If five people were asked to picture a house in their mind and then describe it, chances are each imaginary house would be at least a little bit different from the others—maybe even vastly different. Since people come from different cultural backgrounds, geographic areas, and economic statuses, what’s considered a “normal” house varies depending on who you’re talking to.
Even if there’s no single “normal house” that we can all use as a reference, it’s helpful to look at averages, both in terms of a house’s exterior height as well as its interior height, if you think you might want to build or renovate your own home one day. Just like with how many rooms you have, your house ceiling height has a big impact on your daily life and affects the overall experience of living in that space.
How High is an Average House?
There are a few factors that go into determining the height of a house, but the big ones are the area’s building codes and local regulations. There are such things as height restriction laws that limit how tall a building can be, whether due to managing safety concerns, preventing new buildings from blocking views, maintaining historic or aesthetic skylines, or other reasons.
Looking at a single-story structure, the average house height is between 10 to 15 feet, which, if converted to meters, is 3.048 to 4.572 meters tall. Even though there is just one level of the house, that potential difference in height range often comes from the type, angle, and height of the roof.
How Tall is a Two-Story House?
While the prevalence of single or multi-story houses varies by region and over the years, many people decide to go for the latter because by building upward, you get more space without having to pay for a larger, more expensive piece of land. There are even more savings when you consider that a two-story home requires less roofing and less ground excavation work than the same amount of house that sprawls across a single floor.
The average height of a two-story house ranges between 18 feet and 25 feet. That rounds up to about 5.5 meters to 7.6 meters high. That being said, you may find some that are shorter than that since many areas in the U.S., for example, have a minimum height of 16 feet for a two-story house.
How Tall is a Three-Story House?
Looking at the U.S. specifically, three-story houses aren’t as common as two-story houses, but drive around certain downtown areas marked by modern townhouses, and you may be able to spot a few there. Aside from the additional space, three-story houses offer the potential for better views.
On average, a three-story house could be between 33 and 40 feet tall, or around 10 to 12 meters high. Some three-story houses reach up to 15 feet fall because of their roof design or taller ceiling height.
Average Ceiling Height in Homes
Speaking of ceilings…just because a home is a certain height that’s not exactly how tall the ceilings will be inside. The height of the roof and/or attic isn’t something you’re necessarily going to be able to enjoy or notice when you’re standing inside the rooms of your house!
For a long time, the average ceiling height in the U.S. was around eight feet, but these days nine feet has become more of the standard. You may wonder, “Why stop at nine feet?” Well along with aesthetic considerations, higher ceilings do come along with higher construction costs and potentially higher energy costs.
The Minimum Height of Ceilings
When looking at ceiling heights in homes, there’s the average mentioned previously but there’s also the minimum to look at. The International Residential Code (IRC) specifies that every habitable space should have a minimum ceiling height of seven feet.
While seven feet may be up to code, people who are taller may feel cramped with that ceiling height, especially if they can easily touch it when raising their arms. Plus, if your ceiling is already right at the seven-foot minimum, you have to be careful with adding any floor treatments that could bring down that height.
What About Garage Ceiling Heights?
Garages aren’t the typical living spaces where you’re spending most of your time, but their height is still important to consider, seeing as you have to fit your car in there comfortably and still be able to walk around. Average garage ceiling heights are at least eight feet tall.
The Deal with Basement Ceiling Height
What about the basement ceiling height? The IRC says the basements that contain habitable space and hallways should also be at least seven feet tall. They do allow a certain amount of height exception to account for beams, girders, ducts, and other obstructions though.
Building a House of Your Own
The key to a successful construction project is having the right numbers and measurements (construction calculators are a big help with this!). Once you have your home and ceiling heights figured out, the height calculations don’t stop there.
Since a house is an interconnected system, the average ceiling height is going to determine the height of the things you put in the room. Here are a couple of specific examples of interior design choices that are affected by ceiling height:
Consider the Ceiling Fan Height
If you have a low ceiling, you don’t want an extra large ceiling fan hanging down from above making the room feel even smaller (or like an obstacle course). A general rule of thumb is to have the height of the ceiling fan from the floor be at least seven feet, although the optimal would be eight feet. You want to make sure that any six-foot-tall family members or visitors will be plenty clear of the danger zone if the fan is spinning!
Best Ceiling Fans for High Ceilings
If you happen to have super-high ceilings in your home, it might not make the most sense to just put up a standard ceiling fan. Eight to nine feet away from the floor is the recommended range to allow for proper airflow, so if your ceilings are way up there, you should choose a fan with an extension rod, more power, and/or wider paddles.
Check the Kitchen Cabinets to Ceiling Height
There’s no rule saying you can’t have your kitchen cabinets reach all the way to the ceiling, but it’s more common to leave about one to two feet of space there. For some people, this extra space creates the look they’re going for or gives them a place to add some more decoration, but for others, it’s just another pesky area to dust, so it’s really up to you.
Find the Best Lighting for High Ceilings
Tall ceilings mean more space to light up. If your house has high ceilings, or if you have specific rooms with high ceilings, you may want to consider adding additional light fixtures throughout the space, choosing bigger light fixtures, or adding recessed lighting.
The More You Know
How high a house is—inside and out—will greatly affect what it’s like living inside of it. As you start thinking up your dream house or your next renovations, keeping in mind these average heights for the overall structure as well as the ceilings of a home will help you plan properly.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.