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Inexpensive DIY Wood Slat Ceiling

Last Updated on October 16, 2012 by Kristi Linauer

On Monday when I posted the before and after of my kitchen, I left out the info about my DIY wood slat ceiling.  Many of you noticed that it was different than in the original kitchen, and wanted to know more, so today I’m spillin’ the details.

Before I added the wood slat ceiling, my ceiling was really in sad shape.  It all started when we added the recessed lighting.  We didn’t remove all of the drywall because…well…something to do with the way that the ceiling joists lined up.

So when we replaced the drywall that had been removed, the new drywall was slightly thinner than the old stuff.  So I was left with awful ridges in my ceiling.  I’m sure that someone a lot more skilled at taping and floating could have hidden those ridge much better than I did.  But taping and floating isn’t my thing.  At all.

So I decided that a wood slat ceiling was the answer.  I purchased four sheets of 1/4″ plywood at Home Depot, and because I don’t own a table saw, I had them cut the plywood into 4″ strips for me.  Then I cut those strips into 4-foot sections with my miter saw.

Then, because I was doing this ceiling by myself, I used construction adhesive on each strip, and then nailed it to the ceiling with my nail gun.

I used a scrap piece of plywood as a spacer so that all of the pieces were evenly spaced.

And yes, as you can see from the picture above, I originally had the idea of staining the boards before installing them.  Bad idea.  Not only did it waste tons of time, but my kitchen looked like a cave.

So then I tried varying degrees of drybrushing and whitewashing.  Those didn’t really work out either.

I finally decided to paint the ceiling, but since I had gone to all of the trouble painting the cracks black, I tried to keep those black.  I thought it would somehow add depth.  It just ended up looking really harsh and overpowering.

So in the end, I just painted the entire thing white…cracks and all.  It didn’t completely disguise the fact that my ceiling was uneven, but it definitely looks better than the drywall….and a thousand times better than the original popcorn ceiling that was in the whole condo when we bought it.

I think I ended up using about 4.5 sheets of plywood for the ceiling in my kitchen and dining area.  So at about $20 each, the whole ceiling came to somewhere around $100.  And overall (without the awful staining/drybrushing/whitewashing/painting the cracks black detour), the process is fairly quick and simple.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Looks great, Kristi! We did something similar to my son’s bedroom wall.

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    October 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Nice fix, Kristi. I need to do something similar to the ceilings at my house. I may borrow your idea.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    If you need to cover an uneven surface like this again, use something thin underneath to even out the surface. You could have glued up some cereal cardboard or something as a spacer.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Why did you use a spacer between the boards? Expansion worries? I’m thinking of doing this on my laundry room wall instead of beadboard. Looks great!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    It looks fantastic! We have plans to do something similar in our kitchen/dining room and I hadn’t thought of using plywood!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    It really looks fabulous! So much better.
    Debbie 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Diane | An Extraordinary Day
    October 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Great save!! I think it looks fabulous!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 11, 2012 at 7:57 am

    That looks great!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Just had an idea…why not use wood grain laminate or real wood flooring on the ceiling? Afterall, the ceiling is a fifth wall, right? Love your makeover!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Beverly Gaydos
      September 29, 2014 at 12:19 am

      I Have Ugly Popcorn Ceiling.And have tons of Laminate Flooring Many different Brands & Colors. With Different T&G SYSTEMS. I have removed Popcorn CELINGS in THE PAST,A tedious job,& dirty ! Being I have a household of popcorn & don’t belive I am at the age or physically capable of DOING BOTH & EXTREAMLY LIMTED INCOME. Ihave vaulted ceilings as well .You can see the joists every 18″ what would you suggest ? I Have Thought about trimming off the T&G ,the variations in colors don’t really concern me being mosaic type colors & grains may look MUCH BETTER than POPCORN!! But the mounting does concern me the GLUING on popcorn will not hold the weight of laminate wood flooring. The laminate all has same width&length Stratling those according to joists dimensions should work a ok but would you recommend the stats that you use with drop ceiling or WHAT!!!!! & how would you mount the laminate certainly finshing nails will not be a option I haven’t tried drilling 1ST & to prevent chipping &splitting.Anyway let me know if your laminate project on CELING WORKED PLEASE ! ILOVED the suggestion on Cutting the 1/4# plywood in4″ Piecies Ibelieve this is the MOST REASONABLE answer I have FOUND! Ibelieve I would ROLL STAIN THE ENTIRE SHEET then touch up cuts.PLEASE HELP with MY DILEMA!!! THANK YOU BEV G.I have even checked on paintable wallpaper that looks like tin& can be faue paintedit says it can be put on ceilings but nobody will answer if I can put it on the popcorn it is prepasted however I believe if vi went this rought I Would Have To Primer the popcorn ceiling with a GOOD primer ! PLEASE HELP!!! THANKS AGAIN BEVG>

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 12, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I totally missed the ceiling in your makeover photos because I was looking at everything else. : ) It looks great and the white was the right color with the dark color of the cabinets. Nice job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What a great fix! I had a similar problem when I removed the popcorn ceiling in my kitchen but not with unevenness but just bad lumps everywhere. I was going to put up wood, but did textured paint instead. Like the wood better. That’s what I would like to put into our great room.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    It looks really good! I would love to do something like this, but we are renters.
    I found your blog because I have been looking on pinterest for tutorials on how to reupholster two wingback chairs, and I just wanted to say thank you for posting details!! Im still pretty intimidated by the ones I have, but I think I can do it! Gosh I hope so.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I love this look, I just saw it in person recently at a historic Inn in Georgia and was saying how much I’d love to try it someday… I’ll need to save this to see how to do it!


