Dislike popcorn ceilings too? Here’s how to add a wood plank ceiling right over top of the popcorn without removing it first, filled with farmhouse character!
This super cool project is part of my most recent master bathroom makeover.
One of the main features in the master bathroom makeover was to add a wood plank ceiling to cover the existing popcorn ceiling.
Why wood planked ceilings?
I wanted to avoid popcorn removal challenges, so that’s why I chose to plank right over top of my popcorn ceilings, even after being told it couldn’t be done!
Wood planks offer a crisp, clean, timeless look that never goes out of style! And of course, nothing beats a wood planked ceiling to add more farmhouse charm character!
The main concern was that the boards may have a ripple effect if they went over top of the popcorn. My popcorn texture was minimal, and I’m sure using more of a matte finish paint helps so you don’t see every single imperfection.
However the biggest perk of all? Planking over top of a popcorn ceiling leaves little to no mess! No furniture or floors needed to be covered. In fact, I left my entire rooms perfectly intact.
Should you remove popcorn first?
Removing popcorn texture off a drywall ceiling is possible. Popcorn ceilings can be scraped smooth first, then planked over top or repainted if you are going to leave them as just drywall.
However several challenges can come into play with removing popcorn:
- Ensure to test your ceiling for asbestos first.
- Removing popcorn texture is very messy. You’ll need to cover all the floors and furniture.
- Drywall repairs are likely to follow, so be prepared to remud and lots of sanding.
- If the popcorn has been painted over, this makes popcorn removal much more challenging if not extra impossible. You may want to hire out help.
Sample of wood plank ceilings installed differently
Planked ceilings actually aren’t new to this old house.
The white planked ceiling above resides downstairs in my photo studio.
When I moved in, there WAS no ceiling, just a jumble of wires. The planks finished it off beautifully! But at the time with no skills, I had the install done for me, then primed and painted the ceiling boards after installation.
However if you look really close, you’ll note some separations in the boards. Boards will likely separate over time so you can choose to caulk the separations and repaint. I personally didn’t bother.
It’s still a pretty look, although a little more rustic.
However using this previous installation as a guide to try and do better this round, here’s how I chose to install this next planked ceiling that offered a much cleaner outcome.
And it turned out amazing! So here’s how to cover a popcorn ceiling with wood planks without removing the popcorn first!
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How to add a wood plank ceiling
1 x 4 for the crown moldings
primer and paint
chunk of wood
nail gun and nails (I used 1 ¾”)
hammer and one big nail
room for repainting boards (I like using folding tables)
someone to make dinner for you (I ordered out!)
Wood planks used
I picked up some thin, pine tongue and groove planks in a bundle from Home Depot that measure 3.25″ wide.
Priming bare wood planks
Priming and painting the wood ceiling planks can be done after installation or before. I’ve done it both ways, and my personal preference that made it so much easier was to paint before installing the planks. Working overhead is just more challenging than painting on a table.
However, you will require lots of space to work. I separated the task, and filled up a room full of planks, then once completed, did another and repeated until done.
1. Lay out all the planks you will require, and prime if you are working with bare wood planks. Use a shellac based primer if there are wood knots so they don’t bleed through later.
Be sure to prime each individual tongue and groove as well, however keep the edges super clean by wiping back with a rag, and cutting off any dried drips with an exacto. The edges must be pristine so the boards can be joined.
For quicker coverage, you can roll on the paint, however I would recommend smoothing it out with a quality wide paintbrush so you don’t leave an orange peel texture.
Painting wood planks
2. Paint the wood planks in a paint of your choosing.
I chose Cloverdale Paint pure white straight out of the can in a Kitchen & Bath quality with an eggshell sheen.
I personally think a wood plank ceiling looks better if it isn’t shiny like woodwork.
How to get the whitest white paint
I used a tip from Makely School for Girls, called Lindsay White. Lindsay describes it best, but she says if you add extra white to a white paint, will be less transparent and will cover better.
She is right! I’ve been getting paint stores to add more white to white paint for better coverage ever since. I usually request for them to add 2 drops.
3. Clean all the edges of the tongue and groove wood planks.
While you paint the wood planks, you’ll likely end up with a little bit of paint buildup where the wood needs to join together.
