Bright Lime Green Home with Rounded Vaulted Ceilings

What Is A Vaulted Ceiling? Pros, Cons And Tips For Your Home

Erica Gellerman5-Minute Read
February 02, 2021

Do you love walking into a home with tall ceilings? Those may be vaulted ceilings, a popular design choice that creates beautiful, spacious-feeling rooms. But is a vaulted ceiling the right choice for your home? We walk through the details, including the pros and cons and what you should consider before taking the plunge and renovating your home to include vaulted ceilings.

What Is A Vaulted Ceiling?

A vaulted ceiling extends the ceiling height beyond the walls to make use of typically unused roof space. Vaulted ceilings aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been around for hundreds of years. Step into an old cathedral or church, and you’ll see vaulted ceilings on display.

Vaulted Vs. Cathedral Ceilings

Vaulted ceilings and cathedral ceilings are generally used interchangeably now, though that wasn’t always the case. Historically, cathedral ceilings have designs that follow the roof pitch, where vaulted ceilings were domed or arched. Today, however, you can use either term and most people will know that you mean a ceiling that is elevated and isn’t flat.

Types Of Vaulted Ceilings

Love a vaulted ceiling? Before you make this style change, you’ll want to pick the type of vaulted ceiling you want in your space.

Barrel-Vaulted

Red room with dome ceiling

A barrel vault is a half-cylindrical or half-barrel design style. The half-cylinder brings a smooth finish to the ceiling.

Groin-Vaulted

stone hall with a brick ceiling

When you intersect two barrel vault ceilings, you get a groin-vaulted ceiling.

Rib-Vaulted

Greyscale 4-prong ceiling from US Capitol

Ribbed vaults are created when two diagonal arches cross.

Fan-Vaulted

Multi-layered ceiling in the shape of a star

With a fan vault, the ribs of the ceiling are all space equidistantly and resemble a fan.

Dome-Vaulted

White dome ceiling with skylight

A dome vaulted ceiling is a popular entryway ceiling. It has one central, recessed dome.

Pros Of Vaulted Ceilings

Dreaming of vaulted ceilings in your home? There are plenty of good reasons to make use of this architectural style.

1. Adaptable To Many Styles

Whether you have a rustic, midcentury modern, craftsman, or farmhouse-style home, a vaulted ceiling can be adapted to look just perfect.

2. Can Make Your Home Seem Larger

With a smaller home footprint, a vaulted ceiling can be a smart move. Vaulted ceilings (and high ceilings in general) can make your home feel larger, airier and more open. Walking into a room with a vaulted ceiling feels larger than it actually is.

3. Boost Natural Light

What can you do with all of that extra space? Add windows! Vaulted ceilings offer great opportunities to incorporate natural light into the space. Add windows, skylights and more to bring in natural light, which will in turn help to make the space feel even larger.

4. Add Grandeur And Drama To The Home

If you want to make a big design impact, a vaulted ceiling can deliver. Walking into a home with a vaulted ceiling gives an immediate feeling of grandeur, even if other design elements in the space are simple

5. Use Up Attic Space

Most homes with a pitched roof can have a vaulted ceiling. If you have a pitched roof and unused attic space, it might be a better use of that overhead space to open it up and created the high ceilings to add a little more style to your room.

Cons Of Vaulted Ceilings

While vaulted ceilings are great, there are some drawbacks to owning a home with them.

1. Waste Energy And Raise Utility Costs

Vaulted ceilings are a drain on resources. If you have vaulted ceilings, it’s going to cost more to heat and cool that room. In the winter, heat will naturally rise to the top of the vaulted space, and you’ll spend more trying to heat the entire space.

2. Hard To Maintain

What happens when you need to dust the ceiling or remove a cobweb? It’s going to be more difficult to find a way to get up to the top to do any maintenance work that needs to be done. And if you ever want to repaint the ceiling, vaulted ceilings make it a difficult DIY task.

3. Controversial Design Choice

While you may love the look of vaulted ceilings now, will they always be in style? Some design experts say no and some even consider them outdated right now. While you may love the look of them, if you want to sell your home in the near future, vaulted ceilings aren’t always the safe design choice.

4. Costly To Install

If you’re hiring someone to install vaulted ceilings in your home, be prepared for a large bill. Having someone complete that work up high, using scaffolding or a ladder, brings in additional costs. You also need to hire a structural engineer to assess the new design as well as invest in new ventilation options, to keep heat from building up between the roof and the drywall.

5. May Feel Exposed

If you’re going for a bright and airy room, vaulted ceilings will deliver. But if you want a home that feels cozy and warm, achieving that with a vaulted ceiling is a challenge. You’ll have to work harder design-wise to compensate for the high ceilings if you’re trying to create a cozy nook.

How To Vault A Ceiling

Sold on vaulted ceilings? Let’s cover how you can add a vaulted ceiling into your home design.

Build From New Construction

The easiest way to add a vaulted ceiling into a home is right from the very beginning. If you’re constructing a new home and you want to vault your ceilings, let the contractor know right away that’s your plan. Your contractor will have it built using either stick-framing or trusses. With stick-framing, each joist and rafter is attached individually. Trusses are manufactured off-site and delivered to the job site where they will be put into place.

Check If You Can Retrofit

If you want to add a vaulted ceiling to an existing home, you have your work cut out for you. There’s a lot that needs to be done to determine if that’s even possible. You’ll need a structural engineer to assess and see if you can to change the roof structure. You’ll also need an assessment done to see if eliminating square footage in the attic will leave you with enough space for proper ventilation.

Weigh Your Costs

While a vaulted ceiling can positively affect home value, you may not see enough of a return to justify building one. If it’s possible to retrofit your home with a vaulted ceiling, it might still be cost-prohibitive. And you likely won’t make that money back when you sell the home.

Avoid DIY

There are a lot of great projects around your home that you can DIY. Adding a vaulted ceiling to your home isn’t one of them. It’s important to always work with a licensed contractor to do the job. They’ll help you secure the right permit, make sure the work is done correctly, and will help you find a structural engineer to make sure that everything is sound and secure.

Should You Vault It?

Ready to vault your ceiling? If you’re shopping for a home or building from scratch, a vaulted ceiling just may be the right option for you. But if you’re looking to retrofit your house and include a vaulted ceiling into your home design, you may want to reconsider.

Table of Contents

    Erica Gellerman

    Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom and more.