Some things about a planked ceiling…

Marian Parsonshome improvement, My House, Tutorials68 Comments

I did the plank ceiling A.) because we had some sloppy drywall and a strange textured ceiling, B.) because I was hired to write a tutorial on how to install a planked ceiling and C.) because I love the look.  I know a lot of you have questions about the installation, but you’ll have to wait for the tutorial to get most of those answered.  I will definitely link to it when it’s live.  I did want to share some things now, though, that I won’t be sharing in the tutorial.  These are some things that are good to know when deciding if a planked ceiling is right for you.



1.) This is the kind of project that looks bad when only the first few rows are done.  All of the imperfections are really obvious.  By imperfections, I mean gaps, boards that are warped, knots in the wood that show through the paint, tongues that aren’t fitting perfectly in the grooves, etc.  I am not a perfectionist and I had the vision, so this didn’t bother me.  My husband is a perfectionist and he was sick of these planks within the first five minutes.  He loosened up towards the end of the installation declaring, “There’s a gap here and I really don’t mind.  Let’s nail it in and keep going.”  It may have been the hunger and sore shoulders talking, but he started to get the vision and was embracing it.  This treatment can look sloppy closeup, but looks great when you step back and see the full room.  If anyone involved in this project is a super-high-strung-OCD-perfectionist, it’s going to be rough.  Just know that going into it.


(We filled in and painted those holes, by the way.)


2.) Lining tongues into grooves on a 5/16″ thick piece of wood is a challenge.  The materials we used were not super high quality.  It’s nice to work with thin boards, so they are lightweight for an overhead installation, but the fact that they are thin and light means they are pliable and there’s a small margin of error when trying to fit the boards together.  If there is a small drip of paint or the groove got smushed in the package, it’s not going to fit properly.  We used the Pine Ridge Solid Wood Planking with a V-Groove from Home Depot.  It’s sold in the trim/paneling section.  This product was inexpensive and it wasn’t terrible, but it’s just not the easiest to work with.  I’ll look for a different product if we do this again.


3.) Getting a nice, even line around the edge of the room can be difficult.  It is rare that walls are perfectly square, plum and level in a house, so variances in the room width, not enough to see by the eye, but enough to see when you’re planking a ceiling, are to be expected.  This can leave you with a crooked line on one or both sides of the room.  We’re installing crown molding to hide this, which we were planning to do anyway, and I would suggest doing the same.  It gives the room a nice, finished look anyway.



4.) Make sure planking is right for your room.  Once you put a billion nails in your ceiling, you’re going to want to leave it there for a long time.  Make sure it really works for your room and you love it.  This treatment is perfect for a farmhouse, shabby chic, cottagey sort of look, but isn’t going to make as much sense in a super-traditional or modern space.  Just make sure it works.


5.) This is not a one-woman/man project.  I thought this was something I could handle myself or with minimal help here and there, but it is definitely a two person job.  Three is even better.  Four if you have small kids.  There is a lot of holding one end of a floppy board with cramping shoulders while your cohort tries to fit a tongue into a groove as a nail gun is hanging precariously over your new wood floors from your sweatpants that may fall down in front of your dad due to the weight of the nail gun.  There’s a lot of up and down stepladders and picking paint drips out of tongues so everything has the best chance to fit together.  You need help…very willing and wonderful help to get this project done.

I hope I haven’t scared you away, but I know I like to go into projects with my eyes open to the potential challenges.  Yes, I would plank a ceiling again.  It’s a great bang for the buck and is an easy way to hide popcorn ceilings or drywall that was installed by someone who wasn’t very detail-oriented.  These things I am sharing are minor (and very common) bumps in a DIY project.

Does anyone have any projects planned for the weekend?  I think we might start ripping out the counter tops.  Mwah-ha-ha!   

Some things about a planked ceiling…

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68 Comments on “Some things about a planked ceiling…”

  1. I was anxiously awaiting your thoughts on this. Its definitely more than I want to tackle. I’d like the kind they used to do years ago.

