We want to add on to our antique farmhouse. We would like to do a 24x24
1st floor addition. Much of this space will be family room, but should
it have a cathedral ceiling or traditional ceiling with unfinished
space above it?
Our debate is whether we should do just a cathedral ceiling over that
family room, or make the ceiling normal and then add a bonus room over
that, which would tie into the existing 2nd floor.
We know it would be more to do the 2 floors, but does anyone know about
how much more?
Part of the reason for cathedral ceiling is asthetic. But also, it is
to save money on framing for a potential 2nd room above the family
room. We would go ahead and spend the extra money to have the bonus
room only if the price differential is small. If cathedral option saves
big $, we'll opt for that.
[Also, as far as resale value goes, does anyone know whether it would
be more desirable to have that bonus room and regular family room
ceiling, versus just the family room with cathedral ceiling?]
Would appreciate any feedback you might have! Thanks.
Personally, if I were to have one room that was 24x24 I would feel that it
being a single floor with a standard ceiling would make the room seem short
and even basement like. A cathedral ceiling really makes a room that size
feel as big as it really is especially with sky lights or good recessed
Round these parts a volume ceiling is almost mandatory.
A home with an 8' flat ceiling appears dated, old, and will not do well when
the owners try to sell it.
Then there's that whole psychology dealing with volumetrix......
"It's wasted space that could be used for storage and/or extra
insulation. Cathedral ceilings are not even remotely practical. "
If you take that approach, there are lots of other things that are
routinely used to make a house attractive that people should avoid
because they are not practical. Like more windows and larger windows
to make the house more open and light. Or higher ceilings to make a
room look and feel larger. And who says that the attic space would be
used anyway? There are many homes with attic space that has never and
will never be used, but could easily be turned into a cathedral
ceiling. I did that very thing in my home. I already have more than
enough storage space, as do most reasonable size new homes being built
today. The cathedral ceiling made a dramatic difference in my family
room, making it open and inviting, a place where I enjoy spending time.
Most people want a home that is attractive and inviting to live in, not
a super energy efficient one with extra storage space.
There are advantages and disadvantages to either; what is right depends on the
house and what the owner wants.
The way to go astray is to worry about what the next owner wants. Don't go
building someone else's house for oneself to live in.
Volume ceilings are more than practical.
Storing unneccessary stuff is wasteful.
New homes around here have at least R30 batts in the cathedral ceilings.
Any more than that is wasteful as the cost will never be recouped during the
3 to 7 years average that people stay in one place.
Perhaps the slight additional cost of a cathedral ceiling keeps it beyond
Finally, you'd have a pretty tough time finding a house here in SW Florida
that didn't have a volume ceiling.
My gut on it is - unless I had real plans for the bonus room, I'd go for the
ceiling that seems to attract you. Unless you're short on living space, the
bonus room won't be that much to a buyer. Higher ceilings on the other hand do
get people excited.
I'd call up two folks to get a final answer: a contractor and a realtor.
Comps for nearby neighborhoods will give you the best idea of what a
house of size X vs X+600 will be worth. Both experts must consider your
part of the country, your neighborhood, and the prevailing housing and
contracting markets before they can give you useful estimates.
For example, if the size of your house grows too much for the
neighborhood, no matter where it is, it may be unsellable. Or in a hot
market, a big house may gain a lot more value than in a cold market. Or
if construction costs for your area have gone through the roof (e.g.
Gulf Coast or central Florida), you may want to take out the improvement
loan now (to get a good rate) but defer the construction until the price
of raw materials fall. Remember that if you add bedrooms above, you'll
need to add bathrooms. There's lots to consider.
Statistically, your house will be worth more with the upper room, since
it would add another 600 sq ft. Cathedral ceilings don't add value in
their own right, AFAIK.
Also, IMHO, cathedral ceilings look out of place in antique farmhouses.
I had a cathedral ceiling in an upstairs MBR suite in a 1894 farmhouse.
The extra headroom was nice, but the space looked odd. Maybe if the
ceiling had been lined with beadboard or some such thing it would feel
Also, 24 feet is too big for one uninterrupted span unless you use
something like structural steel (regardless of whether you do/don't go
with the cathedral ceiling). Steel will add cost.
Likewise, a cathedral ceiling adds cost to the roof since you can't use
traditional (cheaper) trusses. It'll also cost more to insulate,
drywall, paint, and light.
Finally, if the 24x24 room is partitioned by walls, the overhead
cathedral space will be shared among the lower "cubicles", unless their
walls rise up to meet the roofline.
IMHO, none of those cathedral alternatives is attractive unless it's one
big space, which again, may not befit a historic home.
Thanks for the good info.
I guess the real reason for my post is mostly to get a sense of the
construction cost difference. It'll come into play as we weigh all the
other factors that you and others have already mentioned.
Contractors are reluctant to talk dollars unless we have blueprints,
but we don't want to pay for blueprints until we know which way to go
on this issue.
We feel we're in a catch-22 situation. Just trying to get a sense for
some of the info that has elluded us.
24x24 is going to be an ugly space, anyway. Square... Blech.
You should go for 20x32, or 24x36.
And you can get most of the benefits of a cathedral ceiling by
going for a 9' or 10' flat ceiling.
The only way a cathedral ceiling is going to look at all right
is if you build the addition as if was once an attached barn,
and that's not likely to be a cost-effective way to gain space.
Is this a new-england-style farmhouse?
Your question would be better answered by a local designer with proven
Some areas won't allow an unfinished 2nd floor.
You'll need to install a stairway to access the 2nd floor, which will reduce
the floor space on the 1st floor.
A stairway is roughly about 4' x 12'.
If you are required to finish the 2nd floor prior to the issuance of a
certificate of occupancy this will entail additional HVAC, Plumbing and
Electrical, as well as doors, subdividing walls and perhaps even egress
windows if there are any sleeping rooms on that level. In addition the
footings as well as 1st floor walls will need to support the 2nd floor, all
of which cause the costs to skyrocket.
Consult local professionals.
I remodeled my family room, which is 20X13, to make a std ceiling into
a cathedral one with two sky lights. The difference was dramatic. It
went from being a small, dark, room to one that is large, open, light
and inviting. The area above had been unused attic space. I am very
happy with the decision. I included motorized skylights which I have
used quite a bit and add to the attractiveness of the new space.
I agree with the advice not to make the room square. And a cathedral
ceiling will certainly cost less than adding a whole additional room
above. Whether you want an additional room or a cathedral ceiling
depends mostly on your own uses for the spaces. As far as resale, that
depends on a lot too. If the house is on the small side, then having
another room upstairs could be a big plus. If the house is plenty big
and the cathedral ceiling fits in well and makes a dramatic difference,
then having that could be equal to, or better than having an additional
A room that big, on a house that old- I'd frame most of the addition
cathedral style, with maybe exposed barn-frame tieing the upper structure
together. If part of the addition is bumpouts from other rooms, I'd put a
loft above, set up as a playroom/office/guest room area. (Guests don't need
a private bedroom, but a little isolation is nice.) Have fun with the loft-
make the 'old person' entry a door from the existing upstairs, but put a
ships ladder and sliding pole down into the family room. Kids will love it.
Seen it done in several houses, always a hit.
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