Thursday, May 8, 2008

Options for detailing the upper floor ceiling...


My brother recently presented us with an number of options for supporting the upper floor ceiling, and ways of exposing or concealing this support structure. For him and me both, we'd rather go for the "truth in advertising" and not conceal structures unnecessarily. But nonetheless, it's fun to look at all the options. Here's the way the options look with some quick renderings he did of the master bedroom (some windows were left out, and the renderings aren't high resolution). -- click any of these to enlarge

The top and bottom set of pictures represent two options in essentially the same theme. The pics on the left are looking to the east in the master bedroom, with exposed and painted cross-beams. It may not look like it, but the beams are symmetrical and cross in the center of the room. The pics on the right are views looking to the west in the master bedroom to the small hallway that serves as the entrance to the room. These are small sections of other cross-beams, while the rest is embedded in the wall. The difference between the top and bottom sets is simply that in the bottom set some other support beams are partially exposed in the ceiling. By the way, cross-beams could also simply be left as natural wood instead of painted, though that may be more expensive. Higher quality beams would be needed in order to leave the wood exposed, and a lower cost option is to use lower quality beams and paint them.

Here is another option, with smaller exposed beams that are further up.

And here's an even more understated option, though I would question whether these single beams up so high are providing the support to the roof that is necessary. In any case, we didn't like this option as much because it seemed like you wouldn't even need the beams.

These are both options for actually concealing any beams, with the one on the left being a concealed version of the small beams from the previous option. The shape of this ceiling essentially mirrors that attic room that myself and my two brothers had growing up, and for this reason I wasn't really big on this option as it would be nice to have a little something different. The option on the right is another variation, where the supports are concealed but the ceiling still comes to a point at the top.

Molly liked these because she thought they evoked barn-style architecture, which they do. In the end though, we thought concealing the support beams was kind of lame since it seemed so much more interesting to expose the structure. It gives a more direct visual connection to the roof overhead, and it provides a kind of contemporary farmhouse feel. Our choice out of all of these was the first set of pics at the top of the post, the exposed, low cross-beams with a smooth ceiling. These supports will also be in the kids' rooms, not just the master bedroom. I have already guaranteed Molly that Aidan will eventually find a way to climb up and hang from the beams. Molly thought that was unlikely, to which I immediately replied that it was most certainly likely, and that if I grew up in this house as a kid I definitely would have done that! :-)


Joe Clarke said...

I really like the open feel of the vaulted ceilings. This is a cool look. Of course as a fellow engineer, I'm curious about some of the details.

Having in mind your roof line, the first set of pictures look like there would be no attic space between the ceiling and the roof. How tall would the peak be above the floor in these pictures? It looks like it might be 15-20', which would seem really tall in a bedroom.

If there will be no attic space, will there actually be beams every 16 or 24 inches and will they require additional supports beyond what is shown?

I'm also curious about your plans for overhead lighting in these rooms.

And... one last thought.

While finishing another room in our house I learned that smoke detectors with battery backup are required in every bedroom and are required to be within 12 inches of the peak for obvious reasons. These ceiling heights will determine the ladder you get to climb yearly to replace those batteries. However, this might also give you (or Aidan when he's older) a good excuse to go climbing! :)

Brendan Koop said...

Hi Joe! There won't be any attic space above. It's kind of a long story, but for now we are planning on using structurally insulated panels (SIP's) for the home structure and insulation (pending on how the bid comes in), so this shouldn't have beams like those shown in some of the renderings (the 16 or 24 inch spaced beams). This is one of the reasons (other than not liking the look as much) that we didn't go with those partially exposed beams, I'm not sure they'll be there.

I don't know the exact number for the height, but it definitely will be tall in the bedrooms. We discussed this with my brother and there's a couple reasons why this won't see out of proportion. First, the height of the walls on the sides of the rooms will be 7' to the start of the ceiling, so this is lower than even a standard 8' ceiling height. That makes the ceiling feel a little closer. Also, the low truss/cross beams we are planning on using help to keep the room in proportion by bringing the ceiling visually downward. My brother also said that he liked that there was a progression upward in ceiling heights as you enter the home and then go upstairs, it's kind of an interesting transition. As far as lighting, we aren't planning on any lighting in the ceiling, relying mostly on wall sconces that direct light downward and upward. Also, the cross beams could have rope lighting that direct light upward.

As far as smoke detectors, as long as it's every once in a while, changing batteries isn't a big deal. We have the same situation now in our upper floor of our current house (there is a smoke detector at the peak of the vaulted ceiling in the living room) and we just deal with it when we have to.

Thanks for the questions!

Brendan Koop said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention one other thing. The ceiling will probably not be vaulted in spaces other than the bedrooms upstairs (such as bathrooms, the laundry room, etc.). That would be a ridiculously high ceiling for such small rooms. So the ceiling won't feel as high everywhere on the upper floor.