10 Foot Ceilings Add more Than Height

Dear Carl,

We are undertaking a new home building project.

Our first floor walls are 10' high and our second story is 9' high with a 9' high basement. We have been told that for a house with these ceiling heights a 2 x 6 system would be preferable but not required and certainly more expensive.

Some issues I've seen discussed are twisting of the studs and an overall sturdier "feel" to the house.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Alex,

Ten foot ceilings are used today for aesthetic reasons and they are without a doubt striking.

You or your builder should check with your local building inspection department as to whether or not code requires 2 x 6 stud walls.

However, the twisting, bowing, cupping, warping, or “kicking out” of studs is caused by the stud(s) drying and shrinking and is not eliminated by using 2 x 6 studs.

No matter where you (or your contractors) buy lumber, studs will either contain moisture when they arrive at the job site or will absorb moisture during construction, or both…this is a fact.

To prevent, or at least control the above stud maladies, we always use “blocking” to control the movement of the studs as they dry. Actually, we "double block", that is, use 2 rows of blocking...and 3 rows on 10 foot walls!...we are GOOD!

Drying can take over a year and doesn’t even start until after the house is finished. Nail pops and drywall cracks are the major consequences of the drying process.

Whether there is a sturdier “feel” for 2 x 6 walls or not, I don’t know as I have never felt it…except in my wallet.

Besides their initial extra cost, 2 x 6 walls require extra deep window and door jambs and extra wall insulation, and, believe it or not, an actual loss of floor space.

But I think a few extra costs you may not be aware of are that ten foot ceilings aesthetically require 8 foot doors, jambs and casings, and taller windows, jambs and casings, …at least that’s what I’m used to seeing. This creates considerable extra costs as you will be buying "non standard" items.

Another extra cost you will incur with 10 foot ceilings is an increase in HVAC system(s) requirements...think cubic feet, not square feet.

I always price, or have priced, all my options before making any decisions.

That’s my advice.

Good luck,

Carl Heldmann