In the Sierra Nevada, many homes are built with soaring tongue and groove ceilings and
huge exposed beams. While these designs are beautiful and striking, they also cause an effect
which is much like a sieve, allowing heated and cooled air to escape.
We’ve tested houses with this architecture and found massive air leaks where the beams
penetrate walls. There is also leakage along the top of the beams and where the tongue and
groove meets the drywall. As the wood ages and dries, even the individual boards of the ceiling
shrink and pull apart, allowing expensively heated air to escape! In the winter, you can
bet these houses are beleaguered by damaging ice dams.
Making A House More Liveable
We’ve been working on a beautiful home of this type at Lake Tahoe. You could stick
your hand outside through some of the holes created by the beams penetrating the walls.
Of course these defects are hidden from ordinary view so the homeowner only knew that
her house was always cold and her energy bills high. By caulking and plugging the very worst
penetrations – especially the penetrations through the walls and the drywall/tongue and groove
ceiling interface, the house has become more livable.
Granted, a more comprehensive approach would be to build a false ceiling below the
cathedral ceiling – one of drywall which provides a competent air barrier and which can
be well insulated. Because few homeowners are willing to give up the aesthetic properties of
their homes, we concentrate on the steps we CAN take, which certainly make a huge difference.