    1. We rebuilt our circa 1930 sunroom a few years back. We carefully took down every piece of the original car siding wooden planks (like you refer to) from the ceiling and numbered them. Then we reinstalled them into the new structure.
      I am crazy about the look, but I have to tell you that every single thing Marian says in this article about working with the new plank product holds true for the old stuff as well. Plus, I will add that your arms and neck will hurt like the Dickens for a few days after! Still, for me the final look was well worth it!

  2. I’m curious to know why you decided to use the tongue and groove boards instead of the plywood that is scored to look like beadboard. It seems to me it would be easier because you cover a 4 x 8 foot section with the plywood and then just have to sort out how to make the joins between boards look natural. I’ve been toying with both ideas and wondered what your thoughts were on the matter.

    1. Wow! 4×8 sheets of the siding that you are talking about weighs a “ton”, way to heavy to put on a ceiling. Maybe beadboard would work better, if not the planks. IMO. (I was just startled to think of trying the siding on a ceiling) LOL

    2. Tried the 4×8 sheets on a basement ceiling once. The sheets are thin and it is next to impossible to get them up flat enough that they don’t warp and sag. The other issue are the seams. They don’t line up so that you can ‘hide’ them. No matter how hard we tried, and we are avid DIYers, we could not get them to disappear. Recently, we used douglas fir planks with a v groove on a bathroom ceiling. Worked great and a bit of calk where the board connected hid any imperfections in the seams. The ceiling looks great and I would definitely do this again!

      Love the look, Marian! 🙂

  3. I love it! Curious as to what your ceiling height is. My son what’s to get rid of his popcorn ceiling and this could be an option but he only has eight foot ceilings.

    1. Not sure this would go over exisiting popcorn well since it would not sit flat.. True popcorn ceilings aren’t that hard to get rid of, it’s just messy. It can literally be scraped off with a broadknife and water in a garden sprayer. The ceiling than can be prepped (spackle/sand spots smooth) and then painted. Lots of info on the web for how to. 🙂

        1. Or… drop the ceiling a few inches with a 2×4 frame so that holes are not going directly into the ceiling. This way, if you ever get tired of the look you can take down the planks and not have the job of filling a 1,000+ holes.

  4. Your bedroom is really coming together-beautiful! I am right there with you with the sore arms. My husband and I tackled 2 small bedrooms (using the planks) and a laundry room (using the the paneling). I have a house full of popcorn ceilings and love the plank look. My question is do you think it is possible to overdo it with the plank ceilings? I would love to do every room.

    1. I think that a planked ceiling is better used in only a few spots. Even in a farmhouse, too many planked ceilings is going to be overwhelming visually, IMO.

      In the same vein, I do wonder about the dissonance between the era a house was built in and the decorating style. We live in an old farmhouse, but it’s formal enough architecturally that I’d only plank a bathroom. For example, It does feel odd to me (and uncomfortably inauthentic) to plank a house built in a 1960s subdivision. I don’t mean that you should be restricted to certain styles, but at some point, you also don’t want to make a house something it isn’t. Hope I don’t offend~

  5. I have a couple of questions, First, do you bring the wood into the house for a few days to acclimate to the house before installation, like you do with hardwood flooring? Second, do you nail into studs or does it matter? I really want to do something like this myself! Thanks for sharing the info! 🙂

  6. This is great information. I purchased my wood a week ago and I am letting it get used to the house. I wonder if you could say why you went with this wood as compared to the big 4×8 sheets. I am paying a handyman to help me with mine, he is probably going to get really frustrated because he is a perfectionist! He plans to paint it with a sprayer afterwards, any thoughts on that?

    1. I can’t imagine installing 4×8 sheets on a ceiling! First of all, those pieces are heavy!! I’m sure it can be done, but they would definitely have to be screwed into ceiling trusses and you would have to figure out a way to hide the seams. You would definitely need 3-4 people to hold the sheet up in place. The tongue and groove boards just seemed to make the most sense. I also just prefer the look. They have a more rustic look. The bead board sheets are so perfect…you know?

