Vaulted Ceilings Definition


A vaulted ceiling angles upward to create a feeling of openness in a structure. Vaulted ceilings exist in many famous cathedrals and public buildings, and modern homeowners can incorporate this architectural element into their living space.

Vaulted vs. Cathedral Ceiling

  • A vaulted ceiling does not follow the same pitch as the exterior roof and can have unequal, curved, or arched sides. A cathedral ceiling has equal sloping sides and follows the same pitch as the exterior roof, according to


  • Masons have been constructing vaulted ceilings for more than 900 years, according to Professor Roger Stalley of the University of Dublin's Trinity College.

Barrel or Tunnel Vault

  • The simplest type of vault resembles a barrel or tunnel. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain is an example.

Dome Vault

  • The rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., is an example of the hemispherical dome vault.

Groin Vault

  • A groin vault, also called a cross vault, is formed by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults. Speyer Cathedral in Germany is an example.

Home Design

  • Vaulted ceilings can enhance the design of new or existing homes but may result in heat loss due to the additional height of the interior space. Builders must leave adequate space between the ceiling and the roof to allow for proper insulation and ventilation.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of seier+seier
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