Minimum ceiling height and hobbit houses

Have you ever wondered how low ceilings can be to be considered legitimate square footage? Obviously there has to be a limit, right? After all, it wouldn’t seem too livable if ceilings were 4 feet high (unless for hobbits maybe).

What does the ANSI-accredited standard on square footage say? “To be included in finished square footage calculations, finished areas must have a ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2.13 meters) except under beams, ducts, and other obstructions where the height may be 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meters); under stairs where there is no specified height requirement; or where the ceiling is sloped. If a room’s ceiling is sloped, at least one-half of the finished square footage in that room must have a vertical ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2.13 meters); no portion of the finished area that has a height of less than 5 feet (1.52 meters) may be included in finished square footage.” (“ANSI” stands for “American National Standards Institute”).

7 foot ceiling height and "5 foot rule" photo by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

In short, while it wouldn’t bode well for most NBA players, 7 feet is the low ceiling height limit, but the ceiling can be as low as 6’4″ under beams and other obstructions. Most houses tend to have 8 foot ceilings in the Sacramento area, so the ceiling height limit is typically not an issue – especially in newly constructed subdivisions. However, older areas and classic neighborhoods like Curtis Park, Land Park and East Sacramento often need to take ceiling height limits into consideration for finished attics and sloped ceilings.

Hobbit Houses and Square Footage: This brings us to the big question of whether hobbit houses could be considered as living area. If you don’t know what a hobbit is, you really might consider renting The Lord of the Rings trilogy to get familiar (or read the books). Anyway, since ceilings in Hobbiton are much lower than 7 feet, they unfortunately don’t qualify as gross living area. On top of that, they are actually considered “below grade” since they are partially underground, which is not acceptable as GLA anyway under Fannie Mae standards. Here are two photos of Hobbiton in New Zealand (this is my 5’8″ Mom about 10 years ago). If you didn’t know, you can actually visit the former Lord of the Rings movie set.

Hobbiton in New Zealand

Hobbiton in New Zealand

Additional Square Footage Articles: You may also be interested to read Using the “5 foot rule” to calculate square footage, or Why do appraisers give such little value for square footage?, or Why is there a difference in square footage between official records and the appraisal?

Question: Does this make sense? Are you a Lord of the Rings fan?

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