      1. Years ago, we rented a crankup type machine to put up sheetrock on the ceiling. Saved a ton of muscle and kept the air from turning blue. I think the sheetrock was much heavier than the beadboard. I put 4×8 sheets of beadboard, pine, cut in half as wainscoting in my utility room and they do have a tongue/groove on the edge. It would go much faster and with the machine much easier. However, I don’t know how you would hide the joints on the ends of the 4×8 sheet.

  7. Thank you!! I can warn my husband now because I so want to do this in our whole house because we have funky ceiling treatment. We have an old cottage style house that would be perfect for this treatment.

  8. Just passed my iPad to my husband and had him read this post. I think we’re getting through to him. 🙂 Keep ’em comin’! The ceiling looks great and I can’t wait to see it with crown moulding!

  9. You can also use I think it’s Armstrong planking that looks like painted wood sort of or vintage look pressed metal tiles or faux tiles.
    I have a wallpapered (not by me!) faux grasscloth ceiling I am trying to figure out what to do with. I like what you did here.
    We did a simple pine board tongue and groove ceiling on our old house, for some reason my mind never considered doing it here, but you are making me consider this as an option. It’s not easy but it’s fairly permanent-1 time event.
    I hate how dark the ceiling is. When we moved in we had that on the ceiling and burgundy wallpaper walls. I tried to strip the walls and found 3-4 layers more of paper and just painted over it. It’s not perfect, but the room is dim and you can’t tell easily, lol…it also has black carpet, what on earth were they thinking? (really ugly with slightly colored tiny squares in it, it’s hideous)…

  10. Love this idea! The previous owner of our house put up stretched plastic ceilings, when you take them down you have hundreds of nail holes from all of the framing, not to mention the plaster cracks he was trying to hide. I just started a remodel of my office and this will fit in perfectly with my antique desk and flea market finds. My only worry is how ” not” square my room is. The house was built in 1902 and I do not think there is a plumb line anywhere in it. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  11. Quite the project! Living with a builder for 41 years and LOTS of construction projects later leads me to offer one suggestion to those considering this… glue. Using only nails will result in some warping and gapping between nails…glue will hold the planks firmly against the ceiling. It doesn’t dry too fast so you can maneuver the boards and it also helps hold the boards in place a bit while you’re working, reducing effort. It will look wonderful when it’s all painted an filled I’m sure! I have a couple places in my own house I’d love to do this treatment to….my husband just groans now….too many years…too many projects! LOL

  12. It looks great – I LOVE it in white! We did it (also out of necessity) in our living. We were in the last phase of remodeling and had just finished the 1st floor a year before that when I had a crew working above turning an attic into liveable space – and a guy came through the ceiling. In 20+ years, it was the first time – what are the chances!? LoL We used a hand-scraped hickory laminate in a brown that matched our 1885 fireplace mantel … it’s incredible! I was a little worried it would be too dark, but it’s not as it is a south-facing room and almost “recesses” but frames everything else in the room beautifully. It gives that “library” feel. The laminate was really easy to work with and our ceiling was *far* from perfect. The best thing… everyone things it’s real wood. But I really like that white….. and I DO have another room that needs some ceiling work…. thanks for the idea!

  13. I love the project. I think it’s the best thing you’ve done in your house! And I admire your acceptance of imperfection (reminds me of a Sarah’s House episode where a perfectly painted floor didn’t look awesome, but actually like plastic–it needed flaws to look good). We have ugly ceiling tiles in most of our downstairs, and we’ve considered demolishing them and adding planks. We’ll see if we’re motivated enough!

  14. We’ve been putting up T&G ceiling too, but ours is 3/4″. We’ve encountered much of the same problems, warped wood that won’t fit and all that. With ours, dh cut biscuit slots in the ends of the board so they won’t twist once they are up, and we use a scrap of the T&G, fit it into the piece that needs to be hammered into place so we don’t mess up the boards. It’s still a pain but like you, I love the look, and have a patched sheetrock ceiling we wanted to cover.

