Install an Attractive Beadboard Ceiling

By James Dulley

May 9, 2019 4 min read

Dear James: I bought an older home, and the living room ceiling is in pretty bad condition. I am looking for a decorative ceiling that's easy to install myself. Is beadboard or plank paneling a good option? — Dean M.

Dear Dean: When you are remodeling or just redecorating a room, think of the ceiling as the fifth wall. Unlike the vertical walls, no matter what direction you are facing in a room, the ceiling is always in view. Its color, texture and brightness will impact all the other walls.

There are many options for finishing a ceiling, including paneling, acoustic tile, fabric and stamped metal. Because you are planning to do the ceiling project yourself, tongue-and-groove paneling, of which beadboard and plank paneling are subsets, is an excellent choice.

Beadboard paneling is particularly easy to install. The 3-to-4-inch-wide planks have a groove routed down the center. The contour of this groove is identical to the tongue-and-groove edges. This gives the appearance of there being twice as many pieces as you actually have to install. The planks are typically available in 8-foot lengths and cost about $1.50.

As with any planks attached to the ceiling, they should be aligned perpendicular to the ceiling joists. Depending upon the condition of the old ceiling, you may be able to nail the planks under the existing ceiling without removing it. Use an electronic stud finder to locate the studs and snap a chalk line along the centers for the nailing locations.

The rooms in most older homes — and new ones, for that matter — are not square. Measure across the diagonal corners along the ceiling. If the measurements are not equal, the room is not square. Measure across each opposing wall to determine how far out of square the room is.

Generally, the difference results in a gap at one end, small enough to be covered by a wide crown molding. Locate the true centerline down the ceiling and align the planks with this. Even though it will be painfully obvious to you that the room is out of square, no one else will ever notice it by ceiling planks.

After you purchase the planks, allow them to rest in the room for several days. This allows them to acquire the same moisture level as the room. Prime or stain both sides and all the edges of each plank to seal it. This will minimize future problems with the finish by keeping its moisture content more stable.

The grooved edge of the first piece is always placed toward the wall. This allows you to tap on the tongue of each adjacent piece as you put them in place. The tongue is hidden from view inside the groove, so if it gets nicked from the tapping, it will not be seen.

Small pilot holes should be drilled through the grooved end of this first plank to attach it to the ceiling. The holes and nailheads will be covered by the edge molding. The other planks will be held in place by nails through the tongues. The nails are driven in at an angle so they do not interfere with the groove as the adjacent plank is installed. Cut the final plank narrower to fit and install the molding.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

Here's How
About James Dulley
Read More | RSS | Subscribe