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The Downsides of a Vaulted Ceiling

From construction costs to maintenance, six issues to be aware of when considering a a log home vaulted ceiling

6 reasons why a log home vaulted ceiling can fall flat.

By Mercedes Hayes


A log home vaulted ceiling is a dramatic but sometimes impractical feature. Soaring ceilings are almost standard for today’s log homes, but they have cons as well as pros. Before you automatically go with the vaulted ceilings, consider their implications.

It’s no secret that a log home vaulted ceiling makes a dramatic statement. I would venture to say that for resale, this kind of look sells the house quickly. A vaulted ceiling implies lots of windows, hence lots of light, which is at the top of everyone’s list. A cathedral ceiling is also undeniably gorgeous. You can set up the biggest Christmas tree you can imagine. And a large great room can hold plenty of furniture in different configurations. By definition, you have an open floor plan, which is also high on everyone’s list these days. But is a log home vaulted ceiling practical? Maybe not. From construction to everyday living, there are tradeoffs that might not seem obvious at first.

1 Cost.

Right away, you are going to pay a premium to build a custom, hand-framed roof. There are no shortcuts; you will be using extra timbers, probably a tongue-and-groove ceiling and extra labor costs. The more angles to your roof, the higher the cost. Also, if your roof pitch is steep, the roofer is going to charge extra — especially if he has to bring in special equipment. And of course you’ll want a big chandelier and probably ceiling fans (don’t forget about all the extra lighting and wiring you’ll need).

2 Noise.

A vaulted ceiling implies a loft. Most log homes have a loft that is large enough to use. It has great acoustics. In fact, you will hear every conversation, every TV show, every radio, and squeals and laughter whether you are in the loft or in the great room. So if you have a loft, make sure you also have a quiet room.

3 Space.

If you have a two-story great room, you are going to have a big open space that could have been another bedroom or two. It’s a lot of potential living space to give up. The other thing you will sacrifice is an attic. So all the things that might go into the attic (mechanicals and ductwork, not to mention storage) need to be relocated elsewhere.

4 Heating and cooling.

Ceiling fans help move the air around the great room. But these big open spaces are difficult to control. Ideally, a return duct or two in a high place will keep the air moving around. Alas, because you have an open floor plan, you’ve sacrificed walls that normally carry the ductwork upstairs; hence, good airflow may be a challenge. You could oversize your mechanicals to make up the difference; extra zones are advisable. With all those big windows, do you have any that open for fresh air? If not, perhaps a skylight would help. You may not want to run your air conditioning in the spring or fall.

5 Maintenance.

If you have oversized windows, you may have to deal with broken thermal seals. The larger the window, the bigger the risk. Also, you may find that you can see but cannot reach the cobwebs — and if you have round logs, the dust will continue to accumulate. Oh yes, you can see it from the loft. Cleaning windows requires an extra-tall ladder (which you can’t lean against the glass), as does replacing light bulbs.

6 Appraisals.

This is not a big issue, but appraisers don’t value your loft (or your open space) the same way they value a bedroom. You could have a big house with a big great room and two bedrooms, and you are going to take a hit on the appraisal. This usually doesn’t matter unless you try to refinance or sell. Remember that initial expense? Just be aware that you may not see a return on that investment. With all that being said, would I give up my cathedral ceilings? Absolutely not! But there are a lot of things we would have done differently (many that I suggested in this article, such as skylights). There are only two of us, so the noise factor isn’t insurmountable, but if we were more numerous, I think that issue would have been at the top of the list. Vaulted cathedral ceilings can make a log home spectacular, and all of the above issues can be overcome. Just be sure you know what you know what you are buying.
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