Venting Cathedral and Vaulted Ceilings

Cathedral and vaulted ceilings do away with roof trusses to create open, airy spaces. They were a great innovation in the Middle Ages, enabling mighty cathedrals many of which still stand today.  However, they do pose special challenges to roof ventilation. Here we focus on ways of venting cathedral and vaulted ceilings to get around these problems.

Venting Cathedral and Vaulted Ceilings

Conventional attics avoid stale humid air accumulating against ceilings in these ways:

1… A typical attic has an insulated floor to keep the air out from the rooms below.

2… It might also have dormer windows and soffit / gable vents to facilitate cross air flow.

However, these options are reduced, or eliminated with cathedral and vaulted ceilings. Therefore, roofers need a fresh approach to endure adequate cathedral and vaulted ceiling venting.

Ensuring Adequate Air Circulation in Open Ceilings

The architects who designed and built those magnificent cathedrals had it easier than modern builders. That’s because there were no plans approvals, and inspections in those days. The huge buildings could take centuries to complete and the doors and windows often went in last. Ventilating spires took over towards the end of the project.

venting cathedral and vaulted ceilings
Notre Dame Cathedral Spire Ablaze (Wandrille de Préville BY CC 4.0)

Installing Attic Fans and Roof Vents

The design behind vaulted, barrel, and cathedral ceilings downgrades those strategies we previously mentioned. There is no shortage of air entering the open ceiling, but it has nowhere to escape.  We recommend the following strategy referring to the diagram at the end of this post:

1… Install a ridge vent all along the top of the roof to funnel the stale air away.

2… Fit generous soffits in the roof overhangs to encourage a smooth flow.

This is an efficient, green solution with a zero carbon footprint post manufacture and installation. However, if the roof design prevents ridge venting, then we may have to install less attractive passive, or electrically operated vents instead.

Valiant Exteriors (Calgary (403)829-1661) takes a holistic view when it comes to venting roof space. We discuss the options with our clients in terms of cost and appearance. Because we believe it is important we enhance their homes and their lives.

venting cathedral and vaulted ceilings
Determining the Minimum Ventilation Amount (ICC Via International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants)

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A Lovely Hammer Beam Vaulted Ceiling (Vermont Timber Works BY CC 3.0)