Tearing Down An Old Ceiling (So We Can Vault It)

Oh what a feeling… dancing on the ceiling. Which is much easier when your ceiling is on the floor.

But let’s rewind to a time when our sunroom ceiling was more ceiling-like. We’ve mentioned we wanted to try vaulting the ceiling in here to make it feel even more open (here’s a link to some of our inspiration). We’ve never vaulted a ceiling before but we figured this was a pretty low-risk spot to finally give it a go.

We realized from the start that we might need to hire a pro for part of the job since structural ramifications like “the roof could cave in” is one of those failing answers to our “what’s the worst that could happen if we DIY it?” test. But we figured we could at least do the demo part ourselves (just of the ceiling, not of any support beams). Why pay someone else to tear stuff up when I could have all the fun myself, amiright? So I started by turning off the power to the entire house (always a good first step when you’re ripping things apart) and then I got busy prying off the crown.

That step revealed what we were both expecting (I guess?): insulation and some sort of wood framing.

The ceiling itself was some kind of moisture resistant drywall, which surprised me because for some reason I assumed it was plywood like the walls. So my plan to meticulously cut and pry it out turned into “let me just pull on this a little bit to see what happens…”

One down, about 5 more to go!

That should have been the moment where we moved the daybed and the table out of the way, but we just got so excited to bust things out and the drywall was surprisingly light (especially compared to the idea of it being plywood). Both the daybed and the table are on our “need a new paint-job” list as well, so I think that made us less protective of them, but thankfully no furniture was hurt in the making of this post (you can see it all alive and well in the last shot).

Taking it down was pretty easy, very satisfying, and apparently highly entertaining. Get this girl some popcorn!

It only took me about 15 minutes to get the whole ceiling drywall-free. That was the easy part. I was even able to get it out around the fan which I probably should’ve just taken down – but the drywall was so pliable that I could easily pull it down around the fan without damaging the blades. In the end it was nice to keep it up there in case this phase of ceiling reconstruction takes weeks (so we can still stay cool while we work).

With the drywall down, I turned my attention (and my mad pulling-things-down skillz) to the insulation.

It too came down pretty easily, although it took a few hours (spread across a few days) and I filled about eight big garbage bags with the stuff.

Here’s a shot where you can better see what it looks like up there. We love all of the rafters way up there for eventually nailing beadboard to. It’s just all of those lower joists that are in the way.

I’m not an engineer so it took me 0.0002 seconds to admit that I had no idea what to do. A reader named Kate commented with how they dealt with a similar situation in their home, but I wasn’t feeling gutsy enough to assume the same method would work for us. So my next step was tidying up the still messy looking joists by prying off all of the leftover drywall nails and lingering insulation.

If we were going to have to wait for a pro to lend us a hand, at least the exposed wood could look a bit less scraggly, right? And that way when we finally get to tear it down (fingers crossed) we won’t have to worry about all of those half-sunk nails piercing us on the way down.

So this is where we are now. Just waiting on a pro for more info about how to proceed (he’s coming this morning actually). I feel like if this were an HGTV show this would be the part where the homeowner “happens to stop by” mid-renovation, freaks out about how torn up their house is, and confesses to the camera that they doubt the designer will ever get things together but will just have to trust him. So yeah, the homeowner in us is a bit uneasy by not having an exact plan yet, so we’re waiting with bated breath for the doorbell to ring.

At least while we wait we got to cross a few more things off the to-do list in here. Does this mean we’re halfway there? Maybe after we finish lofting…

  • Rip up the old carpeting (check that step out here)
  • Remove the sliding doors and tracks to open things up (we did that here)
  • Convert outlets to outdoor-safe rain-proof ones with covers (we also did that here)
  • Add fresh casing to the openings and caulk like crazy to waterproof everything (here’s the post about that)
  • Demo the old ceiling in hopes of possibly lofting the ceiling (get a pro in here for advice)
  • Remove old beams, reinforce ceiling stability, and install painted beadboard
  • Add a hanging ceiling fan (or two?) and possibly recessed lighting or hanging lanterns from posts
  • Repaint the columns and interior of the sunroom with exterior paint
  • Tile the floors with something outdoor-safe that’s less slick than the glue-stained concrete (we’ve already been poking around a few tile places…)
  • Get a rug, furniture, and maybe even add some outdoor curtains?
  • Build an outdoor fireplace like this down the line

Until we have some “this is happening next” info, we’re turning our attention back to some indoor projects. Thankfully I don’t think any of those will involve ripping down any more ceilings, as much fun as this one was…


  1. Lesley says

    I think Lionel might consider that cheating.

    In my completely non-expert opinion, I think you may need to put a few (2 maybe) cross beams to transfer the weight to the house. Having the ends take the brunt over that expanse may be a bit much. However since it looks like the floor of the newly minted veranda is part of the foundation, the two vertical supports that were between the 3 doors may do it.

    Hope you get good news – you paid out to the Inspector Gods last year with the small deck.

  2. Rachel says

    That is going to look amazing when it is finished. I can’t tell you how jealous I am of your new house and new projects.

    On a side note: Did you have to look up whether to use “bated” or “baited” breath? Because I did…and you are correct. :)

  3. says

    I was really hoping you would find some cash stashed in the ceiling…

    Sadly, we didn’t find any cash either when we took down our living room ceiling. Just an old newspaper (1948) and some old cigarette packs.

    • says

      We didn’t find a thing! Just wires and insulation. Cash would have been awesome though! Someone once commented to say they found thousands of dollars hidden behind a heater I think, during demo!


