Vaulted ceilings have been trending for ages. You can see vaulted or cathedral ceilings in ancient houses of worship, public baths, and municipal buildings, dating as far back as 217 AD. They are also very popular in today’s modern homes.
A vaulted ceiling raises the height and volume of a room for a more spacious feeling using a sloped angle, an arch, or a dome.
But, are they worth the investment? Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of vaulted ceilings below.
Some of the Pros of Vaulted Ceilings
There are some definite advantages to a vaulted or raised ceiling inside a home, both aesthetically and practically.
Can Make your Home Feel Larger
A vaulted ceiling raises the height of what would normally be a lower flat ceiling. When you enter a room with a vaulted ceiling, your eye is drawn upward due to the increased volume of the space.
This is dramatic and gives the illusion that the room is much larger than its footprint actually is. As long as the house has a pitched roof, the ceiling can be raised to achieve this effect.
Adds More Daylight
One of the best features of a vaulted ceiling is that it allows for additional windows at the taller end walls of the room, as well as transom windows over exterior doors.
It also makes it possible to install roof-mounted skylights. When taller windows and skylights are introduced, the room immediately becomes brighter and feels more open and airier.
Gives Character to the Home
There is something very special about a high ceiling that is arched or triangular. It adds a certain amount of ambiance and character to the home.
This is especially true when you walk from a hallway or room with a flat ceiling into a space that is vaulted. The transition from a smaller, darker area to a voluminous and bright space generally evokes awe and a good feeling.
Some vaulted ceilings feature beautiful exposed wood trusses or roof beams, interesting trim details, and perimeter light troughs with hidden fixtures for dramatic up lighting to highlight the ceiling angles or curves.
Makes Good Use of Wasted Roof Area
When a ceiling follows the structure of the roof line, you are able to make good use of all that space that might otherwise serve no purpose.
And, if you are fortunate enough to have a fairly steep roof pitch, you could add usable loft space that is open to the room below. This could be an extra sleeping area, a play space, or even a small home office.
Some of the Cons of Vaulted Ceilings
Even with all the attractive benefits of vaulted ceilings, there are a few drawbacks that are worth looking into when considering whether a raised ceiling is worth it.
More Expensive than Conventional Ceilings
The construction of a vaulted ceiling can add as much as 10 to 20% to the cost of the project. The reason for this is that the height requires more surface materials.
Moreover, there is quite a bit of labor involved in the process due to the need for extension ladders or interior scaffolding and the dexterity it takes to work at certain heights with finish materials that aren’t necessarily lightweight.
This is especially true for the construction of an arched vault. Basically, it takes more time and materials to build a vaulted ceiling than a flat one.
Not Energy Efficient
The notable benefit of attic space above a flat ceiling is the ability to add insulation directly above the ceiling and provide natural ventilation at the roof level to maintain a comfortable environment within the room below.
Once the ceiling is raised this ventilation has to be introduced using specialty eave and ridge vents as well as baffles to protect the roof insulation and provide channels for air to flow freely. Current building codes make this particularly complicated.
A room with a high ceiling can be uncomfortably cool in winter as warm air naturally rises, leaving the floor space less well heated.
One way to help this condition is to install ceiling fans with a reverse function to push the warm air back down toward the floor area.
These fans can add to the drain on utility costs if they are running year-round. In summer, the room can take a lot longer to cool because of the increased volume.
More Difficult to Maintain
A high ceiling is not easy to take care of. For starters, it is hard to clean a vaulted ceiling without a ladder, especially if your home is in an area that is prone to spider webs.
Changing lightbulbs in recessed ceiling fixtures may require outside help. When the ceiling needs repainting, you will have to hire a professional, as this is not a DIY project.
Difficult to Install in a Conventionally Framed Home
Building a new home with vaulted ceilings is much easier than trying to retrofit an existing home with flat ceilings. Conventionally framed roofs have rafters that are designed to support the roof deck and roof surface material.
The ceiling or attic floor framing, along with collar ties, brace and stabilize the pitched roof, as well as provide framing for attaching the ceiling below.
These ceiling joists are also designed to accept insulation. Once you remove this triangular support system, the pitched roof framing needs to be reinforced or beefed up to carry the extra weight of a ceiling and to allow for adequate insulation.
In some cases, a vaulted ceiling may involve adding exposed trusses that are made using premium materials so they are pleasing to the eye.
I think most of us enjoy the appearance and feelings evoked by a room with a vaulted ceiling. A high ceiling definitely adds character to any home and allows for more natural daylight.
On the flip side, a vaulted ceiling can cost more in terms of construction, maintenance, and energy efficiency.
As much as you might love the pros of a vaulted ceiling, it makes good sense to speak with your general contractor to make sure this amenity fits within your budget before undertaking the project.
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