Y’all know how I’ve been so disappointed with how low the ceiling is in the breakfast room, right? That ceiling was about 7.5′ high in most of the room, but sloped down to about 7′ at the very back of the room (where the pantry will go).
Well, yesterday I decided to take the plywood off of the ceiling to get a good look of what’s up there, and make a final decision on what needs to be done. As it turns out, it’s great news! The low ceiling is a drop ceiling, and the actual ceiling joists are at regular height! Once I remove all of the drop down framing, the ceiling will be a standard 8′ high, just like the rest of the house! Except for the pantry, that is. That’s going to have an angled ceiling.
It was a messy, disgusting job. That old insulation is probably a few decades old and it was filled with stuff I’d rather not ever have to deal with. But that’s the reality when dealing with an old fixer upper. And dealing with that old plywood plywood instead of drywall was a real pain. It was so old and brittle that it would come off in whole pieces. It came off layer by layer, and even most of those layers splintered into strips. So what would have taken about an hour if the ceiling had been covered in old drywall, took me several hours to remove.
But let me show you what I discovered!
The first thing I noticed is that the original roof structure ends where I put the white line in this picture…
That picture is looking towards the back of the room (towards the back yard) where the pantry will go, and where the room had a downward sloping ceiling. Remember that awkwardly sloping ceiling? You can clearly see it on the right side of this picture…
Anyway, the white line indicates where the load-bearing beam is that’s holding the original roof rafters.
Remember that this area was originally an outdoor covered breezeway that connected the house to the garage, and it ended where the white line is above. You can see that the white line is right in line with where the green shiplap ends on the right wall. That green shiplap is the original wood siding that was on the garage.
From that load-bearing beam, the roof angles up towards the front of the house until it reaches the center of the original roof structure, and then it angles back down so that the rafters rest on the front wall of the room.
So at some point, a previous owner decided to extend the breezeway back about eight feet, and then enclose it to make it part of the house. You can see on the wall in the picture below where the wall was extended beyond the original green wood siding. And then whoever did this just added a low sloping ceiling to the back, tied in to that original load-bearing beam, which you can see on the right side of this picture.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Because they wanted this to be a big, open room, and they clearly didn’t want any kind of angled ceiling or that load-bearing beam showing, they had to come up with a way to make most of the ceiling flat, so they built an entire drop down ceiling frame with scrap wood and 2 x 4’s.
You can see in this picture below that actual rafters that are holding the roof extension are sitting on top of that load-bearing beam. (Indicated by the red arrow.) But to avoid having a beam visible in the room. they added a drop down ceiling framing to be flush with the bottom of that load-bearing beam. (Indicated by the yellow arrow.) You can see that by doing that, they dropped the ceiling down six inches.
And then from that load-bearing beam and heading towards the front of the room, they continued the drop down structure at the same height (flush with the bottom of that load-bearing beam). You can see below that they used scrap wood (e.g., the light green piece right in the center of this picture) nailed into the actual ceiling joists to hold the drop down ceiling structure.
So the good news is that all of that drop down structure can come out. None of it is actually structural. It’s only purpose was to hold the ceiling level and hide the back load-bearing beam.
Side note: You’ll notice a lot of black wiring in the attic. All of that old wiring is being removed, room by room, and replaced with new, up-to-code wiring. I’ve found a lot of open junctions in the attic in that old wiring, and that’ very dangerous and definitely a code violation. Wiring codes are different in different states (and cities/counties), but wiring junctions in an attic should always be closed up in a junction box. I’ll be working on updating all of that in the next few days.
This picture shows how much it’ll raise the ceiling. The drop down ceiling structure hits the front wall just right above that white horizontal strip of plywood above the windows. But the actual ceiling joists are several inches higher.
And where the previous owners tried to hide that load-bearing beam at the back, that won’t be necessary for me. As it turns out, that’s exactly where I had intended to put the wall for my pantry, so it won’t show at all!
So the pantry will have an angled ceiling, with the drywall attached to the angled rafters. And the main part of the room will have a standard 8-foot-high ceiling. I’ll get exactly what I want, and all without the need for any costly structural reframing. That’s the best possible outcome I could have hoped for!
In case you’re totally lost looking at those pictures (I know it can look confusing!), I’ve made a video explaining everything. Hopefully it’ll be a bit clearer. Please excuse my coughing, though. There were insulation fibers floating through the air and irritating my throat.