Today's Ceilings Make Statements - Types of Ceilings and Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Home

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Today's Ceilings Make Statements

Guide to Custom Home Ceiling Styles and Terms


If you're considering purchasing a home in the Raleigh/Triangle area, you're probably touring a lot of homes.  You may be seeing some "cool" ceilings, and wondering what they are called.

This handy guide to ceiling terms, presented by Raleigh custom home builder Stanton Homes, will help you understand some of different options available. 

Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Trey Ceilings


Custom homes in the Raleigh area typically exhibit at least one ceiling that does more than hold the room together.

The treatment of the top of a room is designed to evoke expression, and they do it in a variety of ways. 

Understanding the different options makes it easier to discern what builders are offering.





Conventional Ceiling

Usually 8 feet high, conventional ceilings may be either flat (look just like the walls) or textured, most often called "popcorn" (sprayed with particles that look like painted popcorn kernels.)  A "smooth ceiling" is flat.  If your contract doesn't mention smooth ceilings, ask what kind of ceiling is included.  

In a custom home, the first floor ceilings are often extended to 9 feet in height, and adorned with one or more of the following extras.   Homes at the upper end may even have 10, 11 or 12 ft high ceilings.   A ceiling over 9 feet tall can add greatly to cost, as most standard building materials come in shorter lengths, and more support may be needed for a taller ceiling. 

If your builder doesn't offer 9 feet as a standard first floor ceiling height, expect to pay $3000-$9000 to increase the height, depending on the size of the home.



Raleigh Custom Home Builder - moulding


Conventional mouldings are one piece, one or two inch, pieces of wood that cover the edges where the sheetrock touches ceilings and floors.

In custom homes, mouldings can be wider, with two, three or four pieces stacked on top of each other for a more elaborate effect.

The trey ceiling to the left has three layers of crown molding, which help define the layered trey and add to the details. Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Types of Ceiling Treatments

On the right, two piece crown molding, along with chair rail, draws the eye to the different dimensions and layers in this formal dining room.






Cathedral Ceiling and Vaulted Ceiling

Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Vaulted Ceiling


A cathedral ceiling provides a high sloping line up to the top of the house. A vault ceiling extends a room upward. Both provide a spacious feeling and make rooms feel larger.

More often found in first floor living or family rooms, they are also being employed in dining room, master bedrooms and master baths.

This master bath demonstrates one of many styles of vaulted ceilings.  It adds spaciousness to a room that is both functional and luxurious. 

Vaulted ceilings in the master bath are becoming quite common, particularly in custom homes.

Main floor master suite homes also are more likely to have vaulted ceilings, as the second floor is generally smaller, which means that more first floor rooms are likely to have a roof directly over them instead of another room.



Extra Deep Tray Ceiling with Extensive Moulding


Trey Ceilings

A trey ceiling (also called tray ceiling) is an artistic element added to select ceilings to give them personality and a unique attribute.

These ceilings start horizontally at the wall intersection at a standard height and then are built upwards in a cut out resembling a tray.  The cut can be vertical or angled, and the tray itself can be 6 inches to a foot or more deep.  Sometimes there are a series of steps for an even more dramatic effect.



Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Detail of Trey Ceiling


Decorative mouldings or lights may also be incorporated.  The trey ceiling to the right is constructed in two layers, allowing the homeowner to place lights inside the deeper trey, if desired, for a soft, etheral lighting effect in the master bedroom. 

Note the extensive trimwork - different sized pieces of crown molding add to the three-dimensional affect. 

Trey ceiling can be even more impressive when different paint colors are used. 



The trey ceiling on the left has a round extension for the light fixture, wrapped in crown molding.   The used of ceiling white, dark red wall color, and bright white crown molding make this a very dramatic trey. Trey ceilings are most common in dining rooms and/or master bedrooms. 

How Much Do Trey Ceilings Cost?

Tray ceilings are found in most custom homes and usually offered as upgrades in production homes.   As an upgrade, the cost is generally around $1,000 for a very simple cut out trey ceiling with no crown molding, and no variation in paint color. 

If the base plan for your new home doesn't include a trey ceiling, expect to pay $1000-$3000 to add a very basic box trey.  Add more if you want any kind of crown molding incorporated.  Some builders will work with you to custom design a trey ceiling with multiple layers - make sure to ask what is included. 

Cove Ceiling

Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Cove Ceiling


Cove ceilings have a rounded concave surface. This may be incorporated into arched doorways, hallways, or other areas where a fluid effect is desired.  

