Open Ceiling Rafter Design

Homes with open rafters, such as Western cedar, timber frame homes, have design work that is both beautiful and functional. The construction of the rafters literally holds the roof areas of the home together. Experts will need to plan construction aspects to support the visual design. Study photos of rafter designs to understand all of the choices for this kind of design work.

Exposed Beams Add Appeal

These support timbers literally hold up the weight of the roof.

Large beams across an open vaulted ceiling emphasize structural beauty.  The beams, typically made of high-quality maple or oak, may also hide electrical wiring encased in conduit running on their top sides. Large light fixtures, such as chandeliers, look appropriate hanging from beams.  Or small rows of lights across the bottom edges of beams can create ambiance.

Trusses Provide Strength

Very basic wooden trusses can work to span a very wide space.  Trusses are constructed of sections of inexpensive wood, such as pine, and held together at angles by metal brackets or wooden pegs. Painting the trusses is the best option if metal brackets are used as support hardware.  Staining is a good option, as well, if no metal is visible from the room below.

Angle Iron Strengthens Framing

Vaulted ceilings require strong support hardware.  It's possible to do away with attic floor joists, which are also a room's ceiling rafters, by installing angle iron to hold adjoining boards together at the top roof line. Where the side rafters join at the top to form an upside-down V, an iron bracket is installed to join the boards securely.  This method allows you to create a ceiling opened to the highest roof level in an A-frame fashion.

Timber Frame Is Very Impressive

Artistic trusses made of timber frame material in X shapes and decorative patterns are impressive.  Assembling a system of beautifully stained wood in this fashion is a job for experts. Special building equipment, such as a crane, may be required to set these trusses in place.  Often, timber frame rafters will match stained wood that runs throughout the roof and wall areas. The interior roof and wall wood are usually tongue-and-groove and made of cedar, red oak or similar high-quality woods. 

Metal Complements High Tech

Exposed steel beams can work in certain homes as rafters.  If your house is a modern, high-tech design, you might utilize steel beams that are exposed in a room with white walls and black glass-tile floors. You can paint the beams in high-gloss red paint, as one option, or use chrome paint.  The strength of the beams complements chrome furnishings, sleek wooden cabinets and large windows.

About the Author

Judi Light Hopson is a national columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. She is founder of Hopson Global Education and Training and co-author of the college textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress. She holds a degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University, and has been a professional writer for 25 years.