  15. Tongue and groove stained and varnished on the ceiling of a porch up the street looks outstanding. Medium dark and adds a very special look in an unusual location on the house.

    Inside a dark stain for less casual rooms and a light stain or pickle wash for florida rooms are options to paint.

  16. Almost forgot why I like natural T&G so much.

    After Katrina obliverated my folks house, the new house was constructed with a semi-octagon front with each flat having a large storm rated window overlooking the gulf.

    Front room has a rounded cathedral ceiling with horizontal 4″ T&G planks rising up to the highest point. Massive 12″ x 4″ beams rise vertically and narrow to a central peak of the cathedral ceiling. Light pine. A few knots but the look is well WOW.

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  18. I lived in an ancient, but well maintained apartment within a huge house. When the owner remodeled before I moved in, he used beadboard in all the rooms for the ceilings. It was perfect close up and from afar and really matched the era of the house. I would pursue this, not planks.

  19. We have a house down the street from us, where the previous owners paid professional carpenters to install wood planked ceilings in their vaulted dining room. When that project was finished, they had oak hardwood floors installed. The room turned out beautifully.
    Two years later, new owners experienced 10-12 boards come loose from the ceiling (nailed only) and come crashing down. You guessed it, huge broken chandilier, dents and scratches on the dining room table and chairs, and even gouges in the new wood floors. The insurance adjuster pointed out that homes are subject to all kinds of vibrations that we are usually not thinking of as damaging. Things such as high winds, sonic booms, railroad tracks close by, doors slamming, low flying airplanes, even children running through the house. As the commenter above said, (the one with the husband who is a contractor), boards, or anything else, installed on a ceiling should be reinforced with construction adhesive. I don’t mean to sound like a “negative-Nellie” to your beautiful project, I just would hate it if someone was hurt, and would like others to be aware that accidents like this can happen if a project like this is in their future.

  20. We had a 20 x 20 bedroom ceiling that we did with the 4×8 sheets of car siding. We needed to cover up a multitude of sins. After the siding was installed we used 1×6’s around the perimeter of the room and at every joint where the sheets butted up and a few going the other direction about every 6 feet. Looks awesome. It did take a lot of screws and putty but i love the look. Definitely not a quick job since we had to putty…..sand…putty…sand…paint…sand….putty….sand… paint..etc. woukd do it again.

  21. Hey Marian!
    Curious how you decided which direction to run the planks???
    Looking forward to doing this somewhere in our house one of these days.: ) It looks so great in your bedroom!!!
    Leah: )

  22. We used old cedar fencing on our ceiling in a casita we had built. They were 3 and 4 inches in width. About 1 inch was cut off each board and then nailed to our vaulted ceiling in a random pattern, much like you would lay a wood floor. After installing, the whole ceiling got a coat of linseed oil. It looks spectacular. We even carried the ceiling out to the covered porch.

  23. We live in a 1935 house with plaster walls. In addition, some of them have had a rough Venetian plaster look added. Has anyone tried planking walls or ceilings with either plaster and/or a rough texture? We have done crown molding in the “venetian plaster” room with not much trouble but the crown was that really light white styrofoam-ish material that had some give. I worry about whether the stiff planks would be difficult to lay evenly against an uneven surface (or maybe it would just even itself out).

    1. I would recommend removing the plaster and lathe and installing the planks directly to the studs. I know this is a messy, dusty job. But it eliminates the possibility of the plaster and lathe coming down from the weight of the planks. And as others have suggested, liquid nail or another construction adhesive is recommended. Hope this helps. 🙂

  24. We did this in our family room a couple of years ago to hide a patch job in our leaky popcorn ceiling. We love it and plan on adding it to more rooms throughout the house. It looks great with the crown moulding and makes the 7 1/2 ft tall ceilings look taller. You’ll love yours more and more!