These types of ceilings are an extremely delightful and rare art form - it's difficult to create a perfectly curved ceiling, because most building materials are designed to provide flat surfaces, and it takes extra materials, time, skill and creativity to craft the symmetrical effect.

Cove ceilings generally curve up from every wall.  It'll be hard to find one even in homes at the upper end of the spectrum.



Made of wood or other substances which are typically laid across conventional ceilings to add dimension, color, clarity or interest.

They can either be load bearing (incorporated into the actual structure of the home) or lighter weight faux beams that are applied purely for visual effect.  This type of ceiling effect is not as popular as the more modern approaches and is more typically applied to rustic décor.


Raleigh Custom Home Builder - Barrel Vault FoyerBarrel Vault Ceiling

A barrel vault, also known as a tunnel vault or wagon vault, is not commonly seen in homes, but can be a very unique architectural feature.

Think of the curved section you'd have if you cut a barrel vertically into sections - this resembles the curve of a barrel vault.  

These curved ceilings or openings were common in Roman architecture.  But the most famous example can be found in St. Peter's Basilica, which has a huge barrel vault spans nearly 90 feet across the nave.

We built this home with a two story foyer and designed a barrel vault with multiple dimensions.  The arched windows carry out the theme.  The iron balasters and oak handrail give a nice contrast to the rounded lines.

There are built-in plant shelves on both sides of the foyer, which add to the opportunities for home accents.

Most surprising?  This home was under $300K. 



Coffered ceiling

Raleigh custom home builder coffered ceilingA coffered ceiling provides the latest approach to a beam-like effect, with a sophisticated twist. 

Best described as, "creating a raised and indented checkerboard across the ceiling," a coffered ceiling is usually created by framing a series of interconnected vertical and horizontal lines across the ceiling. 

The lines are then covered in sheetrock and finished similar to a normal ceiling. 

The individual boxes are then often trimmed with moulding - layering of which can be wider and thicker as the price goes up, especially  in very high-end estate homes. 


A lighting fixture or fixtures is usually incorporated.  This type of ceiling is not nearly as common as a tray ceiling, but is more common than cove ceilings or barrel vault ceilings

 Custom Home Ceiling Styles | Custom Homes Raleigh


Where to find examples of expressive ceilings

Each of the ceilings pictured has been created by Stanton Homes

We take pride in crafting a unique combination of ceiling treatments in each home we build - including dozens of styles of trey ceilings. 





Ceiling Ideas and Styles | NC custom home builders

Find Out More About Raleigh Custom Homes with Specialty Ceiling Styles (vaulted, coffered, trey):

Coffered Ceilings - 60 Second Video

Barrel Vault Ceilings - 60 Second Video

Trey Ceiling Ideas - 30 Second Video

Master Bath Vaulted Ceiling Ideas

Master Bedroom Vaulted Ceiling Ideas

What Ceiling Height Should I Choose?

Vaulted Ceiling Styles

Design Your Own Ceilings - Custom Design Home Builders



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Articles copyright Stanton Homes 2006-2018.  Unauthorized use is not permitted.  Provided for informational purposes only, no claims are made by Stanton Homes regarding the validity of any statements.  Please note:  all listing information per MLS, and current as of posting date.  Information subject to change.  Stanton Homes does not make claims to ownership of  any lot listings, but can work with homebuyers to purchase available lots and build.  Home plans to be approved on an individual basis, subject to neighborhood restrictive covenants and lot restrictions.  Ask for further information regarding any community, lot or floor plan.  Photos represent typical homes and details of each neighborhood, to help highlight different options available in the Raleigh/Triangle area.  No claim of ownership is made to homes or land pictured.  



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Lorinda Ward
Keffer Realty - Norfolk, VA
Serving, Hampton Roads Virginia. Norfolk, Chesapeake, Va Beach
This is great information, we can use it as a learning tool (well at least I can).  Thank you!
Nov 19, 2007 10:11 PM #1
Frank Verna
Frank Realty - Jupiter, FL
Broker / Owner
Well, guess you got that covered, great info Penney, thanks
Nov 19, 2007 10:15 PM #2
Daniel J. Brudnok, REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, REALTORS - Exton - PA License #RS-225179-L / Delaware License #RS-0025038 - Downingtown, PA


Thank you for the information....I agree a great learning tool.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nov 22, 2007 02:05 AM #3
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