Low ceilings vs square footage


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Old 05-28-18, 02:16 PM
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Low ceilings vs square footage

Hello! Here's my quandary: We're remodeling a (400+/- square foot) home that is in a special regulatory zone, and can only be expanded by 30% by square foot and 30% by volume.

After a lot of dickering back and forth with the code enforcer, we've come to the following conclusion: the house can be can be 496 square feet (total, for the entire house) if we have 8 foot ceilings, but we can pick up 40 square feet if we have 7.5 foot ceilings. I know that nobody likes 7.5 foot ceilings, but we do like an extra 40 square feet (8% more!) in such a small house. Thoughts on the better compromise? I'm 6' and the wife is 5'6".

Alternatively, does anyone know if you can reduce the thickness of floor joists using steel beam (or whatever) instead of TJIs? Cost is not the question here. I'll do anything I can to pick up square footage.

Thanks!

-Benjamin
 
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Old 05-28-18, 02:20 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

Most codes dictate a minimum of 7' ceiling height. Might need to weigh the pros/cons of lower ceiling versus less sq footage.
 
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Old 05-28-18, 02:27 PM
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Yeah, I don't think we'll consider anything lower than 7.5'. That seems a bare minimum....

-Benjamin
 
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Old 05-28-18, 05:58 PM
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Yes, steel can be used for joists in place of wood. If designed properly they can be shorter in height than wood or engineered lumber. You can also save a little bit of joist height by spacing wood joists closer together. But I'm guessing your rooms are not very large so the joists are not very tall to begin with so there isn't much height to save. You might get an inch or two if your lucky.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 03:08 AM
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an only be expanded by 30% by square foot and 30% by volume

So I am curious, what situation would volume ever be a consideration for a housing remodel, I've never heard this?
 
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Old 06-04-18, 04:37 AM
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It won't surprise anyone to learn that it's a silly government thing. Basically, the home is about 3 feet away from the edge of a riverbank. It was built before there were any building regulations that said you must be at least 100 feet away from the river and was therefore grandfathered in as 'ok'. However, if we want to keep the house where it is (and not move it back 100 feet), you're not allowed to expand it by more than 30% by volume or square footage from whatever was grandfathered in.

I assume the volume thing is so you don't give a small home uber-cathedral ceilings. In any case, while it's a silly rule, it's still the rule...

Right now, the home has 304 square feet with 11 foot ceilings measured interior (14 feet measured exterior) and no bedroom. The goal is to add a bedroom and make the living area as large as possible, while pushing the boundaries of what the code enforcer will allow.

One of the quirks is that they'll let you count any improved space on the property in those calculations, so we can count the stairs that go down to the dock, the dock, the deck, and the wooden pathway that leads from the parking area to the house as 'square footage' for those calculations. We have lots of dock/deck/stairs, so would be able to pick up an extra 210 square feet if we do our calculations by square footage.

But there aren't any other buildings on the property, so our volume number can only be expanded by the volume that the house currently has.

Basically, we could add a room with 11 foot ceilings that was 92 square feet, which isn't enough for a bedroom. Instead, we're planning to remove the pitched roof and go to a flat roof, using all that extra volume to make the house itself bigger but shorter.

And, after a lot of back and forth with the code enforcer, the final result is that we can expand to 496 square feet if we go with 8 foot ceilings or 540 square feet if we have 7.5 foot ceilings (or 585 if we have 7 foot ceilings, which we won't do).

That, in a nutshell, is our quandary.

-Benjamin
 
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Old 06-04-18, 05:20 AM
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Thanks for explaining your unique situation.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 05:52 AM
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I've seen situations similar to yours on a TV show that remodels and repairs old cabins. I recall one they did on the edge of a creek and at high tide the water was under the cabin. They too had many restrictions on what they could do including a strict limit on enlarging the structure.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 06:50 AM
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I've had these situations in floodplain rebuilding or expansion in SE Pennsylvania.
It's a situation where you have to read the zoning/building code closely, and remember that zoning gets interpreted FOR the owner and AGAINST restriction by the local municipality.

First, get a copy of the zoning/building codes, they're often available through the municipal website. Then, get a pot of coffee on, and work through the definitions section. Floodplains often have odd sub-definitions, e.g. "ground floor level is defined as 1 foot above the regulatory flood level" - so that in some cases the "floodplain floor level" is located 4' above the actual floor level, thus making the first floor technically a basement because it is more than 1/2 underground,

Note, however, that sometimes measurement quirks work for you- if say the code calculates
"pre-existing volume" based on actual floor, but calculate "expansion volume" based on the "flood floor"

Check if there is a "measurments" section,. for instance,
"height" - where is it measured from, what is it measured to? The roor, the eaves, the peak, 1/2 between?
Is the square footage measured tax assessment style, exterior length x width?
Or is it measured mortgage appraisal style, each interior room's lenght x width? (which omits interior & exterior wall volume, and closets. If it doesn't say, might be worthwhile finding the last appraisal.


One of the quirks is that they'll let you count any improved space on the property in those calculations,
How does the it define "improved space" If "volume" is "structure hight x square footage" and your deck and stairs have railings, then the railing has a height, and you might pickup some volume. Heck, even duckboard paths have some height.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 06-04-18 at 07:17 AM.
 

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