I'm buying my first house (we close in one week!!) and I'm remodeling almost the whole house before moving in. One thing I'm considering is putting in a cathedral ceiling on the 2nd floor. I'm not a carpenter, just a DIY guy who's watched a lot of This Old House, bu here is what I know:

Pros to doing this:

  • It's a gable roof, very simple. I think (but I don't know) that it's a 45 degree angle.
  • Small footprint, only about 14 x 24 ft or 336 sq ft (rough measurements) and rafters are 24" apart on center
  • It's an old house, over 100 years old, and the stick frame uses quality 2x's and no trusses
  • the existing lathe and plaster would have to be repaired anyways because of cracks and water stains
  • the ceilings are pretty low and a cathedral ceiling would give us space for ceiling fans
  • there's very little insulation (blown cellulose) in the small existing loft so no big loss
  • I have to go into the loft and rip it all up to get the old tube and knob wiring out anyways so might as well just knock it out
  • installing new electrical wires all throughout so if it's demo'd to the frame then that would be easier
  • opportunity for exposed "beams"


  • there's no ridge beam or ridge board!!
  • the 2x6s rafters are obviously not deep enough to fit enough insulation in (unless it's the expensive stuff) so I will likely have to deepen them with 2x4s or 2x6s
  • this will make an already narrow room feel even narrower
  • will have to worry about roof venting. As it sits, there is just one gable vent and that's it.

So, my main question (though I'm open to any advice and why, why nots) is this: Can I do this without a ridge board? Can a ridge board be (realistically) installed??

Here is something I drew up. Will this work? (illustration is not to proportion at all)

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Any other way to do this? Any other problems you can forsee? THANK YOU!

Here is the view from inside the attick/crawlspace. You can see there is no ridge board, but there is some hefty roof decking:

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And a view from the room (we might knock down the closet walls and make two small bedrooms into one). As you can see the ceiling is low and a "quasi-cathedral" ceiling (if you know what term is actually used to describe a ceiling like then than please let me know what it is!)

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And finally, the house. Our new home! A lot of work to do...

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  • I can't answer your question, but have you checked out vaulted ceilings? Vaulted ceilings are different from cathedral ceilings and would give you more space to insulate. Dec 14, 2016 at 22:42
  • A Cathedral ceiling has it's high point in the middle of the room. A Vaulted ceiling has the ceiling joists resting on the walls only...the high point being whichever is the tallest wall (exception: Barrel Vault ceiling). Dec 15, 2016 at 14:38
  • I'm in almost exactly the same position as you, but it's 2 years later. I've learned a lot reading online, but it would be great if you'd answer your own question seeing as you undoubtedly solved this challenge. Could you please answer or comment, Dan Mantyla? Thanks!
    – pbristow
    Dec 19, 2016 at 17:13
  • Hey Dan. I have an identical project. What did you end up doing? Mark
    – mark1234
    Mar 8, 2020 at 18:06
  • hey @mark1234 - I didn't go through with these plans. I left it alone, added some blown-in cellulose insulation, and then painted over the wallpaper. Mar 9, 2020 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Dan, the horizontal slats, resting on the roof joists, replaced your ridge board (not the best thing to do but it is an alternative). Worst case scenario: someone removes these when replacing roof decking or to install a skylight.

If your plan is to remove/block-off any of the attic, up to the roof deck, you'll need to replace the gable vent with the combination of soffit-ridge venting (they work together).

Your drawing describes the installation of a ridge beam. Take a look at this: ridge beam vs ridge board

Ridge vents are sized to the space they vent. They work differently (or not well) if one uses them in conjunction with soffit vents or ridge vents.

Re: Knob & Tube Wiring. Assume you have K&T throughout the house (in the walls). Many careless/short-cut re-wiring jobs are made by keeping the K&T within the walls but re-wiring just the switches/outlets to make it appear all the K&T was removed.

All-in-all, you should find someone with old house restoration experience. Such people are most qualified to understand what you have and how to make it what you want. General remodeling contractors and the usual, run-of-the-mill architects tend not to know such things.

  • Thanks. So adding a ridge BEAM would be useless if the beam in not supported on the gable ends to hold up the weight of the roof... right? Thats what I was thinking about while laying in bed last night. What about "gussets" ? Dec 15, 2016 at 15:38
  • Also, I've been reading a lot of cathedral roof venting and going with a vented roof vs. a "hot roof" is much preferred however there's a lot of conflicted info on the best way to do this. But I just found this article and I really like the advice in it: pro.homeadvisor.com/articles/articles-tips/print-article/… Dec 15, 2016 at 15:38
  • 1
    Funny you should mention gussets. I was going to suggest adding them but I tend to gusset everything in sight. I don't recognize when they're not needed, lol. I'm "old school" so haven't come to terms with the 'hot roof' as one needs a very well done foam insulation job and too many contractors install it without the proper training and care. If I were to go with foam insulation, I wouldn't cover it up for, at least, a year to see how it cures and "seasons" (expansion & contraction of the structure). Dec 15, 2016 at 15:47

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