Raising a ceiling

paulinesJuly 21, 2006

I'm wondering if anyone's gone through the process of raising their ceilings in a ranch style home. We are currently looking to buy an older ranch home with 'standard' ceiling height and would like to be able to raise the ceiling into the attic space (public rooms).

How big of a project is this? Is there something we should look for in these homes that will better work, or not work? Estimate (ballpark) of costs to do a job like this? How do supports play into a project like this?

Any help or advice from those in the know, would be appreciated!

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It will depend upon the roof type and style;

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:54PM
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We looked at doing this and it can be a big project. You have to remember that the weight of the roof is currently on the oustide walls and that stress will have to be redistributed. If I was really interested in a home, I would have an engineer or whoever would design/do the work for you as part of the inspection so they could give you a better idea if it is possible.

I don't think anyone here could give you much of an estimate since it would depend on the house/size and how much labor and materials were needed. Don't forget that it might include moving wiring and would need a permit in my area. All additional expenses and depending upon your codes you may have to upgrade some other items when pulling a permit.

Unless you got a super super good deal on a home, it would probably be easier to purchase something with higher ceilings. Many mid-centruy modern ranches had high ceilings while still being a ranch.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 11:48PM
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Don't forget the HVAC and plumbing that runs through the attic that would also have to be rerouted, and the (necessary) insulation that would have to be reengineered. THis isn't a minor job, and it would probably cost less to completely rip off the roof of the whole house and start over than it would to selectively attempt to do this in only a few rooms. Have you considered adding just a few skylights to visually raise the ceiling? Or, as Gloria suggests, look at homes that already meet your specs on ceiling height. Most remodeling will cost more per square foot than does new construction, and you're talking a lot of concentrated effort in very little square footage. For very little actual return for the money you'd spend, IMHO.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 6:57AM
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The type of roof is not as iportant as how it was framed.
Most houses have been built with trusses for the roof support.
You cannot modify a truss without an engineers approval. Almost no one but the origanal truss engineer and manufacturere have the design data that was used originally.
Some trusses even use differnet grades of wood in various portions. This directly afffects the design limits used.
If you have a stick framed rafter system, it will still require careful design to preserve the strength, but is more likely to be constructed with standard lumber of the same grade throughout.
The spreading loads are the big issue when you try to raise a ceiling. The ceiling joists that are the bottom chord of the roof system provide the resistance to spreading so the walls supporting the roof are not loaded outwards. Any change in the location of this member affects the wall outward forces.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 10:30AM
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We did this in our family room, mbr, dining room, and living room. We vaulted the family room and bedroom, and treyed the other 2. I can't tell you the expense because we did a whole house remodel at the same time, including adding on a second floor to part of the house.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:03AM
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Thank you all for the responses and the link.

Unfortunately, most of the smaller ranch homes we've been viewing have I think your suggestion LWO, of adding skylights is a really good one - I'll keep it in mind~

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 8:16PM
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We did this with our 1960's ranch and, though it isn't easy or cheap, it is in no way as expensive as replacing the whole roof. In most cases you have to install a ridge beam (ours was 38 feet by 2 feet by 5.25 inches), and sister in 2x10 rafters onto the existing rafters. I did all the work myself, opening a slot on the top of the roof and dropping the new beam in with a crane. Materials costs were about $4,000 for the structure related items (it pays to shop around; cost for the glulam beam alone varied from $1,000 to $2,500). You will also have to insulate the new ceiling and, depending on where you live, install a roof-vent system and a vapor barrier, and then install sheetrock or other wall covering. We used Tiger foam so we could meet an R-38 code requirement without having to add depth to the rafter bays. The Tiger foam alone cost nearly $7,000, but still was cost effective. The improvement was very dramatic, and very much worth the cost and effort. Off the top of my head, I'd estimate about $20,000-$30,000 in labor costs to get it done.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 2:49PM
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Thanks for the info, Matt! It doesn't sound like something we would DIY and lots to consider, but I agree it gives a ton of bang for the buck. Have you noted much change in your heating/cooling bills?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 6:17PM
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We live in a CA ranch house built in 1953. I am planning to update the house next year and it includes higher ceilings(from 8ft to 10ft) in the kitchen, family room, dining room, master bedroom. Our living room already has original vaulted ceiling. My architect estimates it will cost an additional $50000 and it will include partial new roof and sister in the wall joists to make the walls higher. However, I think it will be money well spent because it will dramatically change the feel and update the entire house. We've been in our house for 28 years now and we don't intend to move so the money spent will be for our own enjoyment. Of course, it doesn't hurt that CA real estate has gone up tremendously since we bought.

