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Installing Wood Ceiling Panels

How to Install Wood Ceiling Panels and Planks

By Mark J. Donovan


One of the nicest features I like about Adirondack homes is the decorative wood ceiling panels that often accompany them. The wood ceiling panels or planks just add an extra amount of ambiance and texture to a room that makes it feel comfortable and warm. Wood ceiling panels and planks are often made from pine, but can also be manufactured out of more expensive hardwoods. Ceiling wood panels and planks often have tongue and groove edges to ensure a tight connection between boards. Some wood ceiling panel and board types also include unique designs and features to absorb sounds, which is a common concern with wood paneled ceilings.


There are also faux wood ceiling panel and plank systems that are less expensive to install yet look very good as well. They come in a variety of sizes, colors and grains, are light weight, and can be installed by the moderately skilled DIY homeowner. They are manufactured out of high-density polyurethane and thus require zero maintenance, will not rot or decay, and are not susceptible to insect damage.

Installing wood ceiling panels, particularly solid wood types, can be somewhat challenging as ceilings are normally not square and ceiling joists are not always exactly evenly spaced. Consequently itís a good idea to hire a professional contractor who knows what he is doing. This said, if you feel up to the challenge, by all means go for it and install your own decorative wood ceiling.

The first major step when installing wood ceiling panels or planks is to check the ceiling to see how square it is and to identify where the ceiling joists are. Use a chalk line to snap lines on the drywall ceiling directly underneath the locations of the ceiling joists. This way thereíll be no issues when it comes to nailing the wood ceiling boards or panels in place. The ceiling panels or planks are typically installed perpendicular to the ceiling joists.

When actually cutting wood ceiling planks do not cut all of them to the same length. When you measured the ceiling to see how square it was most likely you noticed that one portion of the ceiling was wider or longer than another. Thus it is wise to cut only enough boards of the same length to cover a ceiling width of only 12 to 18 inches. After each 12 to 18 inch section check the ceiling width or length again to determine how long to cut the next set of decorative wood ceiling panels. Also, when installing your first wood ceiling plank or panel make sure it is positioned so that it is square across the entire ceiling width.


This may mean you may need to fill a small gap with a scribed plank at the end of the project. Ideally you should position the first plank so that there is enough room to install a scribed plank of nearly the same width as the rest of the planks. This way the end piece does not look like a small triangular sliver.

Depending upon the type of decorative wood ceiling panels or planks you are installing you may need to include glue on the back side of the pieces. Typically, however, with wood ceiling planks they are tongue and grooved so each piece simply needs to be nailed into the ceiling joist and the adjacent oneís tongue slid into the groove of the previous one installed.

After the wood ceiling panels or planks have been installed a decorative edge molding, e.g. a quarter round, is installed around the perimeter of the ceiling to hide the gaps between the planks and the ceiling edges.

In some decorative wood ceiling panel installations a cross network of trim pieces are installed first so that effectively inlay wood ceiling panels are created with the installation of the wood planks. This installation method is more time consuming and includes more precision for ensuring square or rectangular panel areas are created, via the cross network of trim pieces.

While installing the wood ceiling panels or planks itís often necessary to account for lighting fixture electrical boxes, speaker boxes, and fire alarm electrical boxes. Extra measurements are required and a jig saw comes in handy.

Once the decorative wood ceiling panels or planks have been installed the ceiling can be finished with a light stain or clear wood sealer. Finally lighting fixtures, and other electrical items, can be re-attached to the ceiling to complete the project.



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