Wood Ceilings

Published: 19th January 2012
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Before deciding on which wood ceiling you want in a special room, think about a few things. Do you have a flat ceiling? A vaulted ceiling? A cathedral ceiling? This will affect your design choices about your ceiling.

A very common type of wood ceiling is the coffered ceiling - wood beams in a pattern with wood panels between them. That's a good look, and works great in a vaulted ceiling or a cathedral ceiling.

Maybe you've got a popcorn finish on a flat ceiling, or a plaster ceiling, and it's just not quite doing it for you. Wood paneling is a good way to cover it up, avoiding the extra work of removing it before putting a new finish on your ceiling.

If your room is rectangular, you can use bead board or wood planks, running the beads or grooves in the shorter direction. This will create the illusion that the room is more like a square than a rectangle. Another option is to use hardwood flooring the same way.

A timber frame look will be more rustic (or country) looking, and it's a lot less expensive and easier to achieve than covering the entire ceiling with wood panels or planks. It involves installing beams in a crossing pattern to create "boxes" throughout the room's ceiling.

Solid wood ceilings can be installed as tongue and groove panels or as planks. Any wood ceiling can be stained to your desired color and will bring a custom touch to a room.

Wood Veneer plywood - This product comes in sheets (usually 4'x8') and can be purchased in 3/4" thickness or 1/2". When working on a ceiling, weight is an issue. So you might want to consider the 1/2" panels.

Wood veneers typically have a MDF core with a thin sheet (1/32" thick) of wood on the finished side. This product will be less expensive than solid wood, and can still look beautiful.

You have the option of either staining or painting wood paneling. The solid woods and wood veneers look best stained or sealed. This creates a more natural look, while causing the paneling to draw the eye and to stand-out more.

If you choose to paint, you can use MDF panels. They are considerably cheaper, but are not made to be stained. MDF and HDF typically come pre-primed and can only be painted.

Wood paneling provides many design options. Set-it-off by framing the ceiling with decorative crown molding or creating designs within the ceiling with panel moldings.

For a classic New England cottage look, you can't beat a paneled ceiling. Paneling can be bought in thicknesses like 1/4" and 1/8" that can be bent, making them appropriate for vaulted or curved ceilings.

Georgia-Pacific makes a product called Ply-Bead that imitates old-fashioned bead board. It comes in 19/32" and 11/32" thicknesses. Suitable for both sloped and flat ceilings, the 4'x8' tongue-and-groove sheets have a pine top veneer that's milled to look like bead board.

The panels come in two patterns. Use the thinner, 1.6" on center bead to visually enlarge smaller spaces, and the wider, 3.5" spacing to visually shrink an area that's too large. To finish off the edges of a beadboard ceiling, try pairing it with traditional crown or cove molding. Ply-Bead costs $16 to $20 per sheet.

The panels, which can be cut with a power saw or handsaw, should be screwed to the ceiling joists. Construction or panel adhesive should also be used. (As they say in the trade - "Glued and screwed.")

Because of the size of the panels, it's best to have a helper during installation. Opaque stains and acrylic latex paints over a primer can be used to achieve any number of looks. The stain allows the wood grain to show through, but the paint is more durable.

Try to imagine off-white moldings surrounding crimson-painted panels. The combinations are endless.

If sheet paneling is a little daunting, there are real-wood options appropriate for a wood ceiling at any lumber yard. Look for tongue-and-groove edges that are beveled to form a V-groove. This paneling is installed board by board with adhesive and blind nailing.

If you want that wood paneling look but don't relish hoisting lumber overhead, consider fiber planks, which are similar in composition to acoustical tile but don't require a suspended grid. Armstrong's new Country Classic Planks are a good example.

These 48" long x 6" wide planks weigh only 21 oz. each, making installation a simple, one-person job. The tongue-and-groove planks are easy to assemble, and can be attached directly to drywall or plaster with adhesive or staples.

Costing about $1.25 per square foot, a carton covers 40 sq. ft. No visible seams or grid lines mar the surface of the ceiling. If the Country Classic Planks don't suit your space, you might want to look at Heritage Planks. These are scored down the middle to give the appearance of narrow, 3" boards.

Whatever look you choose, a wood ceiling will add warmth and value to your home.

Charles Gueli invites you to ask questions about a wood ceiling, and take advantage of the resources on www.continuous-home-improvement-help.com , where guidance, information and support are always available helping homeowners make better decisions.

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