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Adding a Cathedral Ceiling: DIY or Not?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ralph in Missouri who’s working on a ceiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    RALPH: There’s two rooms upstairs and the one side, I’ve changed into a bedroom, put a bathroom up there. The other one, I’d like to take the existing ceiling out and put a cathedral ceiling in. I just want to open the room up. The ceilings are kind of low now. Somebody has put suspended ceilings in there, which …

    TOM: Made it even lower.

    RALPH: Well, yeah. And it’s got the old tongue-and – or lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings and all that. So I guess they didn’t want to go with the mess, so what do you do? You just stick up a suspended ceiling.

    But anyway, I’d like to take the existing ceiling joists out and maybe not use the rafters for the cathedral ceiling but add some new rafters to kind of follow the outline of the roof line. But I just want to make sure that if I pull these joists or ceiling joists out of here, that the house isn’t going to fall down, you know what I mean? The walls aren’t going to bow out and fall out on me.

    TOM: Well, the house may not fall down but the roof might collapse. That’s not any better.

    You see, look, if you’ve got a very high-pitched roof like that and that roof is resting on the top plate of the exterior wall and you take the ceiling joists away, those serve the purpose of tying those exterior walls into the rest of the house. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you just can’t do it without somehow replacing that structural element.

    I would recommend that you not do this yourself, that you get help from an architect to design this. Because it’s a little more complicated than what you might think. It’s easy to cut stuff away; it’s not so easy to put it back together in the right way. And when it comes to this kind of modification, it’s got to be done just right.

    There’s other issues, too. Now, you’re going to have to make sure that this cathedral ceiling is properly insulated and properly ventilated. And that’s going to take some work. Otherwise, you’re going to add an energy-leaking hassle to your home that won’t bode well. And you might want to think about adding some additional lighting, like a skylight or something of that nature.

    So, it’s a project that can be done but it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye. I would hire professional design help on this and not just get out the old Sawzall and cut – start cutting things out of the way.

    RALPH: OK, OK. Well, that’s good advice.

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