The wood planks are up on the ceiling – yay! So now I’m finally sharing how to install a wood planked ceiling all on your own. Yes, I’m talking a one-person planked ceiling install – the stuff young girls’ DIY dreams are made of (sprinkled with only a few splinters and pulled muscles along the way).
I will be painting my planked ceiling bright white (much to wood purists’ dismay) but will share my filling, priming, and painting tips later. Let’s get to the install.
There are a few good tutorials out there already for installing wood planked ceilings, or tongue and groove ceilings, like this one from Jenna Sue Design and this one from Sawdust Girl. But our kitchen had a few constraints which meant I needed to use different materials and a different approach.
First, I needed lightweight boards. I was installing on top of our plaster ceiling so didn’t want to add a lot more weight to the already heavy lath and plaster. I also planned to (and did) install this by myself so needed to be able to hoist 8′ boards into the air with one hand while nailing them with another. Second, I didn’t want to take too much height out of the room. Our ceilings are a little over 8 feet but we need all that height for our new cabinets and trim. Third, I wanted narrow-ish tongue and groove boards – well, somewhere in between the width of beadboard (sans bead) and 6″ standard tongue and groove boards. Ultimately, I chose these pine boards from Lowes which are a little over 3″ wide, 5/16″ thick, and 8′ long. And they are super lightweight so I could easily lift them.
So once you’ve picked your boards, here’s how to install the wood planked ceiling.
Step One: Prep
Measure your space and buy way more boards than you need. The boards I chose tend to have quite a bit of damage, so you want to avoid using the damaged sections and still have enough to cover your ceiling.
Once you pick these up, let them acclimate in your house (preferably the room where they will be installed) for at least a few days – a week is even better. This will help avoid expansion and shrinkage after install.
Step Two: Cut
I used a miter saw to do all my cuts. I did my cuts on a 45 degree angle, to create scarf joints. This is just a fancy way of saying that I angled the cut on the face of the boards so that when putting them together, they overlap, which hides seams better than butting the two boards together.
Step Three: Install
Before the install, plan it out in your head. If you have wood floors, consider installing the planks the same direction as the floors. You should also consider the way the joists run – it is best to install perpendicular to the ceilings joists. And when you install, install with the tongue facing the open room – it’s easier that way.
Install your first board leaving a 1/2″ or so gap from the edge of the wall. Keep the 1/2″ gap around the perimeter of the room. This will allow for expansion of the wood and should avoid problems with buckling. You can hide the gap with crown molding or a trim piece.
Glue is good, but I skipped the glue and just used my trusty pneumatic nail gun for all the installation. Let me tell you, this tool is life-changing. It has carried me through a bunch of tasks in the past few months including our playroom storage and our master closet beadboard. When nailing for this project, I tried to nail through the tongue, but the wood was so soft it just split. So I face-nailed my boards into the ceiling joists and in between. Use 2″ nails to make sure the boards are really secure.
Then work your way across the room row by row. Make sure you stagger any seams row to row so you draw less attention to them. Also, I used a tape measure to check my planks every few feet to make sure I was staying straight.
Step Four: Lighting
If you are doing this in a kitchen, or another room with recessed or overhead lighting, you’ll need to cut around the lighting. Saving this step to the end will make your install process go much faster. Once you are ready to cut your light holes, the best way to do this is with a hole saw bit. We used a recessed light hole saw bit. Just make sure you measure – we ended up having to buy a second hole saw when our first one was just a little too small, and these suckers aren’t cheap. When in doubt, go up a size, the trim kit should cover it.
Step Five: Be Realistic
This project took quite a bit longer than expected – although it probably didn’t help that I did a lot of it late on work nights. But once you get into the groove (#sopunny), it picks up speed and goes pretty well. A few tips to get you into the groove faster (I just can’t stop):
- Cut a bunch boards at once and then install all of them. This gives you flexibility for staggering seams, less running down the stairs and to the saw, etc.
- When you install, some of the boards may be curved or seem tough to connect, but just use your muscles and it will be fine. If you need more power, use a scrap piece and hammer into the scrap to push the groove of the board onto the tongue.
- If a board is causing you too much trouble, just switch it out instead of trying to force it. Alternately, just break off the tongue (which is usually the problem) and then fit the boards together.
- Your boards won’t fit together seamlessly – just know that going in. That’s what caulk is for. Or if you are going natural wood, you will never even notice.
You could easily finish this wood ceiling with a sealer, or a stain and sealer, or go with paint. I’m going with white paint to keep with the light and bright vibe for our new kitchen. I showed a peek on IG of how I started my priming process and I hope to finish up this weekend so I can share next week…
Anyone else have good tips for how to install a wood planked ceiling?? I can’t wait to get the ceiling done so we can move onto floors. And cabinets. And a life. 🙂