What Is a Vaulted Ceiling?

Sara Mandeed
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The History of Vaulted Ceilings

The first time a vaulted ceiling was built was somewhere between 6000 and 5000BC in the Middle East. Since that time, vaulted ceilings have been used in churches, buildings, and homes. They have been used in homes all around the world and continue to be built in modern times.

The different designs of vaulted ceilings are all very interesting and serve different functions. Many vaulted ceilings are within buildings. As the world’s first skyscrapers were being built, they began to use vaulted ceilings as well. This is because the vaults provided the arch needed to support the weight of the tall buildings.

Many different artists, architects, and designers have built vaulted ceilings over the centuries. Some have focused on the outside features of the vault, while others have focused on the inside. Either way, these vaulted ceilings look beautiful.

A Guide to Different Vaulted Ceiling Styles

Vaulted ceilings have become popular in many parts of the world because they are visually appealing and can be used in just about any room.

What you see above is a classic example of a barrel vaulted ceiling … but there are many variations and styles out there, and each of them has its own unique qualities.

So if you’ve been intrigued by the many ceiling styles that you’ve seen lately, but you’re not sure which is right for your space, let’s take a closer look:


A Tuscan vaulted ceiling is typically made of concrete and will include ribs on each side of the vault. An interior Tuscan vaulted ceiling has the ribs facing up so that all of the interior ribs run vertically, while an exterior Tuscan vaulted ceiling has the ribs facing down so that all of the exterior ribs run vertically.


A Burma vaulted ceiling is made of wood and is characterized by its arches. These arches run from the center of each rib to the side of the vault.


A Roman vaulted ceiling is characterized by the patterns that result from the ribs that are attached to each other. These patterns result in intricate patterns or geometric shapes.

Barrel Vault

A barrel vault is a type of arched ceiling or roof that is characterized by its circular or semicircular shape and a central pointed peak. It is used often in the construction of undergrounds, churches, and temples. It is also often found in medieval houses and other buildings.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a barrel vault is the barrel vault ceiling in the Palace of Westminster (right image). This famous Westminster hall was built in 1860 in London. It is located in the Palace of Westminster, in the heart of London, England. This is the home of the Houses of Parliament. The barreled vault ceiling you can see in the image above is the second largest vault in the world after the cathedral of Sevilla in Spain.

Barrel vault ceiling is supported by columns. These columns depend on each other to provide support. Barrel vault ceiling has a circular mass in the middle which it is easier to support than the other curves.

Barrel vault can be made of brick, stone or wood. Concrete can also be used in either in pure form or reinforced with steel.

In churches, the barrel vault was replaced by the groin vault during the Romanesque period. This was because the thrust produced by the pointed roof and arches helped to cause the collapse of many church vaults during that time. However, barrel vault was later on revived using brick and stone and became popular with barrel vaults being constructed over naves.

Groin Vault

A groin vault ceiling is actually a transverse groin vault. In the construction of a transverse groin vault, you have two groins that run parallel to one another.

The transverse groin vault is also triangular, with one vertex lying below and two above the transverse line.

A groin vault ceiling is different from an ordinary vaulted ceiling. This type of ceiling is usually used in industrial areas, though it may also be used in certain areas of residential areas.

The word————groin———comes from the Latin word vagina, which means “hollow.” When you’re building a transverse groin vault, you see the hollow or the empty space separating two beams that come together at 90 degree angles. If you notice a groin vault ceiling, you probably are far enough away from it for you to see both groins, which means they’re visible to you.

A groin vault ceiling can also be called a groin vault roof or even an arch roof.

Dome Vault

This is the most noticeable dome-shaped ceiling. The dome can have a large radius or be very shallow. Dome ceilings can be close to being circular and are constructed very similarly to a half dome. This type of vaulted ceiling is definitely the most common style, especially in historic homes.

Rib Vault

A Rib Vault is one of the most popular and common types of ceilings in medieval churches. It is composed of a series of equal-sized arches, which span a building from one column or wall to another. The shape of the vault resembles the ribs of a skeleton and gives the vault its name. Rib vaults are constructed using masonry, wood or stone.

The amount of support provided is determined by the width of the ribs, which range from about 30 feet to 60 feet, 4 inches. This amount of space is enough to support a ceiling as high as 15 feet. There are usually two to three vertical supports called ribs inside the vault, adding to the support.

The ribs themselves give a great deal of decorative details and opportunities for interior design. Rib vaults were revolutionary in terms of safety. They were the first kinds of ceilings that were able to support very high rates of stone and were subsequently able to support very large heights. Before these ceilings were used, most ceilings were columns or pilasters in order to support the masonry and the stone.

