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What is a Barrel Vault Ceiling?


A Barrel Vault … that’s what they keep money in at the bank, right? Wrong. Find out everything you need to know about this ceiling type here.

The barrel vault may sound like a giant structure that holds money in a bank, but that’s not it. You might find a barrel vault in a high-end bank, or one that was built in an old structure, but it’s not meant for any purpose other than to add aesthetic appeal to a room.

But let’s shift our focus away from financial institutions because they aren’t the only places you’ll find barrel vaults; not by a long shot. You’ll find them in the Vatican and just about any other historic structure. You may even find them in your neighbor’s home (gasp).

Have we sufficiently built suspense? Okay, now I guess we can answer the question…

Barrel Vault Boho Chic

Barrel Vault Definition

A barrel vault is the simplest form of a vault created from a single continuous archway.  Barrel Vaults are a type of decorative ceiling that are used to soften the edges of a room and, in some cases, make it appear larger. The easiest way for you to imagine a barrel vaulted ceiling is to imagine a giant barrel cut in half lengthwise and mounted on the ceiling. The process of building one of these ceilings is a little more involved than that, but now you get the picture.

When we talk about a continuous archway, what we're referring to is one single curve that is repeated over and over again on the exact same radius throughout the ceiling. These vaults can span the entire length and width of a room, or they can be used more sparingly to highlight one section of the room.

Are Barrel Vault Ceilings New?

Nope. Barrel vaults have been around for almost as long as we have had civilization on this planet. Evidence of these tunnel vaults have been found in Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian architecture, although, it didn't become an architectural staple until Ancient Romans began building large-scale projects . After the fall of the Roman Empire, we saw the popularity of barrel rolls fall significantly. At the time, it only made sense to install a barrel vault in a sprawling estate.

Why the Sudden Comeback?

Throughout history, this ceiling became popular when trends and finances favored large, expensive construction projects. But recent technological advances have made the barrel vault easier and cheaper to produce, which makes it easier for the Jones's to afford and install barrel ceilings in their own homes.

In fact, here at Archways and Ceilings, that's a big part of what we do. We have perfected the art of building prefabricated barrel roll ceiling kits that are affordable and simple for homeowners and contractors to install.

Components of a Barrel Vault

As previously mentioned, a barrel vault consists of one continuous arch, but what determines how a barrel vault is constructed? When designing a barrel vault there are three basic measurements to take into account: Length, Width, and Rise. Below we'll breakdown what each of these means.

  • Length : The distance from one end of the barrel vault to the other end.
  • Width : The span of the barrel vault
  • Rise : The drop of the arch as measured from the apex of the arch to the lowest point it encounters.

Note : The rise is very important because this will ultimately dictate the style of your barrel vault. Archways and Ceilings offers 6 types of barrel vault styles:

Barrel Vault Styles

  1. Soft Arch
  2. Half-Circle
  3. Elliptical
  4. Bell-Curve
  5. Tudor
  6. Gothic

The 6 Barrel Vault Styles from Archways and Ceilings
The six Barrel Vault styles by Archways & Ceilings

Because each barrel vault style has its own unique design element, it's important to know the differences between them before you start designing your own barrel vault. Feel free to check out our Barrel Vault Photo Gallery to see different styles of barrel vault ceilings and get some "design inspo" for your next project! 

SEE ALSO : Barrel Vault Ceiling Ideas For Your Next Project →

How Can I Install a Barrel Vault?

For most people, installing a barrel vault is fairly easy. It’s the barrel production that can be a challenge. That’s why we got into the barrel-making business so many years ago, and it’s also why demand has only increased over time. As more people realize that they can install these stunning ceilings within their budget, more people are making the move to barrel ceilings. To get the process started, you’ll just need to know the three simple measurements we mentioned before.

  • Length : This is the distance from one end to the other.
  • Width : This is the span of the barrel vault. Exactly how wide would you like it to be?
  • Rise : This one seems more complicated than the other two on paper, but it’s actually quite simple. Rise measures the height of your barrel vault. Measure from the apex of the curve to the lowest point of where you want your barrel to go. As you might imagine, this measurement impacts the radius of each curve.

How to measure a barrel vault ceiling
How to measure for a Barrel Vault Ceiling

Once we've manufactured and sent you your barrel vault kit, you can follow the simple instructions that came in the box, or watch one of our easy-to-follow installation videos. We also have this handy step-by-step guide on how to build and drywall a barrel vault ceiling !

Ok enough reading for today, let's check out this quick video below for a more animated look at barrel vaults!

Looking to get started on designing your barrel vault ceiling? Feel free to contact us , or simply click the button below to get the process started! 

Build Your Barrel Vault Today

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