Difference Between Cathedral and Vaulted Ceiling You Need To Know

If you're unaware of the difference between cathedral and vaulted ceiling, this article will help you out. While closely related, cathedral and vaulted ceilings are not necessarily the same things.

In terms of height, cathedral ceilings and vaulted ceilings are much the same. It’s in their overall shapes that the two vary.

Both types of ceilings offer nearly identical benefits and drawbacks to the average builder or homeowner.

But once you know what makes each style unique, the difference between a cathedral and a vaulted ceiling couldn’t be more clear!

Difference Between Cathedral and Vaulted Ceiling

What Is a Cathedral Ceiling?

Cathedral ceilings feature symmetrical sloping sides that meet in the center to form a peak. The center most point of a cathedral ceiling is also the highest relative to the rest of the room.

Most cathedral ceilings follow the same pitch as the exterior roofline. This type of ceiling gets its name from the religious buildings it originated in.

Today, however, cathedral ceilings are just as often seen in residential homes.

cathedral ceiling

Pros of Cathedral Ceiling

  • Cathedral ceilings add volume. This makes the room feel larger and brighter without expanding its footprint.
  • The additional height offers space for elements like large light fixtures and oversized windows.
  • Homes with cathedral ceilings tend to look and feel more luxurious than those with standard flat ceilings.
  • In some cases, the presence of a cathedral ceiling may add value to a home compared to otherwise identical properties.
  • Installing a cathedral ceiling can make good use of otherwise neglected attic space.

Cons of Cathedral Ceiling

  • Not all homes are built to accommodate a cathedral-style ceiling. It often isn’t possible to convert an existing ceiling to a cathedral one.
  • While recommended, cathedral ceilings aren’t required to follow the outer roofline.
  • Adding a cathedral ceiling to a home with an asymmetrical roofline may mean sacrificing tons of overhead space.
  • Installing a cathedral ceiling often costs more than a traditional ceiling. Homes designed specifically with cathedral ceilings in mind may be exceptions to this rule.
  • Despite the many benefits of increasing a room’s volume with a cathedral ceiling, all of that extra space can be difficult to heat and cool.
  • Homes with cathedral ceilings tend to have higher energy expenses.

What Is a Vaulted Ceiling?

Historically, vaulted ceilings were constructed out of self-supporting arches. In contemporary design, however, the definition has expanded to include nearly any higher-than-average ceiling.

Many people consider cathedral ceilings to be a subtype of vaulted ceilings. Unlike standard cathedral ceilings, vaulted ceilings are not always symmetrical.

They also deviate from the existing roofline just as often as they follow it. The surface of a vaulted ceiling may be arched, flat, sloped, stepped, or anything in-between.

A vaulted ceiling can also consist of a single surface or several (with any number of slopes and angles).

vaulted ceiling

Pros of Vaulted Ceiling

Vaulted ceilings share many of the benefits of cathedral ceilings.

  • They are a great way to increase the size of a room without altering the floor plan. Vaulted ceilings of all styles will make a space feel larger and more open than a “normal” ceiling.
  • Like cathedral ceilings, vaulted ceilings are highly desirable in many real estate markets.
  • A vaulted ceiling can be added to almost any existing home. The exterior roofline plays a very small role in the ceiling’s final appearance.
  • Plus, less overhead space is required to construct the average vaulted ceiling compared to a cathedral ceiling.
  • However, the size and architectural style of the home will ultimately determine which types of vaulted ceilings are feasible.

Cons of Vaulted Ceiling

  • Because of the variety of styles available, installing a vaulted ceiling doesn’t come with many of the drawbacks of a cathedral ceiling. But vaulted ceilings are still far from perfect.
  • Vaulted ceilings make it harder and more expensive to heat and cool a room. Height can be sacrificed to accommodate additional insulation — something that isn’t always possible with a cathedral ceiling that hugs the roofline.
  • Asymmetrical vaulted ceilings may cast strange shadows around the room.
  • They can also be harder to decorate if there is a dramatic height difference from one section to another.

Final Thoughts

Cathedral and vaulted ceilings are both effective ways to add height and volume to a room. Choosing between the two largely comes down to the home’s surrounding architecture and personal taste.

While cathedral ceilings are incredibly timeless, not all rooflines and attic spaces permit them. In these cases, an asymmetrical vaulted ceiling is likely the best option.

Regardless of the benefits that come along with these ceilings, both styles are likely to increase heating and cooling costs within the home. The added height can also make routine cleaning a real pain!