The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Garage Ceiling Goes Cathedral!

Hey friends! Last time I left you with the ranch house garage, it looked like this:


It was organized, but far from renovated. Most of the walls and ceiling are still the original and full of nail holes.

I also left you a lengthy to-do list for our next stage of work in the garage. Most of the things on this list concern insulation:

1. Demo the broken dry wall ceiling
2. Upgrade the lighting
3. A new attic entry
4. Northern wall insulation
5. Finish/paint the northern and southern walls
6. Replace the old window
7. Replace weather stripping and broken trims around garage door
8. Insulate the garage door with a layer of foam
9. Fix the garage slab and replace the old weather stripping under the garage door

You can see that we have already replaced the weather stripping around the garage door and leveled the concrete slab at where it has settled. These steps stopped almost all the winter draft coming in from the garage door, which helps the garage to stay warm in winter. Our next task, is a completely overhaul of the garage ceiling – including replacing the ceiling, adding insulation, and updating the electrical.


Here is what the garage ceiling looks like. The problems are…many. I do not even know where to start. Let us put it this way, I cannot think of anything good to say about this ceiling, at all.


It is a random collection of drywall pieces. You can see that some seams are taped, while others are not.


The drywall pieces are small, leading to many gaps in between. They allow heat to escape in winter. Ever worse, some pieces are completely missing:


The drywall pieces are mostly nailed to the bottom chord. In some places, they are held up by random pieces of lumber:


This ceiling not only seriously lacks form, but also function. There is no insulation whatsoever above the ceiling – just imagine this garage is an abandoned, broken barn.

The electrical in this garage is also a mess. There is only one electrical outlet on the ceiling, and not many light sockets.


As a consequence, all the lights in the garage are interconnected with loose wires.


Last but not the least, allow me to present to you the king of the problem – the attic ladder:


Or I should say, the leftover of the attic ladder:


The bottom of the ladder is broken off and the whole thing is slowly peeling off the drywall cover. If we want to go up, we need to use a long ladder to put on top of the broken attic ladder – a true safety hazard. Unfortunately, due to the “hot” Denver housing market, we did not have the leverage to ask the previous owner to fix anything. We bought the house “as-is”, and this is it…

Although the ceiling looks terrible, the roof structure is no doubt in a good shape. With a new roof over the garage, we feel pretty good about our starting point. We believe that with a completely ceiling overhaul and some new lighting, we can make this garage a really neat place.

Starting last week, Slav started to take down the ceiling piece by piece:


He started from the edge, where there are less electrical connections, and moved his way to the center:



The piece of drywall above the bottom chord is our current attic access. We plan to replace it during the ceiling work. In our city, the code requires the attic access door in attached garage to be 20 minutes fire-rated, and self-closing.

As the ceiling coming down, you can see the stuff stored there and left to us: paneling, screens, and interestingly, a whole plastic bag of receipts.



The roof above the main living area has king post roof truss, but in the garage, we have tri-bearing truss:


The roof pitch is 4:12, which is not steep at all. But over the whole span of the roof, the highest point is over 4 feet above our existing 8’4″ ceiling. I cannot help but thinking how great it would be to keep a cathedral ceiling here, instead of installing a new flat drywall ceiling. It will not only makes this compact garage feeling more spacious, but also save all the effort and cost to drywall and mud. And think about the cool lighting we can have instead of standard can lights!

I had the idea brewing in my head for weeks before discussing with Slav. He was immediately on board! And not in a tolerating kind of way, but in a “Great idea” and “Let us do it” kind of way. 🙂 I am such a lucky woman.

So now the question became: how do we insulate the ceiling, and what do we use to as ceiling finish? We decided to go with the same 5-mm plywood that we used on the garage end wall. It is light and easy to work with, and has a nice finish. We can put fiberglass batt insulation right between the plywood and the roof, just like in the walls. The plywood will not only cover the insulation, but also hold them in place.

I am excited about using the same plywood finish on the ceiling as the end wall. The continuous wall to ceiling treatment should draw the attention up, especially with white walls flanking it from both sides. It should make the garage feel deeper and taller, something like this.

With a solid plan in place, we are just waiting for a warm weekend to tackle the garage ceiling project. As of today, half of the garage ceiling has been removed! So stay toned, friends! The tall ceiling is coming!


A Vintage Guest Bed


A Thrifted Secretary Desk


  1. Camille

    Did you end up doing the cathedral ceiling in your garage? Also converting a ranch house garage and planning to vault the ceiling and expose collar ties. But curious to see others’ results and experience!

    • Alison

      We did not. One reason is that our new roof has ridge vent, which means we can not use blown-in insulation and completely close the ceiling, unless we install now ceiling vents. We also use the room above the trusses as christmas storage.

      Good luck with your renovation! Will you post the photos from this reno somewhere? I would love to follow the progress.


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