I run extra swipes with the paint brush along all the edges. Then once the paint is dry, cut away any potential paint drips with an exacto knife. This will save you time when you connect the boards once installed.
Mark out the ceiling joists
4. Locate, and mark out all the ceiling joists.
You’ll need to locate the ceiling joists (and they way they run) so you have something to nail the boards to.
I totally lucked out that the joists ran the opposite way my planks were to go down. If they ran the same direction, I would have either had to add wood strips to the ceiling first, or change my plank direction.
How to check for ceiling joists
Use a stud finder to locate the joists. If this doesn’t work, here’s what I ended up doing:
Pound a big nail into the ceiling with a hammer until you find one. Then measure 12 – 16″ away from it to find the next one.
Attaching the wood planks
5. Cut boards to right length, then nail into ceiling.
Start the first row by placing the narrow side of the board towards the wall and the slot outwards. Nail in the first plank.
I drew a couple of lines on the ceiling indicating where the studs were located so I knew where to nail.
Also note, I chose to only use planks that ran the entire width of the room to avoid joins. You’ll waste more wood this way, but I plan to use the cut offs for future projects anyway.
If you can’t avoid wood joins, just ensure to stagger them.
Where to nail
Place two nails on each joist and one or two nails on each end.
How to join the tongue and groove
Once your first piece is in place, dry-fit your next piece to check for fit. If it won’t willingly slip into place (which 99.9% of them won’t), place a small chunk of wood against the board, then tap the board in place with a rubber mallet.
Some will fit. Some won’t fit. Rather than fight the ones that didn’t, I just nailed them in place anyway and continued, filling them with wood caulk later.
Measure periodically to keep the wood planks squared.
Wall jogs, ceiling fans or light fixtures will likely be in your future.
Measure areas against the walls, then pencil onto your cut to size boards.
To trim, I clamped the wood into a workmate, then cut with a jigsaw.
It’s all good. A little humour will help get you through this…
How to fill nail holes and gaps
6. Fill in holes and cracks with spackling and caulk.
You’re going to be left with some gaps in between wood planks as well as nail holes, so filling them in will improve the finish. Dramatically.
- Fill nail heads with spackle. (I like the featherweight spackling)
- Caulk in between boards wherever there is a gap.
This kind of spackling is ready to use, and easy to spread. It will not shrink, crack or sag, and accepts latest paints with no bleed-through.
- Apply the spackle with a spackle knife.
- Allow to dry.
- Lightly sand.
- Prime, then paint.
In the areas where the wood planks didn’t quite join perfectly, caulking the joints really cleaned them up and made a dramatic difference over my previous planked ceilings.
Simply run a bead of caulk where there is a crack, then spot prime, and paint.
Here’s how to caulk like a pro, thanks to being taught from a professional trim installer:
- cut caulk tube on a very small angle
- apply caulk
- release the gun pressure
- wet your finger with water
- run wet finger along the fresh caulk
- wipe wet rag over top
If you keep your fingers, caulk tip and caulked areas spotless, you’ll have perfect lines and very little clean up afterwards.
After you’re done, insert a nail or screw into the opening so the caulk doesn’t dry out.
Add a finishing top coat
7. Spot prime, then repaint where needed.
While my own wood planks were pre primed and painted, after the filling you will need to give the works one more coat. But I still find that easier than doing everything once it’s on the ceiling.
I spot primed over the nail holes with a brush, then rolled the entire ceiling with finishing paint, following with brush strokes to remove the orange peel texture.
Finish off with crown molding
To finish off the ceiling around all the edges, I used 1 x 4s for a simple clean molding. I didn’t even bother to miter the corners. Simply cut them square, position, nail, caulk, then paint.
And that is how I installed DIY wood ceiling planks all by myself!
I am so thrilled with the outcome of this gorgeous planked ceiling! It’s pretty much flawless due to the pre painting and finishing done. Well worth the extra work!
I suggest to start with a smaller room to build some experience before tackling a bigger area. Especially if you’re installing a DIY wood plank ceiling solo.
Think you’ll try to plank a ceiling of your own? Which room would you start with?
Other related posts you may enjoy:
Visit all parts to Master Bathroom 2014 HERE