Rib vaults are easy to build, using a standard arch. It is supported by relatively small ribs that are equidistant from each other. Rib vaults have the advantage of providing a great deal of decorative window and door moulding.

Fan Vault

Ed Ceiling vs. Apartment Lofts

The fan vaulted ceiling is an aesthetic design feature that makes a ceiling look like it has pointed arches. They can be used in a variety of different settings, like domestic housing and commercial property development.

The fan vaulted ceiling is formed by a series of intersecting convex surfaces. This type of vaulted ceiling is more often used for residential spaces than commercial properties. The reason it’s not so often used for commercial purposes is because the rooms are often big and the vaulted ceilings end up making the space look even bigger than it is.

As a result, because fan vaulted ceilings are often used for ceilings in apartments, you can see these types of ceilings in some lofts that have been converted from regular living spaces into apartments.

Benefits and Drawbacks of a Vaulted Ceiling

The traditional advantage of vaulted ceilings is that they offer more space. Vaulted ceilings create the loft illusion and make a room appear much larger than it actually is. This is a popular choice for bedrooms and dining rooms because it gives the impression of being open and airy. People love the spacious feel of a vaulted ceiling, especially if it has a skylight.

However, some people do not enjoy vaulted ceilings because of their lack of head room. If you are tall, sitting on the floor playing with your kids doesn’t seem like a comfortable option with a vaulted ceiling. It also makes it difficult to install a ceiling fan, although there are some exceptions if you are creative and determined.

The other disadvantage of a vaulted ceiling is that it can pose a serious safety hazard. When vaulted ceilings collapse, the top portion falls downward at an angle creating a risk of injury or death.

Vaulted Ceilings and Energy Efficiency

Most people don’t think much about ceiling height or any other aspect of ceiling except to paint them and clean what’s above it. However, ceiling design is an important aspect to consider if you want to maximize energy efficiency and comfort in your home.

A vaulted ceiling is a spacious ceiling, generally with a height of at least 8 feet or as high as 12 feet. The slope of a vaulted ceiling ranges from as little as 12 degrees to as much as 45 degrees depending on the style.

With its tall width and steep slope, a vaulted ceiling creates a large open space that’s ideal for a loft-style home but difficult to cool in the summer. The greater distance from the ground to the ceiling above it translates into increased temperatures.

That’s where insulation is important. As a homeowner, you’re responsible for effectively insulating your home and lower energy costs. While there are a lot of different types of insulation to choose from, one of the most helpful is bat or housewrap insulation. It is a type of insulation that’s applied to the exterior of the home. Since it’s exterior insulation, it’s able to cut down on heat loss in the summer as well as heat gain in the winter.

Consider the Budget: Affordable Alternatives

If you are looking for the cheapest basement ceiling alternative, take a look at the fibrous glass panels. They are the least expensive and some even come with a lifetime warranty. Even though they offer great value for the money, they can be pretty fragile and need to be handled with care.

The concrete panels are the traditional choice when it comes to basement ceilings. They are economical and do a great job of stopping water and mold.

The other option is the heat-expanded polystyrene ceiling. They are relatively easy to install and they are well insulated. They come with an interesting texture that can add a touch of style to your basement.

Which Room Should I Vault?

Vaulted ceilings have been around for centuries and they come in a variety of styles. While most homes and buildings have flat ceilings, vaulted ceilings add substantial space and help create more open, attractive areas. In the past, vaulted ceilings were found in large churches. Today, vaulted ceilings can be found in a variety of places … offices, residential rooms, and retail stores. They also can be found in bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.

Determine if a Vaulted Ceiling is Right for You

When I first started working in the remodeling industry, I had no idea what the term “vaulted ceiling” meant. Over time, I learned that if I understood a homeowner’s space, I would have an advantage over my competitors.

Realizing this, I started paying close attention to house plans, floor plans, and the rooms that were recommended for vaulted ceilings.

I soon learned that the majority of my vaulted ceiling jobs were in the kitchen.

This was really a no-brainer since the other rooms in the house would not be conducive to vaulted ceilings.

But the majority of kitchens in my area had vaulted ceilings, which told me that I wasn’t alone in my desire to have these types of ceilings in my home.

I’ve often wondered why people choose to have vaulted ceilings in their home. So I did some research and found that there are many reasons why people enjoy a vaulted ceiling.

Given some time to think about it, I came up with my own list. Here are the top 5 reasons why people choose this unique and attractive look for their kitchen space.