Apartment Therapy Beadboard Ceiling Follow Up

Well, we’ve officially hit it big! Hahaha just kidding, but give me just a minute to be excited about it anyway! Whooot whooot we were on Apartment Therapy! It’s exciting no matter how big or small it actually is!

Now that all the unnecessary celebration is out of the way…Our little blog has gotten a ton of traffic on THIS post all about our ceiling makeovers. With the added traffic, I’ve been getting requests for additional information on this project. So, here we go!!! I’m going to try to give you as much (probably too much) information as I possibly can!!

We started with ceilings like this…

While I am uncertain of the technical term for this texture, we referred to them as AWFUL….Just plain AWFUL! On top of the awful texture, we had years of previous water damage and terrible repair jobs to portions of the ceilings in our living room. I’m still kicking myself for not getting pictures of the really terrible areas, but I have a picture of a terrible (but really not so terrible in comparison) area that was in our dining room.

This picture was taken mid kitchen renovation, so please don’t judge me on the dust. We knew all the the leaks had been fixed. We had the roof replaced a few years back and there haven’t been any further leaks, so we new it was finally time to tackle the awful ceilings. Please believe me when I say, “The picture above isn’t half as bad as what the living room ceiling was.” Salvaging what was there with repairs really wasn’t an option at all. Not to mention the face that we HATED the texture.

So, the brain storming began. The first option was, obviously, to tear down the ceilings and start new. You fellow DIY’ers know what I mean when I say that just the idea of all the dust made me want to pull out my hair. That option was just out for us. The next option was to drywall over the existing ceiling, but there’s still the dust of finishing the drywall that I didn’t want to deal with. I have ALWAYS liked the look of coffered ceilings. I think they are beautiful. There’s something about a fancy ceiling that just seems so lush to me. I knew a traditional coffered ceiling wouldn’t work for us, though. Our ceilings are just too low at only 8 feet. So that option was out, as well. I first suggested the idea of MDF beadboard and trim years ago. It took Shane quite a while to commit to the idea. I’m not sure he was catching my vision of the “lightly coffered” look. Eventually, he just just jumped in. We are risk takers, and I have to say usually it pays off….USUALLY.

We started with our bedroom. It felt like less of a commitment than the living ares just in case we hated it. It gave us a chance to get our feet wet with the project, too. We were in the midst of a complete bedroom renovation repairing walls and a custom closet build. So, we opted to do all our cutting and sawing right in the bedroom since it was already a mess with dust anyway. If you aren’t mid renovation the cutting could easily be done outside. It would save you a ton of clean up.

First off… the beadboard.

We are pretty much regulars at Lowe’s. It’s our go to place for any project. So here is the beadboard we went with.

Our bedroom is an 11’x15′ rectangle so the layout was pretty simple. We needed 6 sheets of the 4’x8′ beadboard. Then we purchased enough MDF 1×4 boards to do the trimming. When it comes to starting the instillation, be sure to measure and plan out your layout first. We measured and used chalk lines to plan out the grid, keeping in mind getting the most out of our material and starting in the middle. Since we have a light fixture in the center of our bedroom we wanted a seam to run through the light fixture. We liked the idea of the light fixture being on the “beams” vs. hanging out in the middle of one of the squares.

Once we had our chalk lines, we started nailing up the panels. We did have to cut a few inches of the length of each panel and a few inches of the width to get it all to fit. While you want fairly clean cuts, remember that all the seams will be covered so you have a little play room. We used 18 gauge 2″ finish nails to nail the panels up once they were cut. A nail gun is a lifesaver on this step! We started nailing in the center of the panel and nailed out to the edges. It’s important to nail from the middle first to keep the panels from bowing and bubbling. Though, we didn’t have a specific rhyme or reason for how many nails went into each panel, I would say each panel probably got at least 10 nails. We tried to nail in the groves of the panels because we figured it would be easier to fill and hide the nail holes in the groves than out on the flat surfaces.

There are two things to note on this portion of the project…. First being, it’s nearly impossible to get the panels perfectly flat without a little bit of bowing. The panels have a ton of give so they will bow a little, but once the trim is up, the ceiling is caulked and painted the bowing is really really hard to detect. The second thing to note is that occasionally the nails will pull all the way through the panels. You don’t want to use nails with a real big head because then they will be hard to disguise later on. Finish nails work best but expect some of the nails to pull through. Just remember that the trim adds a lot of added reinforcement to the whole thing.

Once all the panels are up, it’s time to add trim!

First, you need to trim around the perimeter of the room. We used the same 1×4 on its end, but this is were you could do crown molding if that’s your thing. We wanted it to be a bit more plain, however. Once you have all the exterior trim up you can start trimming the interior seams. We wanted the center “beam” that the light ran through to be a little beefier and more of a statement. So, We ran two 1×4’s side by side and then one on top to cover the seam. A square block was cut for the light to mount to since the base of the light was bigger than 4″ across. Then, we just had four more interior seams to cut trim for. We used the same finish nails for all the trim, but this is where you could use a little bit bigger nails for extra reinforcement. T

here’s really only one thing to note on this portion of the project. At this stage the wave of the beadboard becomes even more visible because it’s up against the straighter lines of the trim. You will see gaps in places between the trim and the panels. Don’t freak out!!! Caulking around all the trim does WONDERS. It will really look perfect once it’s been caulked and painted, which is your next step!

