Raising the Roof

We live in a 1 ½ story house that has not been updated since it was built. On the upper level we have 2  bedrooms and a bathroom. The steep pitched roof and framing didn’t help with the ceiling height – as expected with most Cape Cod style houses.  The entire second level ceiling height was only 8 feet tall and all the walls had the popcorn texture – we had popcorn ceilings and popcorn walls! They should have just made popcorn floors too! 🙂

Initially we thought taking off the popcorn was an easy project (according to YouTube videos). We started to scrape the popcorn and realized it was not as easy as spraying water on it and scraping it off. The layers of paint made it difficult for the water to soak in. When the water did soak in, entire chunks of the wall would come off as we scraped. It was because the wall was plaster and it would crumble very easily.

5 mins into it and I told Charlotte “it would be easier just to take down all the walls!” She said, “ok, do it.” She drops her scraping tool and heads downstairs to prepare dinner. So now I have a bigger project on my hands.  I picked up my hammer and started to take it all down. Demolition is not like what you see on TV, it is messy, dusty and a lot of work.

When taking down plaster walls, I find it helps to pull it down in larger pieces as this would create less dust. The demo took about 18 hours. Having all the walls down made it a good opportunity to upgrade the insulation and to ‘raise the roof’ – well, technically it was raising the ceiling height.

The reason why the ceiling height was so low was because the original owners had to make space to accommodate gable venting. I decided to close up the gables and install roof vents to air out the attic. By doing so, I gained an extra 2.5 feet in height and now my ceiling is at 9.5 feet.

Raising the ceiling height was no easy task. First, I had to take a look at where the collar ties were and also figure out if the knee walls were load bearing. It was easier to figure things out because I had all the framing exposed. Remove the existing 2×4 collar ties was easy, I essentially had to remove them one by one and put in new (higher) 2×6 collar ties in sequence. Doing so would make sure I wasn’t compromising the structure.

The knee walls were load bearing so it helped support the span of the roof from the wall to the collar ties. It also allowed me to make the new collar ties higher. I can tell they were load bearing knee walls because at the mid-way point, the rafters sat on the knee wall and had a birdsmouth cut in it.

The additional 2bys that you see in the photo are spacers which I added to the roofing structure to create space for extra insulation. The first set is on the underside of the roof. This will create a 1 inch air gap on the underside of the roof to prevent ice dams. The second set is used to make the rafter space deeper so that I can fit in more insulation.

As the drywall went up, we could really see the big difference. Although the floor space remained the same, the higher ceiling made the room feel much larger. Well worth the effort. All this started because Charlotte didn’t like having popcorn on our ceiling and on our walls.

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