Crawlspaces vs Low Doorways in Escape Rooms

A few years ago I wrote about crawlspaces… after bashing my head pretty badly in a poorly designed crawlspace.

I’m not going to revisit my thoughts on crawlspaces, because I already covered the subject well… but I would like to talk about low doorways.

A sign hung under a low doorway reads, "Tall people, watch your head. Short peopel, continue with reckless abandon."
Taken at The Uncommons Board Game Cafe, NYC

The Case Against Low Doorways

The thing about a crawlspace is that it demands your attention. Unless you’re a small child, a crawlspace demands that you stop, completely shift your body posture, and then enter. Any way you slice it, entering a crawlspace must be done knowingly and deliberately. This is not the case for low doorways. 

A standard doorway in the United States is 80 inches tall (6.67 feet).

At 6’1, I am a reasonably tall guy… not very tall… just taller than the average American male (5’9)

When a doorway is slightly shorter than usual, it doesn’t always register, especially when the person passing through it is – say – immersed in some sort of game.

Speaking from experience, a low doorway can result in a harsh head-thumping.

Suggestions for Low Doorways

Sometimes a lower than average doorway is needed. Escape rooms have all sorts of unusual design constraints. When you need to use a low doorway, there are a few things that can make it safer:

  • Pad it – A little foam goes a long way.
  • Light it – It’s easier to avoid things that you see clearly.
  • Limit passage – When you have a low doorway, avoid puzzles that require traversing that space.

2 thoughts on “Crawlspaces vs Low Doorways in Escape Rooms

  1. Once I played a game where we were issued a hardhat to wear. I thought it was part of the immersion process but soon learned there was a practical and functional reason. Glad I still had it on my head because i don’t like wearing hardhats and almost took it off too soon.
    If you have to have a doorway that is not standard then I suggest you make it significantly/obviously short or symbolic of something like a bank vault or ship’s watertight door so players are not innocently ignorant that the doorway could be a head bumper.
    Padding is better than nothing and when I have hit my head on padded passages I did not get a cut or bruise. However, I have found that the process causes a neck wrenching that lasts much longer than the joy of the game.

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