Size may not matter, but height does—in a house, that is! With the square footage of houses getting smaller by the day, the vertical space or the height of a house is getting increasingly more important. Moreover, the height of a house pertaining to its overall configuration is one of the most important factors that determine the impact it would have on the environment that surrounds it. Even from a pure design perspective, it is important to have a good understanding of the height of your house in order to ensure safe and aesthetically pleasing proportions.
The average height of 1, 2, and 3 story houses are respectively 10, 20, and 30 feet. A good rule of thumb when calculating the height of a house is to allocate approximately 10 feet per floor plus the height of the roof.
This article explores several aspects when it comes to the height of residential buildings. We will look at what exactly constitutes a story in a building and the standard height of houses. We will also guide you through the process of getting an approximate height measurement of your own house, without the need for any professional equipment or knowledge.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- What Is a Story in a Building?
- How Tall Is a One Story House?
- How Tall Is the Average 2-Story House?
- How Tall Is a House With 3 Stories? (With and Without the Roof)
- How Tall Is My House: How to Measure the Height of Any Building?
- How High Is Too High When It Comes to a House?
- Why Is the Height of the Building an Important Factor?
What Is a Story in a Building?
A story is a level or the “floor” of a building. When a building has several levels, each level with a floor or a lower horizontal surface that provides the needed structural support for that level is called a story (or “storey”, if you’re British). The height of the ceiling of the story, the thickness of the floor, and the material from which the building is made decide the height of each story.
Not every story in a building has the same height. For example, more mid to high rise commercial buildings have a lobby that is taller for structural stability and also the aesthetic appeal. Stories at the upper level may often have less floor area and height than the ones below.
Fun Fact: The floor at the ground is called the ground floor, which is synonymous with the first floor in most regions in the US. Whenever there is a floor below the ground level, it is called a basement and is not counted with the number of stories in the building.
An elevator would also indicate the ground floor as “G” or “1” and the basement with a “B”. The higher-level story would then be labeled “2”, “3”, etc. The numbering of floors can differ depending on the region in the US, and also the country.
In Europe, for example, the ground floor would be marked with a “G”, and higher-level stories would be labeled “1”, “2”, etc. The higher floor in a residential high-rise building is called the Penthouse and is often the most expensive real estate due to the space and views that it offers.
Standard Height of a House
The standard height of a house, residential building, or any type of building, varies according to its location. There are local regulations and by-laws you may have to check depending on where you reside. However, there is no specific rule the contractors have to follow when it comes to deciding the height of a house.
As long as the blueprint of your house is done according to the proper construction standards with proper structural basics covered, the height of the house can be decided according to your specific design and space requirements.
The following are average heights of houses with several stories in order for you to get an idea about the height of a regular residential building.
How Tall Is a One Story House?
A one-story house is approximately 10-15 feet tall. The height can vary according to the slope of the roof and the thickness of the foundation, floor joists, and other structural materials. The height of the ceiling is another factor to be considered when determining how tall a one-story house is.
Even in a single-story house, the ceiling height may vary in different rooms due to both practical and design factors. For example, living rooms often have higher ceilings than the rest of the house due to it being a recreational and entertainment area that needs more space and a sense of freedom.
Many kitchens are often cramped and small in modern houses due to lack of space. If you have the choice, it is better to have a higher ceiling with good ventilation to avoid any odors and keep the heat level more tolerable when someone is cooking. Bedrooms, on the other hand, have lower ceilings to maintain a cozy and intimate ambiance, also helping to keep the temperature of the room at a pleasant and consistent level.
How Tall Is the Average 2-Story House?
The average 2-story house in the US is approximately 20 feet tall. This does not include the height of the roof and also any ceiling modifications. You may also have to factor in any additional depth from the thickness of the floor in the upper story since it is built to safely bear the weight of the upper floor.
A 2-story house may not seem too different from a single-story house, but the height and the two levels add an extra layer when it comes to the safety of the house. For example, creating safe exit routes in case of a fire is extremely important in a 2-story house. Moreover, you may have to invest in insulating your ceiling or installing a drop ceiling to reduce the noise from upstairs, which can factor into the overall height of the house.
How Tall Is a House With 3 Stories? (With and Without the Roof)
A house with 3 stories has a height of approximately 30 feet without the roof. Depending on the slope and the structure of a roof, an average 3 story house has a roof that is 10-12 feet high, which adds to the overall height of the building. It is important to note that the higher the house is, the thicker and deeper the floor area since the floor of an upper story also works as a ceiling to the story below.
