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My basement ceiling joists are exactly 7 feet above the concrete slab. The requirement for finished living space is 7 ft from the finished floor to the finished ceiling. Since I'll loose a couple of inches with the flooring (I'll have Delta-FL drainboard + laminate) and the ceiling (drywall), essentially I won't have enough height to meet the requirement.

I'm quoting from what I think is my local code (pdf):

R305.1 (Amended). Habitable space, hallways, corridors, bathrooms, toilet rooms, laundry rooms and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet. The required height shall be measured from the finished floor to the lowest projection of the ceiling. Not more than 50% of the floor area of a room or space is permitted to have a sloped ceiling less than 7 feet in height.

Question: what can I do about this? One idea I had was to put the drywall between the joists rather than below them perhaps just a few inches above the lower end to compensate for this. Would this fly? Has anyone done anything like that? I realize that this is going to be a lot more work but I may be willing to do it. Any other ideas?

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Ask your local building inspector - he'll give to a definitive answer. – ChrisF May 9 '11 at 15:11
What is your concern if you don't meet the requirement? Are you planning to sell or rent this soon? – BMitch May 9 '11 at 16:15
I'm not planning but what I learned is that life doesn't always go according to the plan so I'd like to have both options available to me. That said, I haven't sold or rented a property before and I don't know from personal experience what the issues might be. I imagine that in both cases I shouldn't be misrepresenting so I should disclose that this isn't livable space. – Peter Q May 9 '11 at 19:25
I am a home inspector and if I were to find this, it would be a reportable item in my report. This opens the gates to a potential buyer asking for the history of the building permit...etc etc. Do it right now, variance or face the consequences later. Could be a very expensive mistake. – shirlock homes May 9 '11 at 22:28

Per the wording of that code, you can't be adding anything to the floor or the ceiling as you'll be under the 7' minimum. You could consider a super-thin flooring (stain the concrete? Linoleum?) and then, as you suggest, put the sheetrock between the joists (though that sounds like a finishing nightmare).

Alternatively, raise the foundation (likely cost prohibitive).

All that said, I echo B Mitch...what is the concern of not meeting the code? The main drawback would be that you couldn't advertise it as finished square footage when you sell.

The first thing I'd do, though, is have an inspector come out and ask what the odds would be in getting a 1" variance or so. They may count it as 'close enough' and let you get by.

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i got exactly this same variance for my basement. just make sure to get it in WRITING because if the inspector just signs off on he inspection but doesn't document the variance, then when it comes time to sell/rent, another inspector (or even the same one) doesn't have to believe you. – longneck May 9 '11 at 19:15
@longneck, you got a variance? was it hard? – Peter Q May 9 '11 at 19:28
Getting a variance for 1 inch from your local building inspector should be easy. Use 1/2 rock, a very thin floor as mentioned above and definitely pull a permit with the variance documented. Unless your local inspector is a complete hardass, they will give it to you. Good luck. – shirlock homes May 9 '11 at 22:33
it was very easy. i called the inspector and asked when he would be in my area, then made myself available. i showed him my problem, and he wrote a letter for me that said i was allowed a 2 in variance. the same inspector came back when i was done. – longneck May 12 '11 at 5:03

Just paint the ceiling and add pot lights. I have finished a few basements like this and it looks great. Actually the only negative is the sound barrier a ceiling would give you and this can still be done with rigid foam sheets.

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You didn't mention the type of home you have, but assuming it's a colonial style home, it wouldn't matter if your "basement" had 10' or 6" ceilings, as it would never be considered living space.

It would simply be viewed, and calculated as "finished" space, but never included as part of your "living space" calculation.

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What does the style of the home have to do with it? – Niall C. Jun 19 '13 at 1:53

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