How High Are Ceilings In Houses? [Old Vs. New]

Making yourself familiar with the dimensions in any home helps with decorating, furnishing, and room flow. A sometimes overlooked dimension is the room's ceiling height. If you are wondering how high ceilings are in a typical home, we can help you. We researched old and new home construction so that you'll know for sure what the different heights are.

The typical height of ceilings in modern homes is 8 or 9 feet. Older homes will have ceilings that are 10 feet or higher. Ceiling height can have an impact on lighting choices, draperies, airflow, and desired decor.

Now that we have a range of heights for new and old home ceilings, we'll take a look at how these heights might have some limitations. You might also be wondering why ceilings in old houses are so high or when 9-foot ceilings became the standard. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what our research has uncovered.

Modern white interior design with fireplace and beautiful backyard view - How High Are Ceilings In Houses [Old Vs. New]

What Ceiling Height Can Impact In A Room

The dimensions of a room will be one of the biggest variables in how you decorate and furnish it. The wall height of any room presents limitations to what you can hang on it, and how high the ceiling is will determine what you can hang from it.

No matter what your ceiling height is, you need to be aware of it before you plan your room's look. This will help you determine the room's limitations as well as narrow down your choices.

Lighting Choices

Lower ceilings will have fewer options on what lighting fixtures are chosen. If you have an 8-foot ceiling, you will be able to get away with a protruding light fixture and even a ceiling fan. 

But anything lower than 8 feet will limit your options. While most homes have an 8-foot ceiling in the living room, the ceilings in upstairs bedrooms might be a foot shorter. Carefully measure any room before installing new lighting.

Taller ceilings in older homes, (or new ones with vaulted ceilings) will be able to have more grand light fixtures hung from them. Ornate chandeliers and other lights that might have great length would extend too far down in many modern homes. 


With taller ceilings will often come taller windows. Rooms with 10-foot ceilings will often have windows that are 6 feet or taller. This means that you'll need to pay close attention to the window dressings that you select.

Proper draperies and other window treatments can make a large room feel cozier, or seemingly increase the size of a smaller room. Being aware of how these treatments give your room your desired look starts with knowing how tall the ceiling is and how tall the windows are.


The taller the ceiling, the greater potential for airflow in the room. By installing a ceiling fan or opening the windows, you will feel the effects of the increased circulation throughout your home.

What Decor You Choose For The Room

Higher ceilings will of course mean taller walls. And with more wall space comes many more options for decor. Grand built-in bookcases, large ornate mirrors, or oversized paintings can be put on the walls in these homes.

Whereas a 7-foot mirror would probably seem out of place hung on the wall of a room with an 8-foot ceiling, it would look like it belonged in a room with 10- to 12-foot walls. Likewise for larger pieces of artwork and other wall decor.

Why Are The Ceilings In Old Homes So High?

We mentioned earlier in this post that older homes had taller ceilings than modern ones. These tall ceilings will generate much more airflow than their more modern counterparts. But why was this so important when they were being built?

Years ago, it was a luxury to have air conditioning. And as this technology wasn't around until the early 20th century, many older homes didn't have the option of climate-controlled rooms when they were built.

Taller ceilings and windows allowed for air to circulate throughout the entire home, cooling it during the hottest months.

Higher ceilings also meant a more spacious room, a desired feel when many of these homes were built. The larger windows allow for more light to enter, making them brighter even during dusk.

beautiful empty room - apartment after renovation

When Did 9-Foot Ceilings Become The Standard?

As the 20th century ticked by, more and more homes were being built with modern climate control systems. This eliminated the need for large ceilings for airflow. In fact, with modern heating units, taller ceilings would mean higher gas or electric bills to keep them to the proper temperature.

Around WWII, homes were built with an average 8-foot ceiling. This trend continued until the mid-1990s. The New York Times reports that newer home buyers were starting to lean back toward taller ceilings. They enjoyed the openness of the rooms with these ceiling heights and liked the decorating options that could be available. 

9-foot ceilings have been the standard ever since. Some homeowners have begun gravitating toward lofted ceilings in grand living rooms in recent years, opting for even higher ceilings than the modern standard.

Modern white interior design with fireplace and beautiful backyard view

Why Are Ceilings So Low In England?

If you've ever visited a home in England, you might have taken note that the ceilings there are a bit shorter than they are in the United States. Ceiling heights have such an impact on climate control, no matter the continent the home was built on.

England tends to get colder than many parts of the United States and stays chilly longer throughout the year. To keep heating costs lower, houses in this country are built with lower ceilings. The shorter the ceiling, the less area that needs to be heated. 

Houses in England with typical red bricks at sunset - Main street in a new estate with typical British houses on the side

Why Are The Closets In Old Houses So Small?

If you've ever been in a home that was built before WWII, you might have noticed that the bedroom closets are noticeably smaller than the ones in modern homes.

So small, in fact, that it might be difficult to imagine having enough space for all the clothes you need throughout the year. There are several reasons why.

In the times that these homes were being constructed, people owned far fewer clothes than what they do today. The limited closet space they had was all most people needed. You might notice that some older homes don't have closets that are original to the house at all.

Those with no closets (or with an abundance of clothing) relied on large wardrobes and trunks to store their clothing. These came in handy to keep seasonal wear inside of them and out of the closets where the everyday clothing was kept.

When the season for certain clothing was over, those clothes were put in the trunks or chests and kept out of sight until needed again the next year.

Things weigh in the wardrobe

Final Thoughts

Modern homes have shorter ceilings than their historic counterparts for reasons that involve airflow, climate control, and aesthetics. The height of a room's ceiling will impact how the room is lit as well as what decorating options you have.

Know what your room's dimensions are before planning on decorating or furnishing, as it will help you narrow down your possibilities.

We hope all of your questions about ceiling heights were answered in this post. For more helpful information, we recommend the following posts:

How Much Space Between Cabinets And Ceiling Should You Have?

How To Clean Rough Wood Ceiling Beams [A Complete Guide]

What Should The Curtain Length Be For 12-Foot Ceilings?

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