...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.30.11 / Feeling the Ceiling

I left you hanging a few weeks ago after I shared the ceiling tear-out progress at the Underdog.  At that time, Handy Hubby had ripped out the ceiling over the kitchen half of the great room that will eventually be vaulted.  Here’s the living room/kitchen now after removing the rest of the ceiling.

I know.  It still doesn’t look like much but I have a good feeling about what the future vaulted ceiling is going to do for the space.  Can you see it?  Imagine the ceiling joists gone.  Yeah, those wide, flat boards at the original ceiling height that are running parallel to the floor…those, gone.  {Along with the vertical supports in the middle of the room.}  Look beyond them to the rafters…the skinnier boards running along the roof structure.  The future ceiling will live just below those rafters.  Now, can you see it?  Raising the ceiling is going to give this modest, multifunctional space more breathing room and an airier feel.

But the big question is, how exactly do we plan to vault the ceiling?  Handy Hubby spoke with several contractors and even a lumber yard discussing the dimensions of the room and roof and our desire to open up the ceiling.  Originally, the thought was that we could just add some collar ties one-third of the way down the rafters – which HH started to DIY himself.

But after more extensive research {because HH is a mechanical engineer after all}, it looks like we’ll need to have a steel support beam put in place that runs along the peak of the vaulted ceiling. We’ll still frame in the beam with some collar ties to disguise it and also to run duct work and electrical through the peak.  So the vaulted ceiling will look more like this…

{notice the flat peak…not the aesthetics}

…and less like this…

{once again this picture is for demonstrating a vaulted peak…not aesthetics}

Of course, we’d prefer to have a ‘sharp’ peak versus a flat one but we really need space to hide duct work and to place recessed lighting {since we’re having a hard time finding can lights for slanted ceilings that don’t have a lot of wiggle room between them and the rafters}.  Even though we were assured by multiple contractors that collar ties alone would be structurally sound, we’re going the better-safe-than-sorry route and adding in a steel beam for extra support.  We will be hiring out for the beam since it’s beyond the scope and manpower of our DIY skills.  Once the beam is in place, we can start installing the new ceiling.  The jury is still out on what the ceiling material will be.  We love the look of a painted plank ceiling but due to cost we may end up with budget-friendly drywall instead.  I’ll let you know what happens!

images:  1-4) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking  5) InterNACHI 6) Custom MMIC Design Services, Inc. 7) Benjamin Benschneider for The Seattle Times



Dana, a painted plank ceiling would look so good! A couple of days ago, I saw pics of a floor done with 1/4″ plywood cut into 8″ wide “planks” and nailed and glued down. I wonder if that would work for a ceiling? I think I remember they painted before they installed. I wish I could remember where I saw it- that WOULD be helpful, wouldn’t it?


The high ceilings will be wonderful!! As another mechanical engineer (I specialize in air conditioning) I caution you to be very careful with the location of your supply vents in a high ceiling. When the vents are very high in a very tall room, you can end up conditioning the attic space and not the living space if your return vents aren’t down near the floor level. Of course, I’m in Houston so we’re pretty dependent on our manufactured cool air here!!! Oh, and I love your blog & reading about your new house!!!


Wow I am so impressed you thought to change up the ceiling. It is going to look great and make the house feel so open.


I’m so impressed at the pace you are moving with this! Every time I check up on your house another MAJOR project has been done and I’m like, well I changed my pillows out last week at my house. It gives me motivation to tackle the bigger projects, so thank you!

The vaulted ceiling is going to look great regardless of peak, I love the openness of a vaulted ceiling. It really makes rooms feel so much bigger.


This is going to change the look and feel of the Underdog SO much! Can’t wait to see it opened up!

It’s going to be awesome when you get that vaulted ceiling done. We have a vaulted ceiling just in our kitchen/dining room side of our Great Room. The previous owners did the work, but we love the openness of the room. We would have loved if the Living Room side had been done too, but it gives us more room in the attic since we don’t have a basement.

I absolutely love your idea for the ceiling. Check out this post of mine to see the product we used. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember how much it cost us, but it was an easy product to work with. You can just staple it to the beams. It’s really light too. It installs just like tongue & groove flooring. Basically it’s the same material as drop ceilings, but it looks like wood. We love it. Hoep this helps. http://thedecorscene.blogspot.com/2011/03/our-family-room-tour-part-5-ceiling.html

You can see the whole room done in this post. http://thedecorscene.blogspot.com/2011/04/our-family-room-tour-big-reveal.html


Is there anyway that you could change the slope of the ceiling so you could still have the peak? Not that the flat part will look bad, but like you are prefer the peak. Either way – can’t wait to see it


Hi Dana! I’ve been enjoying your blog for quite a while, but never left a comment. Just want to say how fun it is to follow you and your family along this journey. Opening up that ceiling feels like big boy stuff, and it’s very exciting. Can’t wait to see the end result.


Hey, my husband and I are in the process of renovating our home, and he is also a mechanical engineer, and it is so funny because he is also the better-safe-than-sorry type. That made me laugh!


Jen – Your room looks amazing! Love the ceiling planks! We actually looked into those Armstrong planks but they’d cost us quite a bit more than pine planks or drywall. If money was no concern, we’d probably use them.


Rachel – While the duct work will run through the peak, the vents will not. The duct work is basically for hot/cold air to flow to BOTH sides of the house since the great room is right in the middle. We have floor vents that will remain in their current locations.


Peggy – Those painted plywood floors look amazing!!!! I MUST show Handy Hubby. Thank you so much for passing on the link!

So exciting, the vault will be such a dramatic change! Also, if you want the plank look without the cost or expense of installing individual boards, you might look at beadboard plywood. It’s what we used on our vaulted ceiling and was actually cheaper than drywall.

Here are a few construction photos (before we painted it white):

We also used all-thread rod and turnbuckles for our collar ties. Our vault was more of a mini vault inside of the larger roof so it didn’t have the same structural requirements and we didn’t have to have a ridge beam. (Not that our main roof had a ridge beam either…oh, gotta love those 1910 construction standards!)


Lauren – “Ridge beam.” Oh, that’s what that support beam thingy is called! I’m learning. Baby steps. That beadboard plywood looks fantastic!!! And cheaper than drywall?? Love it. Definitely mentioning it to Handy Hubby. Your vaulted ceiling reno with the painted beadboard and minimal collar ties is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing! I love your home.

It looks like so much work! But it looks like all of your hard work is paying off!
Have a PRETTY day!


Vaulted ceilings make a room look and feel amazing, great idea!

Look at what I came across today:


Your post on butcher block maintenance is on Apartment Therapy :)


Just chiming in to second Megan’s question — maybe make the ceiling a less sloped peak? Or do what the Zerbeys did, but peak the great room and not the kitchen?

It’s a big project but boy, it will make such a difference. You will LOVE it!


Since plans are changing daily on this house and I don’t always have time to give Dana the full download, I just wanted to note we’re going to use a microllam or LVL ridge beam. It’s an engineered wood beam made up of multiple layers glued together. It’s actually much stronger than a standard wood beam and they’re used all the time in construction. Any lumber yard can help you size one and order it for you. Steel would be a nice option because it could probably be a bit smaller, but they can be expensive and you still need to frame around them so you can screw the drywall to it.



A link to check out for a combination of the two ceilings you posted about.

Also, check if you have any local lumber mills in your area you can buy directly from. We just did tongue and groove planked ceilings at our cabin last summer and bought the wood directly from the mill, picked up, installed, and finished ourselves and saved a ton of $$$.


What size were your rafters? 2×6? Thanks.