How to Create a Barrel Ceiling in Small Nook

The ceiling of a small breakfast nook is changed from flat to curved.

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Barrel-Vault-Ceiling

Tools and Materials:
table saw and a jig saw
clamps
plaster and plastering tools
finish nailer and nails
tape measure
safety glasses
3/4” birch plywood

Barrel-Vault-CeilingBefore

This nook started out with a curved archway and a flat ceiling. To add more architectural interest, the curve is continued onto the rest of the ceiling.

Steps:

1. Determine the depth of your curve. We started with an arched opening, so to get the exact same curve, we measured the width of the ceiling and cut a piece of plywood to that size. We then cut the plywood to the height of the arch. If you have a similiar situation, have someone else hold the plywood up to the arch, flush to the ceiling while you trace the curve onto the plywood.

2. Clamp the traced sheet of plywood to another piece of plywood cut to the same height and width. Make sure the traced marks are facing upward. Use a jig saw to cut out the traced arch line on both pieces of plywood. Clamping and cutting the two pieces together will ensure they are identical. These are the front and back framing pieces of the barrel ceiling.

3. Assemble the barrel frame on ground before installing it in place. Cut eight 2x4s to the length of the barrel ceiling. These are the ceiling’s ribs. Following the curve of the arched plywood, screw the eight ribs along the curve making sure they are evenly spaced.

Barrel-Vault-Ceiling

4. Lift the frame into position (you’ll need at least two people). Fasten it in place with the appropriate hardware for your walls (drywall screws for drywall, etc). Make sure you hit the studs and headers. Make any necessary cuts for electrical wiring.

5. Cut the plywood sheets to the dimensions of your ceiling. To be able to bend the plywood, use the table saw to cut kerf lines (shallow notches). Cut the notches 1/8” deep (or half the depth of your plywood) on the underside of the plywood. Make sure to run the kerf lines in the same direction as the ribs on your framing.

Barrel-Vault-Ceiling

6. Bend the plywood onto the ribs so it is snug. The kerf cuts will give the plywood flexibility so it can bend. Fasten the plywood onto the frame using a finish nailer.

7. Skim coat the plywood with plaster and finish as desired.

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