The vaulted ceiling was for me, the most important part of the renovation. Like I said here, my visits to Denmark growing up had created a permanent mark on me and my appreciation of bright, open interior spaces. I had never seen a skylight until I visited my Aunt and Uncle’s home near Copenhagen when I was 9. I remember how there was so much light in all the rooms of that house, as if the priority was first the light, followed by the rest of the architectural elements.
I know we could have saved a lot of money had we kept the 8 foot ceilings and simply opened up the walls, but that was just not an option for me. Our architectural designer had suggested a scissor truss ceiling, which after some consideration, we also nixed. I didn’t feel it would take full advantage of the space, and didn’t want to lose any headroom unless absolutely necessary. After a lot of research we decided on a LVL beam, despite the additional cost (thousands) in order to maximize the space and get that Scandinavian feel that was so important to me. This would give us an additional 3 feet of headroom compared to the scissor truss option, for a total of 12.5 feet of ceiling height at the apex.
Another important consideration was the choice of insulation, the most obvious one being spray foam with its high insulation or R-value (50). Using the spray foam would have the added advantage of allowing us to choose shallower roof joists, adding an extra 2 inches to the ceiling height. (And for me, every inch counted). But, the deciding factor came down to safety issues for my family, as we are ALL chemically-sensitive. When installed properly, spray foam appears to be a safe product. However, it seems that a lot can and sometimes does go wrong, even with experienced installers. Basically, spray foam needs to be mixed property, applied properly, and cured properly. If any one of those things goes wrong you can end up with a big problem, cost and health-wise. Our architectural designer warned us that an R50 spray foam requirement would need to be applied over a series of days in order to cure properly. Yet, every time I asked a contractor how long it would take to install the spray foam they said one day only.
To put my mind at ease (despite losing 2 inches of ceiling height) we decided on a product called Roxul, which is made of stone wool fibres, a product of basalt volcanic rock and recycled slag. Although stone wool insulation has been around since the 1930s, first used in Denmark and Sweden, then throughout Europe, it didn’t reach North America until the 1980s. Although we could only go as high as R32 for the ceiling, the Roxul batting was easy to install and, most importantly, chemically safe. We used Roxul Comfortbatt for its insulating properties for the ceiling and exterior walls, and Roxul Safe’n’Sound for its sound and fireproofing properties on the interior walls. I can say from our experience installing it (my husband Peter and I had a go) that it was really easy to work with. The batts were easy to cut (Peter used a drywall knife and I used a breadknife) and configure around pipes and ducts. I would definitely recommend wearing gloves as the wool can be scratchy on your hands.
Anyway, back to the ceiling transformation. Here is the original 8 foot ceiling height in the kitchen area:
Here are some progress pictures following the demo. You can see the original frame structure (2″ x 6″ joists) and the new, LVL beam (3 ply 1.75″ x 16″ each) spanning the length of the room:
Below you can see the new 2″ x 10″ joists sistered onto the existing joists. You can’t quite tell from the pictures but the 2″ x 10″ joists are offset from the top by 2″ for a total of 12″ ceiling space. This was done for two reasons. First, we needed enough space for both the roxul batting and the required 2.5″ minimum air space to meet the building code. Second, the 48 year old roof was dipping down a bit in the kitchen area, and by offsetting the joists we could keep it level on the inside when it was needed.
The baffles for roof venting, as well as two new skylights on either side of the existing one:
Roxul insulation installed:
Below you can see the start of the pine tongue and groove installation. I was so close to choosing drywall for the ceiling, but the tongue and groove adds a textural interest that really makes it stand out. I absolutely love how it turned out, and it’s always one of the first things people mention. It may seem odd that we painted it white, but I didn’t want the pine to compete with the maple floors. I almost regretted the decision until the floors were finally installed and balanced everything out.
Tongue and groove installation completed. You can also see the solar tube, installed by the previous owners, which we cut to fit the new ceiling height:
Painted and complete:
Another decision that kept me up at night (not really, but almost…) was the amount of pot lights to install in the ceiling. The last thing I wanted was the beautiful tongue and groove ceiling to be peppered by pot lights. I kept them to a minimum in the living room and installed a good amount in the kitchen as a working area. I’m so glad I didn’t go crazy with them. We barely have them on at night, opting instead for the jug table lamp in the living room, and the undercabinet/pendant lights in the kitchen.
The clean, modern ceiling fan:
The vaulted ceiling was by far the trickiest part of the renovation, and after the kitchen the costliest, but it was definitely worth it. The first thing anyone does when they walk into the home is look up. I still catch myself doing it all the time.
In between posts you can find me on Instagram, sharing the stuff of daily life.