I asked a few realtor friends who had remodeled their houses and the ones who didn't raise their ceilings regret it.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 4:12PM
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Our a/c bills this year are a little higher, but we've also had record heat here in NorCal, so it's hard to compare. We were well insulated before, so not much improvement there.
The house cools down better at night because of better cross-ventilation. I'd do it again in a New York minute.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 4:14AM
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Remodeler Matt
You are the only person I know who has used tiger foam. Was it easy and worked like they say on the website. My son is good with a paint sprayer, can he do it. Any tips?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 7:21PM
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Hi Lyn:
Tiger foam in a ceiling is definitely NOT easy, nor cheap. My experience is that you can count on an additional 50 to 100% of needed product over what their calculator estimates. Spraying it over your head is a huge pain. It is very sticky and gets everywhere. One of my wife's favorite pictures is of me after a day's spraying. I looked like the creature from the polyethylene lagoon. (And I will forever remembered that way, as two TV crews dropped by while I was spraying to ask about an arsonist in the area. My foam-filled hair was displayed for all to see.)

The big problem, and benefit actually, with Tiger Foam is that it expands rather slowly. This is good for the DIYer in that you won't over-spray, but bad in that it takes a very long time to do, having to go over the same spot 4-5 times at least, allowing 30 seconds or so between "coats." The product is somewhat touchy, in that it has to be just the right temperature (around 80 degrees) before you spray, and the empty tanks have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. It comes with two types of nozzles, and I never did get the wider-spread one to work for me. We also had problems with the ventilation of the roof, as the foam would sometimes not stick to the foam-based vent chutes, creating a void that I had to go back and fill later. If you have vent chutes, I would recommend the more rigid type that is not made of Styrofoam.

But, once it is in, it is a great product. It seals the space very well, and really cuts down noise as well as heat loss and infiltration. In retrospect, we probably would have been better off putting in blocks of rigid foam. My guess is that we would have saved at least 25% of the cost, and probably more.

I would not hesitate to recommend Tiger Foam for wall applications, but for ceilings, I would probably recommend using rigid foam and lots of caulk to prevent infiltration.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 2:21PM
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After thinking about it a bit, I realized it wasn't the foam-based vent chutes that were the problem, it was the foil-like thermal barrier that we wrapped around all the rafters and the roof sheathing (it looks like the paper/foil that they wrap burritos in at a taqueria). The Tiger foam stuck to it just fine, but often pulled the foil away from the wood, creating the void underneath it. I poked holes in it and sprayed more foam into the void, and that seemed to work well.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 8:21PM
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I bought a half duplex 3 years ago that, due to the style, has a 100% independent roof system from my attached neighbour. I made my purchase while living in another city & while my mother walked through & it has lovely features I am happy to make a life enjoying, there are as many that frustrate me. When you walk into my home, you are directly in the living room/ kitchen open area. Since the day I moved in, all I can think of is "vaulting" the entire front living space, indeed the roof follows the same slope I dream of following. Having said this, someone mentioned Sky lights. This is only my second home, I have basic DIY skills that I used to fix up my older, first place in superficial construction issues (paint, light fixtures, drywall & trim). I did it myself to great result. Having said that, part of why I bought this house was the superficial details & that at that time, it needed EXACTLY no work to move in & live. Now that I am here, I feel so much needs to be done to maximize living here. The natural light in the living space isn't great & the space is small (I moved from a small city with a large house to a big city with a small house...). In my mind placing two "light tubes" in the bathroom & hallway is almost essential. But for the front rooms, the main living space, I am wondering whether I should vault it or work with the existing infrastructure & sneak some skylights in? Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 3:54AM
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