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan Davison
    December 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    This is a great idea! I love the look of old, weathered barn wood so purchased used privacy fence, dismantled all the pieces and used them on my lanai (screened patio) ceiling. But first, I painted the entire ceiling Black Bean (SW) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the cracks between the planks. Gives the entire lanai a very laid-back, southern charm. Love it!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    December 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Your ceiling looks awesome!! I’d like to know how you “stopped” it? I saw your kitchen makeover post too and it seems that the ceiling from your kitchen/dining area flows into another space in your home? Is that right? So how did you handle the cutoff?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    December 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Impressive! The steps are simple and no need to call an expert to do this work. My home is currently undergoing renovation and will try this wood slat ceiling in one of the rooms. This is my first time to visit your blog and I found it very useful and helpful for homeowners.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Bathroom Makeover Day 7 – Faux Wood Plank Walls, Part 1
    January 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

    […] when I say “wood plank”, imagine something like my kitchen ceiling, except now it’s going on the […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 1, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    As I was reading about the wonderful way you did your ceiling it came to mind, that painting the ceiling white 1st then add the plywood strips, which I would paint before applying to the ceiling. I hate painting ceilings, any nail areas that showed could then be touched up. Fantastic Idea, on I think I will try on an ugly ceiling of my own! Thanks!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 31, 2013 at 12:41 am

    I love this! We have a house where they wallpapered every room…including TWO ceilings!!!
    My bedroom is like a cave because the put grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling. I’m afraid to try to take it down, as the walls have at least four layers (we tried steaming it off and gave up and painted over the wallpaper on the walls) I’ve been thinking the ceiling needed something…this could be the answer, you did an incredible job. I’m glad there is one thing you can’t do (mud/drywall like a pro) you do everything else so perfectly (just kidding). You are incredibly talented and skilled.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    JoAnn @ SweetPepperRose
    May 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Hi again, love this. Question: did you remove the popcorn gunk with the “wet and scrape” deal, or just go over the ceiling with the boards? I have popcorn throughout and HATE it but also know how expensive it’d be to do pine T&G, and I just don’t have the patience or the time to go through the messy process.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 8, 2013 at 2:57 am

    I have uggo popcorn ceilings and I am SO doing this! Glad to be able to learn from your mistakes too so thanks!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tiffany Hartman
    June 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I have been thinking about doing this to my living room ceiling except I had seen where you can curve it around a support to make the ceiling appear taller. I think Genevieve Gorder did it in a railroad car! It looked really cool- as does yours! Great job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mindy D.
    December 17, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I was remodeling my basement and I did NOT want to keep the drop-ceiling with the “cheezy” tiles. I had my brother look at your plywood ceiling and he came up with the idea of using wood siding. It was already in the 8 inch planks and so we just cut them different lengths to give an interesting pattern. We painted the ceiling bright white and it looks FABULOUS! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      December 30, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Would love to see some pictures of your remodeled basement ceiling Mindy. We have cathedral ceilings in the master bedroom and, they have that horrible textured ceilinga….love the idea of a plank ceiling!! Love this Kristi! I was also wondering if you removed the popcorn ceiling first?

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Kristi Linauer
        December 30, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        My ceiling didn’t have popcorn texture. We ripped down the drywall, installed recessed lighting, and put up new drywall. So mine had no texture on it at all.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathy B
    September 15, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Do they charge anything to cut the plywood?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      September 15, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Officially, they’re supposed to, but I’ve never been charged for cuts.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Kathy B
        September 15, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        That’s amazing. I guess all I can do is ask right? Thank you.

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          Amie Rinier
          November 30, 2015 at 11:21 pm

          They charge if you have a large amount of cuts (that’s what they told me earlier tonight). Anything over 2 cuts is $0.25 per cut, which isn’t bad. I have all the tools but don’t have a set up to cut 4′ x 8′ sheets of ply wood. I have other priorities since buying a foreclosed home and needing to do a lot of work on it. I knew it used to be 3 free cuts so I called and asked since I’m in a different area now then I was than.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 30, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Actually, the uneven areas almost look on purpose. LOL. Looks decorative. Great job!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peyton Cole
    January 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I love this! I am going to do this in the remodeling of our house. The popcorn ceilings all throughout our house is disgusting. How did you go about putting the planks up around lights and such?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 11, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing the results of your efforts. Now I know that white would be the best colour for my plywood ceiling.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Amie Rinier
    November 30, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    I love this and will be doing it in a room I’m converting into a closet. Depending on how it goes because of my shoulder surgery, I may do a few more ceilings this way. I just trying to figure out the board lengths for my closet. It’s 100″ wide. I’ll just have to play around and see what I like.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Debra Venhaus
    March 22, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    This is great! I am turning my 2-car garage into a “tiny home” for myself and will rent out the primary house space. I am on an extremely limited budget and I couldn’t come up with an inexpensive yet decent ceiling covering to put over the insulation I will be installing – and something I could accomplish unassisted. This fits the bill. There is no ceiling, just the joists in between which I’ll put the insulation. I think if I tack these up perpendicular to the joists, it should go ok. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 29, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    2018 and you are still helping people with this post. We have to quickly dress up a failing plaster ceiling for a guest room in the next few weeks. The cost is right for a temporary fix and my wife will be able to do this while I work on the bathroom!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 28, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    HI there, was this done over a previously flat or a stipple ceiling. TIA

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 18, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks so much for the instructions. I will be doing my bedroom ceiling soon (ugly popcorn)
    and was wondering how I would manage work and save some $.