Tiny homes and lofts go hand-in-hand: with so little space, you want to use every square inch available. But to have the right plans, you need to know all your dimensions, from the trailer width to the height of your loft.
So how high can the ceiling of a tiny house loft be? When built on a trailer, a tiny house has to abide by road limits, which is 13’6” by height in most of the United States.
You are also required to follow the IRC’s tiny house codes, which state that the ceiling height of your main floor should stand at least 6’8” off the tiny house floor.
This leaves roughly 3 to 4 feet for the tiny house loft height, with most tiny houses allocation just about 3’6” in vertical space for their tiny house loft.
What is the Tallest a Tiny House Can Be?
Before we get into the height for your loft, it’s important to understand the height limitations of a tiny house, and why those limitations are in place. Tiny houses on wheels have to abide by road legal limits, which we discussed in a previous article: Road Limits for Tiny Houses on Wheels.
While the road limits vary from state to state, most states follow the same common height limit. The total height to keep it legal on the road for a tiny house or any vehicle without extra permits is 13’6”, or 162”. This means that from the bottom of your trailer’s wheels to the highest point of your tiny house, your tiny house must be at or below 13’6”. This is to ensure the safety and balance of your vehicle and towed cargo.
For tiny homes built on a foundation, the 13’6” height limit doesn’t apply, and you can simply follow your local building regulations.
How Tall are Ceilings in Tiny House?
With a limit of 13’6” to work with from the ground to the highest point of your tiny house, how much of that height is actual livable space?
To best visualize tiny house heights, let’s look at an illustration of an average tiny house on wheels:
As you can see, this image sets a max height of 13’5” (161”), with 10’10” (130”) allocated from the livable floor to the bottom of the highest point of the ceiling, from inside. This sets 6’8” (80”) for the ceiling of the first floor, leaving a maximum height of 4’2” (50”) for the loft at its highest point.
Does this mean that you can choose to have a lower vertical dimension for your first floor, allocating more height for your upper floor? Unfortunately, if you want to stay strict with building codes and regulations, this isn’t the case.
According to the International Residential Code on Tiny Houses by the International Code Council, hallways and “habitable space” in tiny houses are required to have a minimum ceiling level of 6’8”. Kitchen, toilet area, and bathroom are required to have a minimum ceiling level of 6’4” (the kitchen must be a separate unit from a walkway).
Finally, any items or obstructions that hang or protrude from the ceiling – including lighting, ducts, girders, beams, and more – should not drop below these minimum requirements.
No matter how creative or unique you wish to be with your tiny house, you are required to allocate a minimum level of 6’8” for your ceilings; in most cases, you would want to allocate a few more inches as well, giving room for any lighting, beams, and other obstructions on the ceiling.
Typical Ceiling Height in a Tiny House
We know the possible heights of a tiny house ceiling, as well as the minimum ceiling limit as written by the IRC, but what is the typical ceiling level of a tiny house? Do people usually go as low as 6’8”?
No. Building your ceiling at 6’8” is actually not the usual case, especially since you need to account for things that might be on the ceiling, such as light fixtures and beams that hold your second level up.
The average tiny house ceiling is actually anywhere from 7’ to 8’, simply because many tiny house homeowners feel that 6’8” is too short, inducing claustrophobia. This will depend mostly on your height, your family’s heights, and your personal comfort limits.
One tip to consider is that if you are using beams to support the raised floor, that will give you ample room between each beam to tuck in some convenient lighting fixtures. As always, it’s essential to think about and plan out every inch of your tiny house design. Another tip is to see if you can build your loft above your kitchen, to use that extra 4 inches from the 6’4” minimum kitchen ceiling.
We recommend that the minimum you should consider (if above 6’8”) should give a clearance of at least 6-8 inches above your tallest family member; this should prevent any feelings of claustrophobia even for the tallest member of your family.
Building a Loft: Why Every Tiny House Needs One
According to the IRC, a tiny house is a dwelling with a maximum floor area of 400 square feet, or 37 square meters. This means that any home with a greater floor area of 400 square feet can’t be considered a tiny house dwelling.
However, this rule only applies to floor area, and doesn’t count the additional space created by a loft. With a 13’6” limit, you are only throwing space away by not having a loft to climb up to.
While some people may be unable to safely climb into a loft for sleep every night, remember that lofts don’t necessarily have to be for sleeping. This space can be your designated area for any part of your tiny house lifestyle, from storage to a work space to a children’s play area, and of course, to a bedroom.
The loft is your “escape” from the first floor of your tiny house, giving your home two distinctly separate spaces. Any tiny house without one is simply giving up the opportunity to increase their living space.
What is the Minimum Ceiling Height for a Loft Conversion?
