Three different types of ceiling coffers compared and priced
Coffered ceiling can add incredible beauty to a space and recently one of my designers put together this drawing for our client and asked how much it would cost.
In rough terms it depends on the size of the room and 80/square foot is not a bad guess considering that it will required electrical work to get the can lights centered in the openings and a lot of caulking and painting.
But more than the size, the specifics of how the coffers are created and their depth impacts the price.
I sent these three choices to my designer with approximately these notes on their advantages and costs.
All three ceilings begin with creating framing for the cladding and crown.
In the ceiling above, a paintable wood board is placed on both sides of the frame to extend beyond a board placed between them. Crown molding is placed inside the coffer as it is on all the options.
This is the easiest way of creating the coffers because it avoids mitering the wood edges. I does require using real wood rather than MDF because exposed MDF edges are very difficult to finish.
The coffered technique above is more expensive. Here the coffer cladding is done with MDF which is mitered and then perfectly caulked. While the materials are less expensive, the mitering is time consuming as is finishing them to get this level of perfection. Over time, as the boards dry, they can split at the mitered edge so they might need additional work for the first few months or years until they stop moving.
The coffer surface can also be done in drywall and this can make sense when there is major construction and the dust from drywall sanding is less of a problem. Drywall tends to crack less in my experience but it can crack as well depending on how well the humidity is controlled throughout the seasons.
This coffered approach adds an additional trim piece to coffered edge. It’s great looking detail but because it requires more work, more materials, additional edges and therefore caulking, it’s the most expensive choice.
You can also notice that the coffers here are deeper than the other coffered ceiling. All three could be this depth so it’s just a matter of specifying it. The deeper the coffer, of course, the more it costs as materials and labor increase.
Other factors to keep in mind are that can lights have to be perfectly centered in the coffer. Conventional cans might not allow this as they might run into joist however with LED cans now the thickness of drywall, this can often be resolved.
Fire sprinklers also present a problem as they cannot be located inside a coffer but must be moved onto the lowest surface of the coffer to remain optimally effective.
A good plan showing where all the lights, ducts, sprinklers and HVAC registers are going in addition to a cross section drawing of the coffer is invaluable to pricing and building.
Mitch Newman, the author, is principal of Stratagem construction and Habitar Design.