfortable patching holes in it.
Put plastic access hatches wherever there are fittings you
want to be able to get at.
You can get winders built, but the reason they're increasingly rare is
that they're a shitty solution to the problem. They're awkward at
best, and dangereous at worst. Will the design of the upper
story(ies) allow you to flip the stairwell end-for end? Is there
enough headroom for a complete landing and a 90-degree turn?
Sound like your basement really doesn't have enough height; otherwise,
you would not be worrying about overhead space. If this is the case,
you may find that you are running out of headroom after you have added
a ceiling and raised the floor. Depending on how tall you are, you may
not like the result. This would be bad if you didn't like the result
after you have spent so much effort and money to finish the basement.
Nowaday, people build new houses with high ceiling basement
purposefully built to be finished later. When people bought old houses
that have low ceiling basement, they probably knock them down and
rebuilt the whole houses regardless if the basement are finished or not
-- at least this is what happens where I live (northern New Jersey).
This means the finished basement may have limited value from a buyer's
point of view. Actually this might cause a delay in selling your house
if you priced your house higher trying to recoup the cost of finishing
My thinking is that if in doubt, don't finish the basement (given that
the basement has a low ceiling).
I have gone through this when I finished the basement in my house and
the finished basement ceiling height is not high. I am happy with the
result. But when I count the cost and the time invested on it, I have
a feeling that this project is not justified. If I could start this
over again, I would not likely undertake this project.
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