Add a dramatic flourish to your home by raising your ceiling height to bring a spacious, regal element to your ADU. Find out more here.
Updated Jan 01, 2018
Vaulted ceilings bring an airy openness to any room, and many homeowners love the spacious feeling of these ceilings, not to mention the possible increase in home value.
Stepping into a room with vaulted ceilings evokes an auspicious sense of grandeur and nobility—shafts of sunlight beam through scintillating skylights that bathe the space with a morning radiance.
Regardless of why people may be drawn to them, it seems these marvelous ceilings have been coming back in vogue. These ceilings have also been the contentious subject matter in real estate, as they can be costly and difficult endeavors. It should be mentioned before continuing that vaulted ceilings are not DIY projects.
Thankfully, the approachable and professional expertise of the Cottage team are ready and able to realize the vision you have for your ADU, all the way from the design stage to the last coat of paint.
Read about what to expect if you’re thinking about renovating your space.
Quick History of Vaulted Ceilings.
Like many interior design choices, vaulted ceilings go in and out of fashion; only these have cycled over at least the last thousand years of history. Vaulted (or sometimes called cathedral) ceilings open up rooms and have refined otherwise drab spaces throughout their existence.
Here are some historical facts about these marvelous design choices:
The Roman Empire boasted many marvels of engineering, including aqueducts. The aqueducts led to large, public bath houses that featured stunning vaulted ceilings.
The way these ceilings were domed provided an incredibly strong, weight-bearing structure, allowing these public baths to be built underground. The Romans combined stone-cutting techniques with the groin vault to create one-of-a-kind vaulted ceilings.
Cathedral ceilings (once a distinct architectural practice) were developed during the Middle Ages. These ceilings differed in structure as their inner slope matched that of their outer one, following the rafters all the way up to the top.
These types of ceilings became very popular in the era of Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture, where grand spires pierced the skies as high as their builders could muster.
Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence, Italy, sometimes known as the Duomo, stands as a distinct landmark for its marriage of both Gothic and Renaissance styles. The domed ceiling lays flat against its rafters, matching its outer shape, rising to a point crested by a white stone spire.
The Islamic world also features grand and glamorous feats of architectural craftsmanship. The Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran, for example, holds a breathtaking display. These vaulted ceilings follow a distinctive fan style, covered entirely by intricate mandalas patterned in the ceiling’s structure and painted with bright, saturated colors.
What Are Some Vaulted Ceiling Styles?
Given their extensive worldwide use throughout history, it is only reasonable for there to have been several styles developed. From rustic and hospitable to regal and lofty, vaulted ceilings come in various styles to choose from that can suit yours just right.
This ceiling style is one of the most popular choices for vaulted ceilings. Created by a dome being recessed into a flat ceiling, they typically take up only a portion of the ceiling.
The dome is supported by arched braces that run up from around its circumference to meet at one point at its circular crest.
The bigger they get, the more difficult it becomes to fit into your ceiling properly. Consider adding crown molding to accent the edge of your dome for a dramatic flair without increasing its size.
Sometimes called a tunnel or cradle vault, these ceilings radiate an expansive, dramatic energy. If you want to evoke a feeling of importance and grandeur as you stroll from the bedroom to the kitchen, these ceilings are sure to do the trick.
These vaulted ceiling types are constructed from arched trusses that run parallel across your space.
These ceilings feature the smooth curves of barrel vaults that intersect perpendicularly, creating a sharp 90-degree angle at their zenith. Eyes are naturally drawn to their high point (a lovely place to hang a statement lighting fixture).
These styles offer an elegant focal point to any room they reside in, from big family dinners to friends over for a lovely evening; you can be assured these will be a popular topic of conversation.
Perhaps your intention is not to create a grand and lofty environment. Perhaps you simply want to raise your living room ceilings a few feet so that you're not brushing up against them when doing your sun salutations in the morning.
These ceilings give a softer look to vaults, rounding their edges before meeting the tops of your walls. These give a subtle, upscale look to fit a more modern or streamlined style choice.
These make for a fantastic choice if you want to add a little extra room to smaller spaces like ADUs. They allow more room for natural light, and the high ceilings give you the sense of extended breathing room.
The most extravagant and luxurious of vaulted ceilings found on this list, fan vaults are designed with a complexity of arches fanning out from various center points in the walls, meeting at a crest in the ceiling.
The fan vault gives a very design-focused look as it appears as a final product to look like an ornate and highly detailed art structure above you.
A Regal Atmosphere: Thanks to their prevalence in the grand architecture of ages past, vaulted ceilings provide a particular feeling of importance to whatever room they grace.
A regular entryway to your two-story abode can be reimagined into a grand reception hall. The magnificent stairway climbing up to a mezzanine to your second floor is bathed with natural light from the skylights installed on your domed ceiling. Now, you have a warm and welcoming entryway.
A Better Use of Space: Attics are generally spaces that your average homeowner may not find much use for. The joists running along attic floors are their only weight-bearing asset, making them a poor choice for storage and an impossible one for living spaces.
It can be argued that this space can be far better utilized by opening it up and allowing it to breathe above the room below it. Make use of your dusty attic space by making it a core feature of your dining or living room.
Boost Your Property’s Value: A single-story ranch house could possibly feel closed off and claustrophobic. Common eight-foot ceiling heights can make a small space’s layout feel “chopped up” with no distinct heart or center.
Vaulted ceilings open this space up and create a more dynamic and stylish feel to the home’s interior design. Adding this depth of complexity can boost a home’s value by up to 25%.
