Install a Wood-Plank Ceiling
What to Consider when Hanging Flooring Overhead
By Matt Weber
A wood plank ceiling offers the same classic décor as a wood plank floor, so why not hang one in your house? This ceiling treatment has become increasingly popular over the years and presents an interesting way for DIY homeowners to dress up an often overlooked aspect of the home.
Although the basics of installation of both a plank floor and ceiling are essentially the same, working on a ceiling can present some unique challenges that some DIY’ers might not consider.
PREP & PLAN
As shown in this article, Keith Lively installed a tongue-and-groove solid pine ceiling on his 35-ft. long covered porch. The plan was to install the boards lengthwise, and with such a long span, there was no way to avoid end joints between boards. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re installing the boards in a small room—say, 12 feet long—then you could opt for 12-ft. boards and install them from wall to wall with no visible end joints.
Since Lively couldn’t avoid end joints, he selected boards measuring 8-, 10- and 12-ft. long to stagger the end joints during installation.
The long boards minimize the presence of the joints compared to most bargain wood flooring, which is a mix of short and medium lengths, and no long ones. Another problem with random-length boards is they won’t be the right size to work exactly with your joist spacing. To fasten the ends to the joists would require cutting a lot of the boards to the exact length needed (and a lot of waste).
To avoid the problem of locating the end joints on exact joist spacing, Lively installed a layer of plywood over the joists just like a subfloor, which provided a flat, level and uninterrupted fastening surface. For this project he used 1/2-in. plywood on joists that were 12 inches on center.
The presence of end joints was one of several reasons Lively chose to stain and seal the boards prior to installing them on the ceiling. This installation was located in the unconditioned space of a porch, and seasonal temperature shifts were sure to affect the expansion and contraction of the wood. Staining and sealing the planks (including the end grain) before installing them helps to disguise joints when the wood shrinks. Furthermore, trying to stain the planks on the ceiling would be very tough on your upper body and make a huge mess.
Another thing to consider is the style of the board’s edge joints. With boards that have square joints which butt flush against each other to create a smooth floor surface, the planks can have slightly different heights. This height difference results in a bit of lippage when installed. After a normal floor installation, a floor sander usually levels out the boards, but you won’t be able to sand that aggressively on a ceiling, so the lippage would remain. Depending on lighting, such an installation could look amateurish if you’re aiming for a smooth ceiling surface. However, the V-shaped channels formed by planks that have beveled edges will do a good job of hiding those slight discrepancies in a ceiling. Lively selected a plank pattern with beadboard-style joints, which achieved the same effect as the V-joints.