Kitchen Remodel: Wood Panel Ceiling


One of the first major projects in the kitchen renovation was installing the wood panel ceiling. We previously removed the soffit above the kitchen cabinets as an exploratory exercise (which, in turn, led to this entire kitchen renovation!)

I started by doing some research to figure out what material and technique would work best for us. Now, if you remember in the design plan I planned to white wash the paneling to tone down the wood texture without completely hiding it. For a couple of reasons, I wasn’t really concerned about having perfectly smooth, high quality wood:

  1. I liked the idea of the knottier wood texture showing through for a, sort of, cottage-like feel.
  2. Our house is not new, nor is anything in it, so I didn’t want the ceiling to feel out of place.
  3. A lower quality wood paneling would be cheaper.

I found Edith & Evelyn’s How to Plank a Popcorn Ceiling tutorial incredibly helpful during our planning. We ended up using the same type of economy wood plank panels from Lowes. For whatever reason they aren’t listed online, but if you go to the store you can find them near the trim/paneling section. They were sold in packs of six at 4’ and 8’ lengths. To ensure we had enough planks and a randomized pattern, I laid out a ceiling plan.

For us, this was a critical step in making sure installation went as smoothly as it could. It allowed us to pre-cut a bunch of planks to length and it was something we could both reference during installation to make sure we were on the same page.

It’s important that all of your planks get nailed into joists, so before we started nailing anything to the ceiling we marked all of the ceiling joists with chalk lines. With a higher quality tongue and groove plank you would shoot your nails into the tongue so when the groove of the adjacent plank is tucked in you don’t see any nail holes. Since our wood was lower quality and the tongue was quite small, we found that it kept breaking when we nailed into it. Because of that, we decided to nail directly into the flat surface of the plank. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t too concerned about the surface looking perfect, so I didn’t really care about these nail holes. It kind of just added to the character and texture.

We applied liquid nails on the back of every plank to make sure they were really secured. You probably don’t need this step, but because the planks varied in length, sometimes the shorter planks only crossed over one or two joists, so the liquid nails guaranteed adhesion. We used a rubber mallet and scrap block of wood to tap each plank into place (which is very important to make sure you have a tight fit). There were a few areas where we had to mark and cut holes for the can lights, but Matt made quick work of those cuts with the jigsaw.

I had initially planned on staining all of the boards before we installed so it would just require a few coats of poly on the ceiling, but I really wasn’t loving any of the stain combinations. I figured maybe I would get them all on the ceiling and try the stain in place.

Once we had the planks up I decided the wood grain felt too busy and was giving off more cabin-like vibes. While it was very cozy I decided to go ahead and paint it all white – Swiss Coffee @ 75% tint in satin. I’m so happy with that decision because now it’s more of a subtle texture and less of a focal point. It also brightened up the room a ton and doesn’t create as harsh of a stopping point for your eye when you take in the room as a whole.

Now that we’ve completed the project and lived with it for a while, one thing I’d recommend is to make sure you use a really good primer and do a few coats. Pine knots bleed through light colors of paint so a good primer will help prevent that from happening. I wouldn’t recommend Kilz, personally. We used that and despite it’s promise to block stains, we are due for a fresh coat of primer and paint already!


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