Moreover, even if the thickness of the floor may be high, the overall height of the room may shorten as the stories add up in order to make the structure of the building safer. These height differences are often incorporated in the outer architectural design of the building to add more aesthetic appeal.
A 3-story or double-story house gives you more living space even if you have less land space. However, it is important that you do not go too overboard with the height of the house in order to keep it structurally sound, safe, and less costly. You can, however, take advantage of the height of the upper floors.
How Tall Is My House: How to Measure the Height of Any Building?
When you measure how tall your house is, you have to consider the maximum vertical height of the building. If you have a pitched roof with a slope, what you should consider is the height from the ground level to the highest roof point. If you have a flat roof, you should measure from the floor to the top of the roof.
If your house is in the middle of flat and spacious land, one of the easiest ways to measure its height is by using the shadow it casts on a clear and sunny day.
- A tape measure
- A hammer
- A stick about 4-5 feet high (A broomstick would do!)
Take the tape measure, hammer, and straight stick such as a broomstick with you. Go to a place with somewhat soft soil and stick the broomstick upright in the ground, so it stands up straight on its own.
Measure the height of the broomstick, and wait till the sun is at an angle when the height of the broomstick is similar to the length of its shadow. Then go and mark where the shadow of the building ends. Measure the length of that shadow from its farthest edge to the exterior of the building to get an approximate height.
Alternatively, you can simply measure the shadow of the broomstick at any time of the day, and do a little math to find out the ratio of the broomstick’s actual length (that is out of the ground) to the length of its shadow. Then you can measure the shadow of the building and apply the calculated ratio to find its height.
It is important to note that this method only works if the building stands in a clear and flat area, and it is narrow and tall enough to cast a distinct shadow.
How High Is Too High When It Comes to a House?
When the height of a house is high, it gives you a larger vertical space which creates a pleasantly spacious perception. It also allows you to have more natural light and ventilation inside a room even if you do not have much square footage. There is a sense of elegance that comes with a tall house that is hard to accomplish with a lower height.
Nevertheless, when you keep the ceiling height at a lower, more comfortable level, it gives a sense of comfort and warmth. It is also quite literally easier to maintain a comfortable warmth inside a house that is low in overall height with low ceilings. The key is to find a comfortable range when it comes to deciding the height of a house.
Here is a good rule of thumb when it comes to determining the ceiling height of a house.
- Get the tallest person who lives in your home to raise their hand high.
- Measure the height from feet to the tip of the hand.
- Add an additional 2.5-3 feet to the above measurement to calculate the ideal ceiling height.
The average height of a person is approximately 5 feet 8 inches. This means the average ceiling height should be close to 9 feet.
Ultimately, however, it all comes down to proper balance and proportion. When the height of the house is perfectly in proportion to its other structural details, it just looks and feels “right” when you first see it. You can also add a certain personality to a house when the height is just right.
When the ceiling height and the overall height of the building are properly planned, it makes the house feel approachable and familiar. Going too overboard with the height may give it a mansion-like feeling, which may sound appealing at first, but you may not feel the sense of comfort and freedom you should be feeling when you enter a house.
Why Is the Height of the Building an Important Factor?
First of all, the perception that we have of a building largely has to do with its height. That is one of the most prominent things we remember about any building. Many local building codes have specific requirements when it comes to the height of buildings.
The reason they are there is to ensure safety, the overall impact the building adds to the environment that it is in, as well ensuring the proper quality of life for those who occupy the space in the building.
As the cities get more and more densely populated and urbanized, the height of the buildings has increasingly gone up due to the lack of space in the ground. This has created a phenomenon called “mini-cities” in high-rise buildings, creating large communities that only occupy a relatively small footprint of the land.
From an economic perspective, it is of course more affordable to build high risers than acquiring a large acreage of terrain to include the same space in highly expensive urban areas. It allows a city to grow its infrastructure without having to expand horizontally and take up space in the surrounding greenspaces or less urbanized areas. Moreover, when it comes to any building — residential or commercial — the height of a building can have an immediate effect on the character of a certain streetscape of a prominent skyline that the city authorities would like to maintain.
If the position of the building is at a prominent location in the city surrounded by historically important buildings, the height of the new building can potentially overshadow any important real estate close by. Therefore, before you decide on the height of your future home or any building that you are making plans to build, always follow any permitted maximum height local regulations, and avoid any significant contrast between the height of the houses or other buildings in the vicinity.
The standard height of a story in a building is approximately 10 feet. This may vary according to the number of stories, design choices, and structural factors such as the thickness of the materials and the floor.
It is important to consider the proper balance and proportions as well as the impact it has on the surrounding environment when deciding the height of your house.