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1976 home with cathedral ceilings

Airobel | Posted in General Questions on

I’ve been reading your posts on cathedral ceilings in consideration of a home we’re looking at. There are no indications that there is any problem but I also don’t have any information on the history since we are looking at the home for purchase and the owners have no information. I’m concerned about the way it was constructed and the potential issues I may have down the road. Nearly the entire home has cathedral ceilings and was built in 1976. The soffits are vented but I haven’t been on the roof to see how they did or didn’t do the ridge. Below is the Redfin listing for the home. Since there is not attic for me to poke around in I’m clueless on how to validate the construction and I don’t necessarily trust a standard home inspection to get me any answers. Before I put an offer on it I’d like to know what I’m getting into. Can you provide some recommendations on what to look for?

Redfin listing:

Thanks for any help you can provide!

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  1. user-723121 | | #1

    I would see if I could come in there and have an energy rater do a blower door test and thermal scan. From the photo it looks like slider windows and I am seeing a bit of a sag in the garage door header. This type ceiling in homes of this vintage were typically insulated with fiberglass batts, often Kraft faced, at least here in MN. Olympia, WA is another climate altogether, here in the Twin Cities a roof like this is known for ice dams and a lot of air leakage. The cathedral ceilings can be brought up to code either from the inside or by adding rigid to the roof deck. If the roof is in need of replacement exterior rigid might be the way to go. To bring this ceiling up to code from the inside can be done but is quite labor intensive and would may require some rigid insulation over the framing.

  2. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #2

    Hi user-7653894 (it would be great to get your real name).

    I don't think there is any way to know what is going on inside that roof without opening it up somehow. As you noted, that's not going to happen during a basic real estate inspection. In many places, inspectors aren't allow to move even the materials they have access to in order see what is going on under them. It's a strictly visual inspection. And it's not likely the current owners are going to agree to letting you cut a big hole in the ceiling.

    While I doubt that the ceiling is well air sealed or insulated, that doesn't necessarily mean you will have any more of a problem than a very inefficient house. Many poorly sealed and insulated assemblies get wet and dry year after year. Again, not efficient, but not a failure either. And they can be upgraded as work is needed (as mentioned above by Doug, like when the house needs a new roof).

    While I wish there was a way to be more helpful with this, anything you learn here will just be speculation and you won't know anything for sure until you live in or really inspect the home.

  3. Airobel | | #3

    Thanks guys. Updated my name too. I like the idea of having a blower door test and thermal scan. However as Brian indicates we won’t get any concrete info until after purchase. Couple things to add. It does have a small attic in the second floor where I might be able to see down the cathedral cavity. All the cathedral ceilings terminate into a very small attic space which is why it appears to have standard roof vents rather than a ridge vent. Another funny thing that happened is while looking at other houses in another location I saw the exact same design. If we get serious I may knock on their door like a weirdo to ask some of these questions.

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