Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings

From soon after we started planning a loft conversion we knew that we would need to lower our first floor ceilings in the process to create more space in the roof. It’s often the case with older properties that there isn’t enough head height in the roof space to accommodate another floor.

So we started planning our low ceiling loft conversion with the ceilings lowered to not only meet building regulations but to increase the roof height internally to make the living space more comfortable.

It’s worth noting that the ceiling can be lowered regardless of the type of loft conversion that you are doing. Our loft conversion was a L Shaped Dormer conversion but you can lower the ceilings for standard velux loft conversions – where you don’t change the roof at all – and gable loft conversions too. Low ceilings can effect all loft conversions and give even small loft rooms that much extra head height.

Lowering the ceilings to accommodate loft conversions

At times like this you’re left with two options – raising the ridge height or lowering the ceilings. Lowering the ceilings doesn’t need planning permission – unlike raising the ridge – and it just needs enough height in the room below to flow nicely after the ceilings are lowered to comply with building regulations and building control inspections.

We had our loft conversion done under permitted development rights and the loft conversion design was all based around us lowering the ceiling. Our loft conversion company wouldn’t have done the loft conversion without lowering the ceilings – the ceiling height would have been to low in the new floor in the converted loft. Low headroom was something the loft company team always advised against and don’t recommend.

We live in a Victorian house so already had high ceilings throughout the house, giving us enough space to be able to drop ceilings on the first floor enough to give us extra room in the loft. If you don’t have high ceilings but have a suspended ceiling – ceiling tiles in a grid system or similar – it may also be possible to have a lowered ceiling installed. 

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom before ceilings were lowered

We included lowering our ceilings in our loft conversion plans through out loft conversion company so it’s something we had a lot of time to prepare for and get used to. Lowering the ceilings isn’t a huge job in the scheme of things but it does take around three weeks and is a huge upheaval too. 

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bathroom before ceilings were lowered

Some people stay living in their homes whilst the ceilings are lowered but we wouldn’t have been able to access any of the first floor – so we wouldn’t have a bathroom for the duration of the work. Because of that we decided to move out of our home for a month which was definitely the best decision for us.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom before ceilings were lowered

If coronavirus hadn’t been an issue we would have moved in with family but we didn’t want to increase any risk and so instead we moved into a very convenient AirBnB just round the corner from our home.

We moved out of the house the day before the work started and at that point the whole of our first floor and loft had to be empty. This was a labour of love. We put stuff into storage, we got rid of so much and we sold most of our furniture ready to get new furniture for the new rooms down the line.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Hallway before ceilings were lowered

Knowing that when we moved back in we wouldn’t have the loft void to fill with belongings we hardly ever use made the whole packing and throwing process so much easier – it was relentless but we got rid of so much. We knew our home would never be the same again – but in a really good way!

How long does lowering ceilings take?

It took two and a half weeks for the ceilings to be lowered in total. This involved ripping down all the existing ceilings and existing ceiling joists on the 1st floor, clearing up all the mess, putting new ceiling joists up at a lower point under the new steel joists and then plastering to give a nice even finish.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Hallway during the work

Seeing the lack of ceilings – and lack of roof above that – was a huge shock to the system. I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t to be able to see sky when I looked straight up from inside my front door a couple of days into the work.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom during the work
Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom during the work

But, the builders worked really quickly and knew exactly what they were doing. The roof came off, the ceilings were pulled down and new ceilings were put up. Within a week there was huge progress and within three weeks the rooms looked like rooms again.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom during the work
Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bathroom during the work

When lowering the ceilings you can have either the same ceiling light pendants and light fixtures put back in afterwards or you can refresh all the lights, switching to spotlights if you want to. We chose to just have the same lights put back in again afterwards for ease. It saved on the installation of new lights and we prefer pendant lights in bedrooms where possible.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom before plastering

We also had some other little things done at the same time – a door opening the other way and a light switch moved to another wall as well as a chimney breast taken out in our old bedroom and new skirting boards fitted.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom before plastering

After the rooms were ready for us to move back into, I took a few days to decorate and get them ready rather than trying to move back in and then decorate around all the furniture and belongings. My priority was for it to be nice and homely for the children to come back to.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom after the ceilings were lowered
Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom after the ceilings were lowered

In the end, we were sleeping away from home for a month and we spent the last few days decorating and putting the children’s carpets back down.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Hallway after the ceilings were lowered
Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Hallway after the ceilings were lowered

Having the ceilings lowered hasn’t changed much on our first floor. All the rooms still flow nicely, they’re still bright and they still have plenty of height to them despite them being lower than the original ceiling height. I was worried that the new ceiling height would be below the tops of our windows but it’s not, the ceilings still look right in relation to the windows and it still feels lovely and homely too. Plus, it’s higher than the minimum ceiling height building regs would allow.