  25. 8 years ago my builder hubby put a rough cedar T&G barrel ceiling in our kitchen no glue, only nails from nail gun. It looks awesome and we have not had any problems with loose boards.( maybe the curve of the ceiling holds them better than flat.)
    Prior to that house we did a tray ceiling in bedroom with beadboard panels,but it was less than 8 ft so we did not have to use trim to cover any joints.

  26. I’m so envious of your new ceiling, can’t wait to see it with the moulding. I’ve always wanted that ceiling, but I have coved ceilings in all rooms but the kitchen, hmmmm, there’s a thought!

  27. Which model Paslode did you use ?
    I’m looking to do this in a glam closet I have planned.
    If you could only purchase one Paslode which would you choose ?…love the ceiling !!

  28. can you address the issue of the electrical box in the ceiling. Won’t it be to “deep” in the ceiling to connect to your light fixtures(chandelier) etc.) after you intstall the planking?Will it pose a fire hazard if you leave it as it was before, a gap between the box and where the new ceiling meet it. Did you pull it down into the new ceiling depth some how? And if so how did you do it? Thanks( P.S. this was the conversation my husband and I had when I expressed to him I would like to do something like this on the ceiling in our master bath. lol!)

  29. Thank you for sharing this! I wanted to do a planked ceiling after seeing yours, but seeing as I have two little ones under toe, and my hubby probably won’t be as enthusiastic about renovations as me, I think we will just stick to planked walls instead! We are looking at a 1940’s cottage in Australia 🙂

  30. My house was built in 1875 and has the plank ceilings, and they look pretty similar to the new ones you just put in, gaps, rough finishes, inconsistency, and all. Betcha didn’t know you were a head of your time…or is it behind your time….?

  31. Marian,

    I was telling a friend of mine about the t&g planks and that I was going to do my kitchen. She said it would make the room look smaller and closed in. She said her Mother had a house with that and said it closed in the room. I have 8 ft ceilings as well. What is your opinion on what that now that you have it completed?


  32. Awesome! when do you think the tutorial will go up? My husband and I are in the middle of installing these in the kitchen. We found it to be one of the easiest things we have ever done, so far, lol. Now I’ trying to find info on the finishing part. Can’t wait to read your tutorial

  33. I just removed 2 layers of ceiling from a hallway 61/2 x 14 ft (with Wide doorway to the kitchen in my 1870 home , dropped ceiling to cover up the old ceiling tile , my question is first the walls are white paneling and the hardwood floors runs the narrow width of the hall
    should I go the length of the hallway with plank or bead board on the ceiling or across, to be
    the same direction as the floor
    Thank you I hope this makes sense

  34. We planked our ceiling in our master bedroom – definitely need two people (can really relate to the precarious nature of holding planks up – with nail gun hanging off sweat pants or help between the knees). We used the same wood as you and the light weight of the wood made the installation far less of a strain on the neck and shoulders than I anticipated. We also used crown molding and I absolutely adore my ceiling. Will be planking our other two bedrooms.

    We have those textured ceilings that have hard points and we just planked right over it. The only challenge was that it scrape my knuckles when trying to fit some of the grooves together.

  35. Could you please post a link, on this page, to the tutorial you mentioned you were creating? Thank you!

  36. We are getting ready to plank our kitchen ceiling this Tuesday, I think I’ll paint AFTER I hang them up. Thanks for the warning! 😀

  37. I am glad you told the truth about this project. My husband and i are about half way through and he had the exact reaction as your husband did. After the first five or six boards were up he was all ready to tear the whole thing down because we had a terrible time trying to get the tongue into the groove. We are also using the cheapy boards from Home Depot. My husband finally decided to cut the back half of the groove off each board and the installation went twice as fast and since this is not a fast job that is a good thing. We have since agreed that we are doing a great job and it will at some point in the not too distant future look fabulous. We have also decided that this is the only ceiling we are planking.

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