Specialty Ceilings

By: Danny Lipford
Danny Lipford examines a recessed ceiling.

Danny Lipford examines a recessed ceiling.

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From vaulted to tray to coffered, it seems like the sky’s the limit for ceilings these days. Specialty ceilings can add a distinctive design element to a room and make it feel larger than it really is.

When it’s time to sell your home, custom ceilings might be just the thing to make your house stand out from the crowd. Here’s what you need to know about specialty ceilings in your home.

Cathedral Wood Ceiling

Cathedral Wood Ceiling

The cathedral ceiling in this home features tongue and groove boards framed with rough sawn beams. A layer of drywall was put up first to maximize energy efficiency and reduce noise. This was then followed by 1”x 6” pine boards and cedar trim. Track lights will be mounted in the slots on the ceiling, allowing the lighting to be adjusted to illuminate specific areas.

Painted Coffered Ceiling

Painted Coffered Ceiling

Wood trim can be used to dress up a bland ceiling and give the room a more formal feel. This coffered ceiling consists of crisscrossed wooden beams applied over drywall with each square accented by a border of crown molding. A contrasting paint color was used on the recessed part of the ceiling to highlight the intricate trim work.

Wooden Barrel Ceiling

Wooden Barrel Ceiling

Ceilings can also be used to mirror the shape of other architectural features found in the room. This wooden barrel shaped ceiling follows the curve of the arched doorways found at each end of the room.

Circular Dropped Ceiling

Circular Dropped Ceiling

Another interesting ceiling design is this circular dropped ceiling. It includes stenciling around the rim with a center medallion and hanging chandelier acting as the focal point.

Recessed Ceiling

Recessed Ceiling

Recessed ceilings—also known as pocket, tray (or trey), and bumped up ceilings—have become a common feature of new houses today. Typically these types of ceilings start with a lower border around the outer edge of the room and are then raised a foot or more in the middle. They may also include sloped or tiered designs accented by crown and other moldings.

Attic space above room.

Ceiling for Attic Conversion

Often when an attic is converted into living space, the ceiling follows the slope of the roof to allow for additional floor space while providing enough ceiling height. It’s a good idea to flatten the ceiling out a few feet below the peak, however, to leave space for lighting, electrical wires, and ductwork.

Danny Lipford shows ceiling removed during renovation.

Remodeling a Ceiling

While most specialty ceilings are incorporated into the plans when the house is built, ceilings in existing homes can be modified as well.

Remodeling a ceiling requires careful consideration of the structural load carried by the ceiling joists before they can be removed. Once the existing ceiling has been taken out and the joists cut, work on the new ceiling can begin.

Any wiring, plumbing, or ductwork located above the room has to be taken into account and rerouted above the new ceiling. This can present a daunting task for the electrician and HVAC contractor.

Turtleback Wood Ceiling

Turtleback Wood Ceiling

This renovation project included turning a typical flat ceiling into a multifaceted turtleback ceiling over the expanded kitchen and den area. After the framing was complete, the beams were covered with painted 1”x 6” V-groove pine boards.

When installing solid wood, be sure to stagger the joints. A grooved block, made from a piece of scrap material, is used to protect the tongue when hammering the boards in place.

Installing boards on Turtleback Wood Ceiling

Tongue and groove boards can be blind nailed through the tongue so nail heads are not visible, or face nailed. Wooden ceilings may be painted or stained and provide an attractive alternative to drywall, though both the labor and materials cost much more.

Laminate Ceiling

Laminate Ceiling

Simulated wood ceilings made from laminate materials, such as Armstrong’s WoodHaven, are a do-it-yourself friendly substitute for natural wood. While the material costs are about the same as well real wood, the installation of laminate ceilings is much less expensive, since they come prefinished.

Stamped Metal Ceiling

Stamped Metal Ceiling

Decorative stamped metal can make a striking ceiling with a unique character all their own. Products like Armstrong’s Metallaire™ ceiling panels are available in dozens of patterns and finishes from steel and copper to chrome and brass.

Other Tips From This Episode

Dust Collector for Ceiling Holes

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Dust Collector for Ceiling Holes

Drilling holes in a drywall or plaster ceiling can create quite a lot of dust. To reduce cleanup time, drill a hole in the bottom of a paper or foam cup and hold it against the ceiling while drilling the hole. The dust collects in the cup where it can easily be disposed.

Best New Products with Emilie Barta:
Hampton Bay Aero-Breeze® Ceiling Fans

Hampton Bay Aero-Breeze® Ceiling Fans

These ceiling fans from Hampton Bay employ Aero-Breeze® technology to increase air movement up to 40% over standard fans. This allows you to achieve the same level of comfort at a lower speed while saving energy. They are wobble-free and ultra quiet, with a number of styles to choose from. Hampton Bay fans are available at The Home Depot.

