Cathedral, vaulted or flat ceilings


Cathedral, vaulted or flat ceilings – It is not just a change in angle?

There are many types of ceilings; shed, vaulted, tray, cathedral, and raised or conventional flat ceilings etc.  However, people often use the term vaulted to describe one of the many other choices. 

By definition, a cathedral ceiling usually has two equal sides where the slope of the sides will follow the pitch of the actual roof.  These sides lead to a ridge that will run the full length of the room or the length of the building.  Vaulted ceilings angle or arch upward from the walls and do not always follow the pitch of the roof.  Shed ceilings can have uneven sides or one sloping side only.  Tray ceilings might best be described as an upside-down tray, while a conventional ceiling is a flat ceiling even on higher than normal walls.  What vaulted, shed, tray and cathedral type ceilings have in common is that they are higher than the average flat ceiling height which adds a different aesthetic to the room.

So what are the advantages of creating a vaulted or cathedral ceiling?

  • Well, the added height even in a small room can add an optical illusion of a more spacious and airy area. Depending on the design, a higher, vaulted or cathedral ceiling can allow for additional area to install plenty of windows, transoms over windows and doors, or larger skylights for additional exposure to natural light.  The result, the warmth of a sunlight filled room and the blending of indoor and outdoor views.
  • Exposed beams or trusses, the addition of large hanging chandeliers, and taller fireplaces are often incorporated in cathedral or vaulted areas as they can add unique character and extraordinary focal points to any room.
  • Interior design and material choices in these types of rooms can add a rustic charm feel with exposed rafters, distressed wood beams or floors, or by incorporating tongue and groove ceiling planks, etc.  However, quite the opposite effect can be achieved by incorporating unique wood or stone work, specialty lighting, cabinetry, or curved windows, and finished ceilings resulting in a very elegant room that leaves a lasting impression of grandeur.   The overall result depends on the finishes used.

When thinking of incorporating a different type of ceiling in a room design, it is important to realize that there are factors that require added consideration:

  • Lighting from a higher ceiling rather than a typical flat ceiling requires the use of larger hanging lights, more lighting, and/or additional levels of light when the sun goes down.  This adds its own challenges to dust or fix lighting/fans or even change lightbulbs.
  • In addition, higher ceilings may allow the heat to rise and escape in the summer making the room more bearable, but it adds to energy costs when trying to heat these same rooms in the winter.  Consider which direction your additional windows face, your HVAC design and the addition of ceiling fans to maximize energy efficiency.  
  • It is important to design and decorate these rooms appropriately so that the raised ceiling does not take the ‘cozy’ or comfort out of the room but actually adds to the overall aesthetic impact.  Not every room will benefit from a vaulted or cathedral ceiling…sometimes a flat ceiling is the best choice and it often matters how big the room is to begin with.
  • If contemplating a two-story cathedral ceiling…ask yourself if there would be a better use of the upper space as a second-story room.   Will the ambiance a cathedral makes outweigh the usefulness of an added room?

Vaulted, tray, shed, cathedral or raised ceilings can be a wonderful addition to a design, if you understand that it may require some careful consideration.

If you are thinking about a new home build or an addition or renovation, contact the experts at Vanderzalm Construction Inc. (905)562-4463 or (905)684-5823.  We look forward to hearing from you.