Stuck with a flat, boring ceiling? Want to raise the roof beam and create a vaulted ceiling? No problem. It can be done. Will you need to bring in a contractor? Likely. This is a project that requires a professional touch, even if you pitch in some of the labor yourself.
What should you expect when literally lifting your ceiling?
There are any number of satisfactory structural solutions that will allow you to create the cathedral ceiling. One solution is to install a properly sized beam just under the peak of the roof, where the top of the rafters connect to the ridge board. This beam will carry the entire roof load, but the ends of the beam must be supported by columns that rest on a solid surface. This surface might be a concrete footer in a floor, a steel i-beam that is used to support the floor of the home, or even the top of the foundation. A residential structural engineer can help you determine how to properly size and support this beam.
You can also install smaller, horizontal-framing members, called collar ties, that can be exposed as part of your cathedral ceiling. These collar ties are installed higher up than your current flat-ceiling joists, and they create a new bottom base of the triangle. Once again, the engineer can offer suggestions as to where to install these and how to properly fasten them to the slanted roof rafters.
Plywood gusset plates can also be installed high up in the rafters near the peak of the roof. These plywood pieces are cut in a triangular shape to match the slope of your roof. They are glued and nailed to the sides of the roof rafters. You would be surprised how small these gusset plates can be, yet they provide sufficient strength to prevent a roof collapse. If you use these gusset plates, you will end up with a small, flat ceiling area near the peak of the cathedral ceiling.
Whichever structural solution you choose, you must install it before you cut away all of the existing ceiling joists. If this is not feasible, then you will have to install temporary supports or collar ties that will provide support until such time as you install the permanent engineered solution. The engineer/contractor can assist you with advice about how to safely support the roof as you proceed with the work.
The point is... raising the roof is a perfectly plausible project for nearly any homeowner and a way to increase the value and appeal of your home like you may have never thought possible.
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