To meet code we need a minimum 6'6" clearance through all doors. The ceiling height in most of the basement is 6'8", but the clearance through the exterior door is much less than that. On the inside of the door is a concrete step - we could remove that, giving enough ceiling height up to the door threshold, but then the door opening would still not be high enough, and also the step up would be over 8". One option we've been considering is to somehow raise the ceiling just around the door, then raise the door lintel. We'd need to raise it 4 - 5 inches. The ceiling is popcorn with a 2 x 10 joist above. We don't want to lower the ground outside the door to create a well, as it's the only path from the front to the back of the house and it's narrow, so having a big well in it would be a real pain.

Any clever ideas? Anyone done this kind of 'raising the ceiling' framing or know of a link to pictures of someone doing it?

  • What is directly above the door on the first floor? Apr 17, 2014 at 9:41
  • The exterior wall for the first floor living room.
    – Mel
    Apr 17, 2014 at 22:32
  • Do the joists rest over the door? Or does the joist run parallel with the wall the door is in?
    – Jack
    Jun 17, 2014 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


Ask your Local Authority Having Jurisdiction -- eg, your town's building inspector. You may have a grandfathered situation. Or, if this door is not considered an essential exit from a living space (if it's an unfinished basement, for example, or if sufficient other exits exist), the headroom requirement may not apply -- you may be able to argue that requirements are already met and this opening does not have to comply and get a written variance. It's really going to be a question of the inspector's judgement.


You could double up the joists or add a double LVL just beyond the swing of the door on one or both sides if necessary, then set a double header to allow a smaller framing material to span the space that is over the door. It is a lot of work, but it appears to be the only option.... This will limit the opening capacity, with a structural engineers help, it could be expanded upon. Using an engineer is the only way this should be designed anyways, since this is not your typical situation.

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  • I think he is looking for more actual headroom, not just a way to use a standard size door.
    – bib
    Apr 17, 2014 at 17:14
  • Yes, we need more headroom. The opening is too small. Lowering the floor inside the building wouldn't help because it wouldn't affect the opening size. If we enlarged the opening and left the ground outside high then water would pour in. Lowering the floor outside the building would create a well in the path which we don't want.
    – Mel
    Apr 17, 2014 at 22:30
  • You may need to accept a bulkhead installation -- a sub-surface door with weather doors over it.
    – keshlam
    Jun 17, 2014 at 12:27

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