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Kitchen Update – Tongue and Groove Ceiling

About 15 years ago, I completely rebuilt my kitchen from floor to ceiling. Well, here I am again—the only difference is that I can’t do it all at once. Taking this one in stages, with a schedule mostly determined by how much padding my wallet has.

And, I seem to be doing this all backwards.

This all started about four months ago when my dishwasher died. A good sale at Lowe’s had me carting home a nice new Whirlpool Gold Dishwasher (Lowe’s P/N 362071). And since we got that in stainless steel, it meant I would soon be changing over my other old appliances.

That led to a new fridge. And then some tile and paint.

I’ll probably do the cabinets last.

See? backwards.

In my paint post, I had a pic of the ceiling. A wavy, cracked ceiling of plaster over gypsum. I had laboriously patched and smoothed over the crack, using reinforcing tape, mud and way too much sandpaper trying to get it perfect.

Only for it to crack again about three months after I got done.

So I could stare at it for the next fourteen years.

I figured the best way to handle this would be to pull the roof off the house and start from scratch.

Nah. But in the end that might have been easier (more on that later).

Dad blog does DIY tongue and groove ceiling boards

Here’s the crack that kills.

I basically planned to cover it up. I thought about using some ¼” drywall, but I wanted to capture the exposed tongue and groove roof deck look that so many mid century homes have.

I found a product that simulates tongue and groove wood, but it’s made of some type of laminate over that crumbly drop-ceiling tile material. It looked great and seemed like a good idea until I read some online reviews. That was out.

So I went with good ol’ fashioned wood, tongue and groove pine (Lowe’s P/N 181508).

And how hard could that be? Cut to length, paint ‘em, a few blasts of the finish nailer and I was in business.

Yeah, right.

I started

I started by finding the ceiling joists. They didn’t want to be found. It took me forever. Studfinder #1 died. I had another one and it worked great on one end of the room but couldn’t find ice in an igloo on the other end of the room. I measured and then just used some 8d nails to make sure there was something to nail to later.


The nails helped me strike some chalk lines.


Since I was using real wood, it had some knots. You gotta seal them with some shellac before painting (Lowe’s P/N 208943). Otherwise it’s like playing hide and seek with a four-year-old—he’s hiding under the bed, but his feet are sticking out as he tells you “I’m hiding.”

A simple coat of shellac over knots will prevent bleed-through when painting. Just put it on smooth cause it can build up and splatter and that will show in the final coat of paint.

A simple coat of shellac over knots will prevent bleed-through when painting. Just put it on smooth cause it can build up and splatter and that will show in the final coat of paint.

I went ahead and cut every board to length and painted both the front and back sides

I went ahead and cut every board to length and primed both the front and back sides. Since wood expands and contracts with temperature and humidity, you don’t want one side expanding more than the other. I was careful to not get paint on the tongue or in the groove, since it was already a pretty tight fit.


I don’t have any covered workspace. So I primed this stuff outside while it was a balmy 98 degrees. The primer seemed to dry so fast it didn’t get a chance to flow and smooth out. So I spent a ton of time sanding each plank with some 180-grit before the color coat.


For the top coat, I tried the new Valspar Reserve paint. It’s supposedly a primer and paint in one. I still primed before painting as I didn’t want the wood to suck up too much of this nice paint. Side note: I planned on using some track lighting we purchased quite some time ago, and the components are not a bright white, so the Lowe’s paint counter actually took the plastic cap I brought in and matched the paint exactly.

So, here’s the first board in. I had to face nail it on one side, then nail through the tongue on the other side. Also notice the wiring. This was delay number two in the project. I had to find a box that would extend the depth of the 5/8″ planks. And, this lighting was on two three-way switches—switches that never worked properly since we moved in. I found they were wired improperly. In hindsight, I should have just eliminated the second three-way switch, since we never use it anyway.


A couple more planks in. Some went easy, some were downright nasty. I discovered quickly that the ceiling was wavy and that each plank required some shims at each nailing point. Delay number three. Oh and then I found out that some of the tongues didn’t fit some of the grooves so well. Delay number four is me using a chisel to clean up every other plank’s tongue.


This is delay number six. My Porter Cable finish nailer crapped out. I don’t know what happened and didn’t have time to figure it out. I always keep my air tools oiled and clean. So I went to Lowe’s and picked up this awesome new Bostitch (Lowe’s P/N 592800).


I liked the small footprint of the Bostitch finish nailer, able to get into some tight spaces with it.


Compare that to the Porter Cable. Although I like the padded contact trip. I’ll fix this one later.

Oh, and the new one has a built in pencil sharpener.

Oh, and the new one has a built in pencil sharpener.


Here’s a close up of shimming a plank and how I managed to shoot three nails into the tongue of each nailing point.


Alright, here’s some progress. In getting here, I had not one, but two of my shop lights fail. And no, it wasn’t the cheap bulbs I buy for them. They just completely failed. What are we on, delay six? I had to run to my shop and get my last two work lights. But at least I managed to cut that hole correctly for the electrical box.

I figured I would save some time by painting every board before installing. Then there’s no need for taping and drop cloths and the pain of painting overhead. Just a few touch ups right?

Well, no matter how many times I washed my hands, those boards got dirty and dinged up during the install. I then had to clean them all, fix some dings and sand them, then a whole ‘nother coat of paint. I literally was running on fumes as I finished the last board.

Next came the lighting install. I was worried I’d lose some light as we had a flourescent fixture with a bank of four lamps prior. I knew I wanted to use LED lighting for the longevity and energy savings. We had purchased a track lighting system with six pendant lamps almost two years ago, planning to use it here someday.


Well, after installing just four of the pendants, and using these bulbs, we had more than enough light. These 75W-equivalent LED bulbs from Utilitech do pretty well and only draw 17W. So I could put like 100 of these on my track lighting system. (Lowe’s P/N 382623)


So here’s the finished ceiling.

I had planned to do an over-the-range microwave as part of this project, (another deal as Lowe’s had a matching Whirlpool Gold on sale for like $70 off) but I had so many delays, I just couldn’t get to it. Maybe that’ll be my next post.


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