They Use a Lot of Energy: Raising your ceilings to a higher level means that the room occupies a larger volume of space. That space will need to be heated during cold winter months or cooled during hot summer days.
This increase in volume means it takes longer to adjust a room’s ambient temperature. It is also common for heat to accumulate in the domed space, creating a heat trap. This could be a sweltering issue in the summer should you forgo skylights to allow the accumulated hot air to escape. Try an attractive ceiling fan to help keep you cool.
They Are Harder To Maintain: Vaulted ceilings are pretty safe from the typical dangers that may affect their lower-height counterparts. Splashes and stains aren’t usually flying high enough to damage the paint on your ceilings.
However, they are susceptible to dust. Without proper maintenance, you can end up with powdery little piles of dust on your raised window frames. Proper cleanup and maintenance require a ladder, so make sure you get over your fear of heights (or have the right staff handy) to keep your vaulted ceilings neat and clean.
It Is Difficult to Remodel Space for Them: Depending on what kind of existing roof structure you have, it may prove prohibitively more expensive to retrofit the space required.
Special trusses are required for a vaulted space, so you’ll need a roof that is supported by rafters that leave that extra space for them. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra to remove the existing trusses to be replaced with the new, specialty ones.
What Factors Can Make It Expensive To Build Vault Ceilings?
Additions like vaulted ceilings, while sometimes pricy, can add enormous value (and height) to a property’s resale value and aesthetic appeal.
Originally, ceilings were all the same standard size—eight feet tall. With the advent of better home cooling and heating systems and improved global access to building supplies, ceilings now rise to a new standard—nine feet tall. While nine feet is the most common measurement, buyers tend to prefer even higher ceilings, especially in entryways where ceilings reach 12 to 14 feet high.
Wondering what factors contribute to the cost of vaulted ceilings? These are some of the most common ones:
Post-Build Additions. Adding in vaulted ceilings to a fully built home is cost-prohibitive and often difficult due to the complexities of structural engineering demanded. It’s recommended to look into vaulted ceilings for new builds or new additions, like an attached ADU.
The Vaulting Method. Two popular methods of creating vaulted ceilings are stick-framing using trusses. Stick framing is far more expensive than the truss method.
Consider the Roof Line. If the roof line is low, it won’t accommodate the vaulted ceiling. If the homeowner truly wanted a vaulted ceiling in that scenario, the roof frame would need to be altered: a considerable cost (depending on the size of the roof and the roofing materials).
Eating Into Available Spaces. If the proposed vaulted ceiling extends into the attic space, that area could lose its value and functionality.
What To Know Before Renovation
This is not a DIY project. Meet and consult with an engineer prior to starting this project to ensure your space is amenable to vaulting. You also have to obtain all the relevant and required permits to begin construction.
Given the extensive nature of this project, it is always best to add vaulted ceilings into the planning phase of your home or ADU’s construction. The professional expertise found at Cottage can design and install your vaulted ceilings alongside your ADU’s construction. Cottage will be there at the beginning to draw up and submit permits and paint the crown molding at the end.
To properly assess if your room is agreeable to a vaulting project, first ask yourself the following:
How Is My Roof Framed?
Roofs are framed with either rafters or trusses. Rafters are slats of lumber that run from your walls to meet at the top of your roof, making an “A” shape. Rafters also leave negative space that can be fitted with specialty trusses to vault your ceiling.
Trusses are like rafters, but they have a piece that runs at the bottom with a webbed support structure running through its center. Existing trusses will have to be removed and replaced with the specialty trusses required for vaulted ceilings. This may increase your total budget significantly.
Do I Have a Chimney?
If your chimney is leaning into the space you open up, you might run into a pretty big headache. After installing a vaulted ceiling, the demolition and reconstruction of a chimney could be troublesome.
Where Is My Electricity Running?
Moving wiring is typical for this kind of job, so don’t let the wires’ positions dissuade you from adding these stylish ceilings to your home. Check where the cables and conduits are running along the tops of your ceiling joists, and note them. The engineer will want to know.
Is There Any Ductwork in the Way?
Much like your electrical wires, check where your ducts are running. Sheet-metal ducts in your basement are fine. If you find any in your attic, you’re going to need to hire an HVAC specialist to reroute them.
How Is My Plumbing Set Up?
PVC pipes that run the length of your attic are easy to move around. Like oversized legos, it is very much plug-and-play.
Copper and brass, however, are heavy metals that complicate things. Unless you yourself have extensive plumbing experience, you will need to hire a plumber to reroute those pipes, again adding a high premium to your job.
Once armed with the answers to these questions, it’s time to pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood structural engineer or contractor to estimate a quote for your project.
Raising Solutions, Solving Problems
Vaulted ceilings are a historically grand and lofty interior design choice, introducing an element of regalness and resplendence to any space they inhabit. From supporting the weight of ancient roads in creating sanitary public works to creating large, expansive spaces suitable for mass worship, vaulted ceilings are a beautiful design choice.
Vaulted ceilings can be an incredibly laborious and expensive endeavor. This is especially true when you are trying to renovate your home to incorporate these ceilings and depending on already existing conditions. It may be near impossible to end up with the ceilings you want.
This isn’t a problem if you’re using the valuable services provided here at Cottage. Creating an ADU for your home offers the opportunity to have your dream space without the headache. Building a custom ADU is a great way to live a minimalist lifestyle, maximize your space, and increase your property value.
The team at Cottage takes your home from its inception to the final coat of paint applied.