So how tall should a ceiling be for a loft? The diagram above indicated a maximum of 50” from the ceiling of the first floor to the highest point of the loft’s ceiling. This doesn’t include the floor between it and the first floor, as well as the parts of the loft where the ceiling is lower.
Let’s refer again to the International Residential Code for tiny house requirements. According to the IRC, any loft used as a living or sleeping space must meet the minimum dimension and area requirements. These are:
- Minimum area of 35 square feet
- Minimum horizontal dimension of 5 feet on any side
Additionally, the parts of the loft that with a height of less than 3 feet due to a sloped ceiling cannot be included when calculating the floor space for minimum area (the exception to this rule is with gable roofs, detailing that portions of the loft with a height of less than 16 inches from the floor to the ceiling cannot be included when calculating for minimum area).
To answer the question, there is no minimum range for a loft conversion in a tiny house. The typical ceiling level is anywhere from 3 to 4 feet, with most people finding themselves comfortable in lofts as tall as 3’6”. However, there are a few other IRC-mandated regulations related to your loft’s dimensions that you should be aware of. These include:
- The loft’s floor level must be over 30 inches above the main floor of the tiny house.
- It must be open to the main floor on at least one side
- It must have a vertical dimension shorter than 6’8”
Loft access is another important code issue to be aware of, with the following regulations for access in place:
- Stairways that go up to a loft should be at least 17 inches wide above the handrail, and 20 inches wide below the handrail.
- The headroom above the stairway should be at least 6’2”.
- The risers of a loft’s stairs should be at least 7 inches vertically, but no greater than 12 inches.
- There should be a kind of landing platform at the top of the stairs, measuring 18 to 22 inches in depth from the landing platform’s nosing to the loft’s edge.
- Ladders that go up to a loft should have at least 12 inches of rung width, and 10 to 14 inches of spacing between each rung.
- Each rung should be able to hold at least a 200-pound weight.
- The spacing of the rungs on the ladder should be uniform, with an allowance of just 3/8 inch.
Best Tiny House Roofs for Lofts
So you want to maximize your loft’s space, and the best way to do that is by choosing the best roofs. For people building homes for the first time, you might simply ask: why not build it flat? This would ensure that your loft would have the same maximum space across its entire width.
The problem with flat roofs is that they are the least durable. Wind, rain, and snow falls directly onto flat surfaces, and that build-up will need to be manually pushed off or else you risk having the top of your home deteriorate quicker and possibly even collapse.
This is why most homes have angled or sloped roofs. So which type works best to maximize your tiny house’s loft? We talk about three popular choices for tiny houses: the shed roof, the gable roof, and the gambrel roof.
The gable is perhaps the most common choice for tiny houses (and houses in general), however it isn’t the ideal match for a loft. The reason is that it is sloped on both sides, meaning it can be difficult to sit back and relax against the side of the loft.
Your movement will be limited to lying down and not much else. If you only intend to sleep in your loft, then a gable should work fine. However, if you want more flexibility with your loft, this is most certainly not the best choice.
|Simple, classic look||The angle can be limiting horizontally|
|Easy and straightforward build||Slope on both sides will limit your movements in the loft|
|Best for shedding weather conditions||Will need reinforcing in harsher climates|
The shed roof is like the gable cut in half, with just one side sloped instead of both. This leaves the other side flat, meaning it is more suited for holding a loft. Without overcomplicating your design or adding too much to your build budget, you can build a shed that will make the time spent in your loft much more comfortable than it would be in a gable.
However, the flat side can be quite vulnerable when faced up against stronger winds, so park with caution.
|Simple design and cost effective||Not great against strong winds|
|Great for space for the loft||Awkward interior ceiling spacing|
|Effective shedding of water and snow||Less style versatility|
Our pick for the best choice for tiny house lofts is the gambrel. This traditional American “country” style roof is typically associated with barns, but what do you always expect to see in a barn? Big, spacey lofts, which is exactly what the gambrel roof can give you.
If you’re looking to maximize your loft space and you’re willing to put in the extra work for construction, the gambrel is the ideal loft-focused pick.
|Much more interior ceiling space||More difficult to construct|
|Great slope for rain and snow||Will add more weight than others|
|Spacy and traditional look||Can look old-fashioned|
Making the Most of Your Tiny House Loft
At a height of just 3 to 4 feet, lofts can seem small on paper, but in reality this should be more than enough space to sleep, lie down, read, cuddle up, or just enjoy your day. After all, isn’t the tiny house lifestyle all about downsizing and loving it?
Tiny homes and the tiny living lifestyle are all about putting together the tiny house plans you love most, and making them real. Whether you choose to build a loft or not, just make sure that the tiny house you built is ready to share with the world.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.