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Advanced Remodeling: Vaulting From The Inside Out

all professional photos by Christina Kiffney Photography

Vaulted Ceilings

So many homes in Boulder have 8’ tall flat ceilings.  This may be one of the most standard details of 20th century home construction.  And it’s fine.  It gets the job done.  A 6’ tall person can twirl their arms around freely.  But 8’ flat ceilings aren’t inspiring.  No one walks into a house with 8’ ceilings and exclaims, “wow, now this is exciting and different!”  

But you know what is?  Vaulted ceilings.


If your home is built with 8’ ceilings, can you just snap your fingers and make them vaulted?  No, obviously.  But you can call us!  We’ve converted flat ceilings to vaulted ceilings many times without affecting the exterior roof planes.

You may be asking, “Why not just tear the entire roof structure down and rebuild it with vaulted ceilings?”  One reason not to is because it’s expensive.  Also, if you recently replaced your roofing, you likely won’t want to throw it out.  Lastly, changing the roof lines can mean lots of extra permitting to get the new shape of your house approved by the local jurisdiction.

Vaulting from the inside out can be a clever way to make your house more interesting and dynamic without having to destroy the entire roof structure.

Vaulted ceiling designs

What follows is a menagerie of projects where we’ve performed this ‘Vaulting From the Inside Out’.

This is a Martin Acres ranch with a typical simple gable roof.  For this project we installed a large glulam ridge beam that supports the roof rafters.  The beam becomes a key architectural focal point and draws attention to the added volume in the room.  I might be stating the obvious here, but when you tear out the flat ceilings and rebuild it in a vaulted configuration, it forces you to completely reboot the lighting.  This is often a blessing when the existing lighting is sparse and dismal.  Another potential upside to this vaulting work is that it’s an opportunity to overhaul and improve your ceiling insulation.  


This project also features glulam ridge beams, but the rooflines are more complicated than in the previous project.  This next picture is the same project, with a vaulted living room ceiling.  Note the big awesome canoe furniture piece.  One fun way to celebrate your new added ceiling height is to feature tall fabulous things that wouldn’t fit with standard 8’ ceilings.  


This project shows you what things can look like after framing is complete but before we’ve rebuilt the ceiling.  In this project we structurally altered the home’s prefabricated trusses to allow us to cut out the flat part at the bottom of the ceiling framing.  Voila! Vaulted ceilings!  It’s not obvious in this picture, but the new interior vaulting doesn’t actually match what the exterior rooflines are doing.  When this project is complete the vault will be centered and symmetrical in the room, even though the actual roof is much taller and wider.


If you read my previous blog about moving the stairs then you’ll recognize this picture.  This project features a different way of vaulting from the inside out.  Notice how the vaulted ceilings go up, then flatten out, and then go back down.  This higher flat ceiling plane is the result of using collar ties on the existing rafters, which negate the need for a big fat ridge beam.  One thing to consider with the ridge beam is that the new beam creates large point loads at either end of the beam.  Using this collar tie strategy avoids new point loads which can simplify the structural framing and foundation work required to pull off the surgery.


This picture shows things in the middle of the framing process.  The long framing members that stretch to the floor at an angle are temporary supports.  Look on the floor and you’ll see a few piles of large flat metal brackets.  These big ‘V’ shaped gusset plates will act in a similar fashion to the collar ties in the previous project.  Hence, no ridge beam required.  

If all this framing mumbo jumbo doesn’t make any sense, just enjoy the pictures and know what’s possible.  We love ‘thinking outside the box’ with home overhauls like these.  Thanks for reading!

For more examples of what we've vaulted, including vaulted primary bedrooms, check out our photo gallery!

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