I'm in the process of closing on a house that has an unusually large crawlspace underneath the structure. The house is built on a relatively steep hillside and the frame of the house extends to the bottom of the hill below, giving an enclosed crawlspace.
Here's a diagram (with apologies for my MSPaint skills):
The crawlspace has approximately 4.9m (16.2 feet) of space between the concrete floor and the bottom of the timber frame supporting the ground floor. There are no stilts or other support structures in the main part of the crawlspace though there are in the other half.
Here's a photo on the inside:
I would like to have this basement finished by adding an internal staircase from the ground floor down to this area. I would like to split this space into two floors. I understand that each floor must have at least 7 feet of headroom, and I assume you'd want a foot of space between the two floors and plus another foot to account for space from the ceiling below the ground floor and the bottom floor's carpeting. That's 7+7+1+1 == 16 feet. So far so good, right?
During the house inspection, I asked the inspector how possible it would be to do the conversion and he said it would be impossible as you need at least 10 feet per floor, so the house is 4 feet too short to convert the crawlspace into two floors. He was also pessimistic about installing rooms (such as a toilet room or a small bedroom) on the area currently covered in black tarp. He said that converting the main area of the crawlspace (with the flat floor) is definitely possible, but I'd probably only be able to have a smaller area (with a 5 or 6-foot high ceiling, maybe) underneath the finished room suitable only as a storage area.
With references to suitable building regs and whatnot, is my inspector correct in saying I can only have 1 fully-finished floor, or can I still have two finished floors/storeys in the space?
This is in King County, WA. If that helps.