Ask Danny:
Proper Attic Ventilation

Proper Attic Ventilation

What’s so important about having ventilation in my attic when it’s not a living space? -Woody from Encinitas

Venting your attic prevents the buildup of moisture during the winter as well as heat in the summer. Without proper ventilation, condensation can occur when the warm air in your home comes in contact with cold air in the attic. This excessive moisture can lead to the formation of mold and mildew. Without adequate ventilation during the summer, an attic becomes an oven. Not only does this increase your cooling bills, it can cause asphalt shingles to become brittle and cut the life of your roof in half.

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.



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5 Comments on “Specialty Ceilings”

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  • Remodel Runaway Says:
    October 15th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Looking into covering a two room 1300 sq ft lofted ceiling in wood: What we have to fasten to is the 2×6 lower cord of 48′ trusses 24″ oc. Nailing up some Laminate flooring sounds most cost effective. However were getting a little confused with the floating/non-floating, vapor barrier/non-vapor barrier issues.

    Our goals are great looks, insulation and longevity.

    Thank you… Ron/Deb from Northern Michigan

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    March 11th, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Hi Edith,
    Being in the north, you’re wise to turn off the water and drain the pipes in the winter. Here in south Alabama, my main concern would be to prevent mold and keep the air in the house from becoming too stale during the summer months, so I would probably leave the AC set around 78-80 degrees when I wasn’t there. If it is installed properly (either on a slab or using cement backer board on top of a plywood subfoor), I don’t think the swings in temperature should affect a tile floor. Large swings in humidity and temperature can definitely affect wood in cabinets, flooring, or furniture.

  • Edith Hook Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Do you approach a vacation home differently from a home that is occupied year round? Do you assume that the heat and AC(or humidifier) will be operating whether or nor the house is occupied? If not, how do the temperature swings and humidity affect your choice of materials and furnishings? Do you recommend that the utilities be shut off, if the house is unoccupied during the winter months? Despite steps to winterize, our lake home has sustained damage over the years due to the cold in winter and humidity in summer. For example, when the vinyl tile floor popped off: we wondered if the adhesive was affected by freezing temperatures. In addition, we have experienced water damage from burst plumbing so at present we don’t have a dining room ceiling. I am not inclined to replace it with drywall because this occurred despite our best efforts. I am thinking bead board instead or something that would give ready access to the plumbing. Note also that it is not unusual for the power to go out. The house is way over due to be rehabbed and I would like to know if there are material choices that would be less vulnerable to temperature and humidity swings and preferable building practices. The house is occupied on weekends from late spring to mid fall.
    The family has had the lake house for over 30 years and we always shut off the water pump when it is unoccupied. And, almost always, the plumbing is drained for the winter. The plumbing fiasco occurred due to a very early and unusally severe cold snap. It could have been much worse; we were lucky that the well pump was off. The spot above the dining/great room is where all the plumbing problems occur and I would rather not dry wall the ceiling. I would like a drop or coffered ceiling with a water resistant bead board, if there is such an animal. Given that the house is exposed to sub zero in the winter and high humidity in the summer, I would like input as to what kind of cabinetry (laminate, solid wood, mdf, lacquered, steel etc) would be better. I came across a cabinetry website that emphatically denied warranty coverage to wood doors that were exposed to very high or very low humidity. Mitered joints are especially vulnerable as well as the stiles and rails. A well known Canadian manufacturer offers kitchen cabinet boxes made with marine plywood for waterfront areas. One cabinet maker that is widely distributed suggested that the heat should be maintained even if the house is unoccupied, a not very appealing prospect. In addition, I am concerned about the adhesives used in laminates; are they vulnerable to temperature and humidity swings? I have even looked at stainless steel cabinets except that they are almost exclusively modern. We do battle mustiness in the kitchen cabinets.
    Also looking for ideas on flooring. The foot print is 30’x40′ so cost per foot is an issue. There was a time that we toyed with the idea of ceramic tile flooring but we don’t know if the thermal swings would impact the tile installation. Or terazzo, does it require a concrete substrate? Is a floating floor a solution; how vulnerable are the floating laminates to humidity? Another factor is that the sandy gritty soil gets tracked in despite our best efforts. Thanks I have hunted high and low for a practical discussion on the issues that result when homes are not occupied full time.

  • Official Comment:

    Allen Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    48037 is actually a code reserved for P.O. Boxes. We should be on the local CBS station (WWJ) Saturday afternoons (12:30) but may be pre-empted due to the basketball games on tap.

  • Keith Henderson Says:
    March 1st, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I am from Canada. This week, CBS broadcast a basketball game during your usual broadcast time. When I entered the postal code 48037 (which is CH 7 Detroit)into your section “View local listings for the show in your area:” the responce was “invalid postal code”.

    How do I find out which station in Detroit MI and broadcats time will carry your pgm this week?


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