What is a Gambrel Ceiling?

What is a Gambrel Ceiling?
What is a Gambrel Ceiling? (Image: Basic Gambrel Design by KYares)

The Gambrel ceiling has become a popular method for those who are building a new home with a high ceiling. The Gambrel design resembles the roof shape of old barns and is perfect if you are attempting to convey a rustic look to your home. The roof line is split in the middle with the steepest angles on the lower portion. In the use of interior ceilings, this lower steep angle changes into a gradual rise to the peak of the high ceiling. This split or change in angle occurs about halfway up the run of the interior ceiling. Running the length of the room, this split in the angle can be defined by the use of clean drywall lines or false wood beams to give the architecturally high ceiling a stunning look.


Gambrel roof lines were mainly found on barns. The open frame design allowed for large spaces to be placed on a second floor of the building. This space was typically used to store hay for the winter. The high roof can be supported by minimal timber framing which opens up valuable floor space.


The Gambrel roof line resembles that of a Gable roof. A Gable roof line has two sloping surfaces that run the length of the building and meet in the centerline of the structure. Viewed from the end of a building, a Gable roof looks like a triangle. A Gambrel roof line also runs the length of the building but the slope of the roof is broken in the middle. The lower portion of the roof is steep, generally at a 12/7 pitch or 60 degree angle. This means that for every 7 inches of horizontal run the roof rises 12 inches. The upper roof portion is the opposite and much shallower, as it may be a 7/12 pitch or 30 degree angle. Thus, for every 12 inches in horizontal, the roof will rise 7 inches. This split angle design corresponds to the ceiling underneath. This type of ceiling is also called the Dutch Colonial house design.


Gambrel ceilings can also be constructed inside or under other types of roofs if there is enough space for the construction. Interior framing can be bolted to the underside of a high-pitched roof to give the impression of the split ceiling design. Some Gambrel ceilings may also have posts that support the mid point of the roof joint that run from the ceiling down to the floor.


Since the original design was for maximum space on a second floor, a Gambrel ceiling may create a space that is too large. The overall floor to ceiling effect may become difficult to heat on cold winter days if ceiling fans are not used to circulate the air. If used for a second floor application this type of design can give an immense amount of headroom for rooms that occupy a second or third floor area.


Older barns can, at times, be purchased inexpensively, torn down and resurrected elsewhere. The amount of space provided by the design of a Gambrel roof or ceiling can create affordable living space for a minimum investment.

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