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bedroom after the ceilings were lowered

Lowering the ceilings has made a decent head room of around 2m in the loft space possible and achievable, leaving us a more than acceptable 2.2m height in the first floor. It doesn’t feel like a low ceiling height on either upper floor of the house and was so much easier – and cheaper – than a roof lift. 

For a month of upheaval and under five thousand pounds added to the dormer loft conversions build cost it was well worth the time and money to lower ceilings. I know we made the right choice. Our master bedroom could not be a more wonderful space!

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings
Bathroom after ceilings were lowered

I made a video of our finished loft conversion. It’s not specifically about lowering the ceilings but it does give you a before, during and after view of the house so you can gauge the difference in ceiling height. Honestly, it’s not noticeable at all!

Lowering Our First Floor Ceilings

Author

  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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14 Comments

  1. Oh wow! It sounds like such a big job. I would have wanted to move out too while it was done. I dread to think of the noise and dust it created. It sounds like all the work is going so well. Good luck with the rest of it x

  2. Wow amazing job!!!!
    May I ask you what was your “starting points”? For example how tall was your loft and the bedroom downstairs?
    We are planning the same works and would be awesome to have an idea!
    Also what building company did u use?

    Sorry for all this questions <3
    Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara! We used Altitude Lofts. Our starting height on the first floor was about 2.4m and in the loft it would have been 1.8m finished height. So the ceilings were lowered about 20cm to give 2.2m on the first floor and 2m in the loft.

      1. Great video and information. Loved every single bit of it, im in the same boat as you was before, can i ask about the costs involved for lowering all your 1st floor ceilings please?
        Thanks

          1. Did the 5k cover materials, steel beams, labour, party wall agreement or was it just additional?

          2. The £5k was the additional cost to lower the first floor ceilings, not the whole cost of the loft conversion. The whole cost will vary massively depending on design, fixtures, where in the country you are etc. It was just to give a relative idea of the cost of physically lowering the ceilings. That £5k was inclusive of all costs associated with lowering the ceilings – labour, materials, surveys etc.

  3. Really useful and inspiring post. We’ve just had planning refused for a two storey extension so now looking at the option of lowering our ceilings. This has given me a bit more hope that it’s possible and will look ok! Thank you!

  4. I hope you see this as I know the post is quite old. We are about to start work on the same thing and our new measurements will be exactly like yours- lowered to 2.2 so we have a height on the new floor of 2m – I’m freaking out it’s going to feel really low like a cave and worry about reselling :0 Does it feel like a reasonable head height – especially in the loft? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Gemma! Don’t worry, I always get notified of comments so I can reply 🙂 I have emails asking me this exact question most weeks so you really aren’t alone.

      Honestly, it’s been two years now since our loft conversion and it still feels like such a natural extension of the house – not like a cramped, low typical loft conversion. The lowered ceilings were the best thing we ever did and we’d do it again tomorrow. Nowhere in our house feels low or restricted. It feels like a natural height and we’re really pleased with it. The loft especially feels so much roomier than other loft conversions we’ve been in due to the extra head height.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply – it’s really reassuring! Honestly your blog post made me feel so much better! Our work starts tomorrows. Thanks again x

  5. Hi,

    Sorry that this comment is on an old post. We are thinking of doing our loft and love how you did yours. I know it was a few years ago, but if you don’t mind me asking, ball park figure how expensive was it? We already have dropped ceilings, so thankfully don’t need to factor that in.

    Thank you in advance.

    Felicity

    1. Hi Felicity – I get notifications for comments on old posts so don’t worry at all, lovely to hear from you! The original quote was about £65k which included lowering the ceilings, building our cupboards in the bathroom and bedroom, a tin hat roof over the build to make it quicker/not weather dependent and all the plumbing, electrics and decorating. The only extras we had to pay for were the tiles and bathroom fittings and the carpets. Where we are in the South East is quite expensive too, I know the costs can vary quite a lot regionally. Hope that helps!

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