How to Build a Cathedral Ceiling


The addition of a cathedral ceiling can transform a drab or crowded room into a light-filled and spacious area. Without having to excavate or move walls, you can increase the feel of space in a house simply by increasing the headroom. Proper planning is essential when converting to a cathedral ceiling, in order to avoid damaging the structural integrity of the roof.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Hammer
  • Crowbar
  • Circular Saw
  • 4 x 8 sheets of drywall
  • Spackle
  • Drywall tape
  • Drywaller's knife
  • Paintbrush
  • Roller
  • Paint

Learn About Your House

  • Climb into your attic and look around before doing anything else. Take measurements and make drawings of how the joists, rafters, and/or trusses are constructed.

  • Consult with a building professional if you are unsure what is safe to cut. You may have trusses that will be weakened if they are cut to allow a cathedral ceiling.

  • Measure the depth of the bays between your rafters to determine how much insulation will fit there. If you put in a cathedral ceiling, this will be the only place left to insulate your house.

Remove the Old Ceiling

  • Take everything out of the room where you will be installing the cathedral ceiling. If you have a finished floor, cover it with sheets of ¼ inch masonite and tape them together.

  • Using a small sledgehammer or crowbar, knock through the ceiling drywall and pry it off the bottoms of the joists. Wear a mask and protective clothing, as insulation will be falling everywhere.

  • Remove all drywall and insulation so that you are left with bare joists. If and when you have determined that these joists are not structurally integral to your roof, cut them out.

  • Run the wiring and install the boxes for any lights or other electronics you will be installing in your cathedral ceiling.

Install the Cathedral Ceiling

  • Insulate between the roof rafters. Be sure to provide for adequate ventilation in your roof. Batts of fiberglass or Roxul are best for this application.

  • Screw 4 x 8 foot sheets of drywall directly to the bottoms of your rafters, or install furring strips if the rafters are too far apart to provide adequate support to the drywall.

  • Tape and spackle the joints of the drywall and the screw holes. Allow the first coat to dry, then apply a second coat as smoothly as possible. Sand the second coat and apply a third skim coat. A light sanding of the third coat should leave a smooth surface.

  • Apply a coat of primer. Allow it to dry for 24 hours, then apply a coat of finish paint.

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  • Photo Credit rotating ceiling fan image by Yali Shi from
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