  4. Annie says

    I know this is your vocation, but I’m always so blown away that you get this stuff done! This is going to be such an amazing spot when you finish it! I was inspired by you to do a DIY fix up of my bathroom this summer. I have such respect for you because DIY is SO MUCH more work than it seems. My bathroom looks much better but it took forever and I almost committed homicide (sorry darling family!) in the process!
    Thanks for all the inspiration :)

  5. says

    Thanks for the shout out John! You’re smart to get a pro to help you. My husband has a background in home building/framing, but if he didn’t we would have consulted someone else for sure. Are you still washing insulation off? I felt like that stuff stayed on my skin for days!

    • says

      Thankfully I think I’ve shaken it all! This was a newer addition to the house (we think insulation and doors were added to convert this from a screened porch to a sunroom about 10-15 years ago) so it was all still attached to the paper and in pretty good non-shredded shape). I was preparing for it to be a lot worse actually!


    • Lisa says

      If you spray or pour vinegar on your skin it will just melt the insulation away! It is a MIRACLE! I took a vinegar bath I was so covered! LOL

  6. Courtney Hollander says

    Are you considering opening up the living room windows and making them french doors to the veranda? That’s what I keep visualizing in the end – it would make the living room seem much bigger and brighter. I really want you to move your sectional to the other wall! (not that I’m thinking about your house 24-7 or anything).#needanewproject

    • says

      We have considered that but where would the TV go? We actually think keeping that a wall of windows with the french door that’s already there next to it is pretty open already and this layout seems to be the only one that works for now (we don’t want the TV over the fireplace we don’t think). Who knows where we’ll end up though!


    • Jill says

      I don’t know that turning the windows into French doors is necessary because you already have a French door right there and the windows are so very large. However, your couch/console is currently blocking a good portion of your very large window and therefore a lot of that light, and you have mentioned that the room is kind of dark because of the veranda acting as kind of shade.

      Have you considered flipping the couch so it’s backed up against the long windowless wall anyway and putting the TV on a more diminutive stand in front of the window? That way, from the couch, you could enjoy the view, the TV, and the fireplace. To me, that seems the best of all worlds.

    • says

      The sofa and console are only blocking about 4″ of the bottom pane of glass (there are 15 panes in each window and 12 of them are unobscured and three of them are blocked by a few inches but then it’s just molding). We haven’t tried the TV on the other wall, but I guess we thought that a TV in front of a bright window might be harder to watch than putting it on the interior wall. Who knows where it’ll end up though! It certainly would be simple to switch things around if we’re jonesing for a new setup…


    • Jill says

      Hm. In that case, if you moved the TV in front of the window, the TV itself might block more light than the 4″ your sofa is doing now.

      What a shame! It would have been nice to be able to sit on the sofa and look out the windows too. I was thinking you could close the curtains (behind the TV) when you wanted to watch TV during the day – I assume you have to do that anyway now? It’s very hard to watch TVs with window light shining direction on them or behind them.

  7. says

    We’ll just call it “Leave it to John”! {Do you guys get Leave it Bryan in the States?}
    Anyway! I can see the potential and it looks awesome!

    • Lisa E says

      It’s an HGTV show. He did another show where he came and rescued home owners that were in over their heads, I think that one was DIY Rescue. This show, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, the home owners show him two spaces and it’s up to him to make the decision on which he’ll renovate.

    • Sarah says

      It’s a show on HGTV Canada starring Bryan Baeumler, a well-known Toronto-based contractor. He basically goes into a family’s home, looks at their top-three priorities for renovation, asks what their budget is and then takes over. He chooses which project he will do (based on what he thinks the homeowner needs most, what will give them the biggest bang for their buck, what they really need a contractor for versus what they could tackle themselves etc.)and makes all the major decisions, but he uses the homeowners buck-a-roos.

      You must not get Income Property with Scott McGillivray, either…that one’s my fave (and not just because of Scott’s winning smile and flowing mane) lol.


    • Karyn says

      I think my favourite show of Bryan Bauemler’s had to be Bryan’s House when he built the family cottage from blank piece of land on a lake to finished. It was drool worthy!

    • Lizzy says

      I LOVE Bryan! He’s easy on the eyes and rather funny too! :)
      I live in Massachusetts and watch him on the DIY network. I think he might be on HGTV too. He has a few shows – ‘House of Bryan’, ‘Disaster DIY’, and ‘Leave it to Bryan’.

  8. says

    It looks great already! I can’t wait to see the finished product. I’d love to do the same with our front porch ceiling, but since we share it with our neighbour (duplex), that won’t be happening ;-)
    And Thank You for using the correct “bated breath” rather than the common error of “baited breath”! (Sorry, that’s my inner grammar nerd coming out.)

  9. Suzanne says

    Can’t wait to see the end result! Opening up the sunroom is going to brighten up your family room soooo much! Once the ceiling is lifted and white, you will be amazed!!!
    Have fun!

  10. Lindsey says

    How exciting!!! This will look great, guys! I just finished priming the fake paneling in my laundry/utility room after painting the concrete floor with the porch paint you recommended (thanks for all of your projects). Picture soft grey floors with more-white-than-yellow walls when it’s done. Can’t wait to hear what the contractor says! Happy Monday!

  11. Laura says

    Hello! Just curious, what are you planning to do with the fan once you vault the ceiling? Will you need to re-wire/lift it to accommodate the new slope?

    • says

      We’ll donate that one (it’s gold and brown) and probably get two drop fans that hang down (maybe in white?) for each side so we stay nice and cool.


  12. Ann says

    I am a little dissapointed of how this project goes. A shaded area in your porch is what it seems so far. I would like to be taken by surprise of the final outcome though.

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