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. Caulking all of this is TERRIBLE! It’s a slow slow process. Just keep your eye on the prize! if you haven’t done much caulking in the past, be patient with yourself. You will get a lot better at it as you go on. You want to be sure to caulk around every edge of the trim. It’s painful, but well worth it I promise you.

I’m glad we got our feet wet with the bedroom and the living room first. They are simple rectangular rooms. It was very easy to decide the layout. The picture below is our dining room and that’s where we had a few head scratching pow wow’s about the best possible layout. Our kitchen and dining room are two separate rooms with a very large opening instead of a doorway. So the ceiling flows as one room.

Our biggest hurdle was continuing the lights in the “beams” theme that we started in the bedroom and living room. We liked where the lights were but it if we started with our beams there, we would end up with little 1 to 2ft “coffers” around the edges of the dining room and kitchen. We hated that idea. We wanted all the squares to be pretty uniform. We felt like it would be way too distracting to have little squares at the edges. So we had to make a risky call. Even thought the dining room and kitchen are open to one another, we had to make the panels different widths in each room. It was no more than a 6″ difference, but we were still pretty scared about the difference as we were putting the ceiling up. It seemed like the best option. We didn’t want our lights outside of the “beams” and we didn’t want to have little squares around the edges. The edge panels are still a little bit smaller than the center panels but not significantly enough to tell. In fact, you can’t really detect any of the differences at all! If this is a project you plan to tackle yourself, keep that in mind. You aren’t tied to 4×8 squares just because the panels are 4×8. Sometimes it works out to make them all a little smaller to keep from having strange end pieces. My biggest suggestion is to really spend some time figuring out what layout works best for your space. Measure, draw it out, and then do chalk lines on your ceiling to be sure you feel good about it. Just diving in and starting from the middle often won’t look the best.

Some other little tidbits and things to think about:

One MAJOR thing to note is that if you have drywall ceilings you will want to be sure that you are finding studs and nailing the panels into studs. Plaster, which is what we have, makes it a little easier because there are wood lath boards behind the plaster spanning the entire ceiling. the nails will hold in wood, but not so much in just drywall. If you have drywall I would suggest first laying out a furring strip system running perpinducular to the studs and that is nailed into the studs. Then, you could nail your beadboard to the furring strips. This method wouldn’t be a bad idea in any scenario, that way you are certain that everything is securely nailed to studs.  Here’s a picture as an example.

By the time we got to the kitchen and dining room we got smart with the painting. We ended up painting the panels with a roller once they were on the ceiling, but before we put up any of the trim. It made the painting a little faster, because we only had to paint the trim once it had been caulked.

Since we were renovating our kitchen at the same time we were doing the ceiling, we were able to plan our cabinet placement around the trim we new we would be putting up. If you have cabinets mounted to the ceiling, it’s likely you won’t have the space for 1×4 trim around the top. You will either need to consider different trim or move your cabinets to work. I think it really looks best to have the trim around your cabinets match the trim that’s around the rest of the ceiling. If your cabinets aren’t mounted up to the ceiling you have nothing to worry about.

The light’s in the “beam” scenario doesn’t work in every case, like our pendant lights in the kitchen. Consider making “platforms” for lights that don’t hit a beam to mount to. I think it looks a little cleaner and more intentional than a light that’s just hanging out in the middle of one of the square pieces of beadboard

Don’t forget to fill in all your nail holes as well as caulking the edges of the trim.

There was a panel in our bedroom that seemed to start bowing a little more after a few weeks. We just popped in a few extra nails and problem solved.

Though we have not yet done these ceilings in our bathroom, we do plan to. I think we are going to cut the panels down and use smaller squares, because of the added humidity in a room like the bathroom, there’s a chance for more bowing. I feel certain smaller squares will solve this problem. I would not want to do smaller squares in bigger rooms because of the added cost of extra trim and the extra caulking time, but our bathroom is small enough that it won’t make a significant cost or time difference.

The ceiling in our bedroom had been up for a year and I love it just as much now as I did the day we did it!


I wish I had kept better track of the expense of this project, but I didn’t.  Fail. 12ft 1×4 boards are $8.76 a piece at Lowe’s, and the panels are $19.97 a piece. My “guesstiment” is that our 11’x15′ bedroom was just under $200 before caulk and paint. No it’s not a spare change kind of project, but we have never regretted the investment for a minute. Our house feels SOOOOOO much nicer.

One person has asked about the paint we used. We used Valspar. The color is Ultra White in a satin finish. Please note that Ultra White is VERY white. It works for us because all of our walls and trim is painted in Ultra White, but if your trim is already white I would try to match that. Likely Ultra White will look much brighter than your existing white trim.

I hope this helps everyone considering tackling this project! we absolutely LOVE it! Our ceilings are not an understated focal point. They don’t jump out at you but it’s a pleasant surprise once you notice them. Even though our ceilings are now a tiny bit shorter they actually feel much taller since they are such a cleaner look!

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