All You Need To Know About Raising a Ceiling

All You Need To Know About Raising a Ceiling

Additions and Remodels
Small Projects and Repairs
By Mateos Glen Hayes November 11, 2021

An increasingly popular home improvement project involves raising the ceiling height of a home by transforming a flat ceiling into a vaulted one. This can greatly increase the standard 8-foot height of most home ceilings without changing the footprint of the house whatsoever. Instead, the structure of the home is reinforced to safely support the new roof design. Raising your ceiling could increase your ceiling height to as much as 12 feet at its peak. As you might expect, this project can get a little on the pricey side due to the inherent complexity of rebuilding a roof.

There are a few things any aspiring handyperson should consider if they plan to take on this project. The rewards of success are considered for this project, but there are definitely some important variables to take into account beforehand.

Why Should You Raise Your Ceiling?

There are major financial and practical benefits to raising your home’s ceiling.

More Room 

The most obvious benefit of raising your ceiling is that it will make your home look and feel larger. This is a nice luxury because it can eliminate the feeling of being boxed in and it also gives you a lot of extra room to work with. The extra room provided by a vaulted ceiling allows for many new interior design possibilities.

You can improve lighting in your home with new beautiful light fixtures or by installing skylights, and you can even pursue the design style of your dreams. If you pine for your very own authentic farmhouse in the city, a raised ceiling just might be the ticket. 

The Benefits of Raising Your Home’s Ceiling

The Benefits of Raising Your Home’s Ceiling

Resale Value

A vaulted ceiling can also do a lot to maximize your home’s value, especially since barndominium and farmhouse-style homes are so popular nowadays. A lot of modern homes are stuck with low ceilings and small windows which were designed with HVAC efficiency in mind. Unfortunately, that means that most modern homes tend to feel rather cramped and dim. A raised ceiling could increase your home’s value by as much as 25%, so it’s well worth the investment and effort, especially for standard suburban homes built during the 1970s-2000s timespan.

The Financial Benefit of Raising Your Ceiling

The Financial Benefit of Raising Your Ceiling

How Should You Raise Your Ceiling? 

To complete a vaulted ceiling project, a few important details need to be planned for. 

Every Part Counts 

Any home’s structure is made up of many integral components. Removing any one of those components introduces a weakness to the structure that must be compensated for. This can be done by propping up the structure or replacing the component that was taken away with a different one. In terms of the roof, this means that every part of a roof truss (the triangular structure 0f the roof) is essential to the structural strength of the home. You have to remove parts of the roof truss to raise a ceiling, and those affected parts will have to be replaced in other ways to keep the structure from falling.

The Roof Truss is Integral to a Home’s Structural Strength

The Roof Truss is Integral to a Home’s Structural Strength

Reinforcing The Structure 

One way to do this is to remove all the pieces of the roof truss except for the rafters (the diagonal beams that form a roof’s 45-degree peak) and then reinforce the rafters via a process called sistering. This involves supporting the rafters by nailing 2’x10’ boards to them. This allows the roof structure to be propped up while still allowing enough room for insulation and lighting to be installed. However, collar ties will also have to be added to the rafters because sistering alone won’t hold the roof structure intact. These are short studs that connect the rafters horizontally near the roof ridge. These collar ties are stand-ins for the ceiling joists (the horizontal boards of the roof truss) albeit on a smaller scale.

Reinforcing the Structural Integrity of a Home

Reinforcing the Structural Integrity of a Home

Another Way

There is also another way of accomplishing this project which allows for an even higher ceiling. The way to do this is to install multiple wood beams in the attic area of the roof structure below the roof ridge. Both ends of these beams are in turn propped up by vertical posts. This allows for the reinforcement of the roof to be right at the top of the truss structure, therefore maximizing the amount of ceiling space available. This is the best way to raise your ceiling if you’re aiming for a barndominium look for your home.   

Can DIY A Raised Ceiling? 

A common question when it comes to vaulting a roof is whether or not it can be a DIY project. The short answer is no, but the longer answer is a bit more nuanced. In the end, there are a bunch of variables that can make this project easier or more difficult depending on your home. What can be said for certain is that this is quite an advanced project so you’ll need to be an expert DIYer at the very least if you want to raise your ceiling safely. 

Every Home is Different

The first thing to understand about vaulting a ceiling is that your home’s design will determine how simple or complex raising your ceiling will be. If you have a chimney, for instance, and that chimney slants into the space you want to open up, this will make the project much harder. You’ll also need to consider the structural design of your roof itself since certain roof frames are easier to work with than others. Routine items such as moving electrical wiring, plumbing, and ductwork are other aspects that must be planned for.

Make Sure to Account for Plumbing, Wiring, and Ductwork

Make Sure to Account for Plumbing, Wiring, and Ductwork

How’s It’s Done 

In general, the full process of vaulting a ceiling involves a few key steps. First, all stored items, insulation, vents, wiring, and plumbing in your home’s attic must be removed. After the ceiling drywall is demolished, the joists and webs of the roof structure can be taken out. Once that’s done, the roof must be reinforced via the sistering method and by installing collar ties, after which new lighting, wiring, insulation, and ceiling can be installed. When done with professional help, this process will involve a general contractor coordinating with structural engineers, electricians, plumbers, architects, and other technicians.    

What You Can Do 

The myriad number of specialists required for this job is one of the main reasons this project may be a difficult one for most DIYers without hiring subcontractors. Nevertheless, there are certain steps in this process that a DIYer can do with relatively little difficulty. For one, a pre-work attic inspection is essential to planning this project, and this can be DIY so long as you know what to look for (see Every Home Is Different). You can also paint their own raised ceiling once it has been built, especially if you have a specific ceiling design idea in mind. Just be sure you’re comfortable working with heights.

Painting is a Part of the Ceiling Raising Project You Can Take On

Painting is a Part of the Ceiling Raising Project You Can Take On

Tips and Tricks for Raising a Ceiling

Do Some Planning

Aside from inspecting your attic, it’s also important to check up on your local building codes. Each municipality has its own requirements when it comes to wiring, plumbing, insulation, and modifications to your home’s structure. It’s quite possible that you’ll need to pull some permits before you can start with the project. Since you’ll almost certainly need an architect or structural engineer to help you out, start researching the best ones in your area. If you can, search for referrals as well since these can be a good indicator of a good work ethic.

It is Important to Hire a Structural Engineer for Your Ceiling Project

It is Important to Hire a Structural Engineer for Your Ceiling Project

Protect Yourself 

If you choose to hire subcontractors, you should know that this entails taking on some legal obligations. In most states including California, you will be legally considered a general contractor whereas the person you hire will be deemed a subcontractor. This is known as an owner-builder arrangement and it implies a set of responsibilities on the part of you, the owner. You can read more about this arrangement here.

Since you’ll be working at heights, it’s also important to physically protect yourself. This means wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a builder’s hardhat and other equipment as needed. 

Consider Time and Cost 

Time and cost are not insignificant details in this project. On the contrary, they are quite significant and as such must also be factored into your plan. The cost to raise a ceiling starts at $18,000 and can be as high as $30,000. The entire process can take three to four weeks including planning. Raising a ceiling can be a big decision to make, but as many homeowners can attest, it is well worth it once you get to gaze at your spacious vaulted ceiling for the very first time.

Raising a Ceiling Can Have a Worthy Return on Investment

Raising a Ceiling Can Have a Worthy Return on Investment

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes