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How to Install a Wood-Look Plank Ceiling

Give your ceiling a true makeover with this lightweight, wood-look, floating plank system.

This project was done in collaboration with Armstrong Ceilings. While I received compensation for the production of the video and article, the opinions, observations and experience are my own. For more information about the wood-look plank ceiling installed in this project, visit Armstrong Ceilings' website.

If you’re out to make a real statement with your room makeover think outside the four walls. The ceiling sometimes called the 5th wall offers appealing possibilities.  This wood-look plank ceiling is a good example and it truly is a do-it-yourself project.

This is a “floating” system that can be installed over just about any existing ceiling, including damaged plaster or drywall, “popcorn” acoustic ceilings and more. Here’s how to do it.

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Floating ceiling system
Step 1

This is A Floating Ceiling System

Metal tracks are attached to the ceiling joist and the planks, themselves, are held in place with specially designed metal clips. The planks can be installed over just about any existing ceiling.

Stack of white plank boards
Step 2

Open Cartons 2-3 Days Prior to Installation

Allow material to adjust to the relative humidity in the space where it will be installed.

Using a finder with laser to locate ceiling joists
Step 3

Locate Ceiling Joists

Use a stud sensor to locate ceiling joists.

Man marking ceiling joists
Step 4

Mark Ceiling Joists

Mark ceiling joist locations using a chalk line.

Mark track locations on ceiling with blue tape
Step 5

Mark Mounting Track Locations

Strike chalk lines perpendicular to the joist lines to mark the location of the mounting tracks. The tracks should be spaced no more than 18" apart.

Overlapping tracks
Step 6

Install the Mounting Tracks

The tracks are screwed into the ceiling joist and can be overlapped -- a method that saves time and work.

Man using a jig saw to cut a metal track
Step 7

Tracks Can Be Butted End to End

If it is necessary or desirable to butt the tracks end to end, they can be easily cut to length using either a hacksaw or a jig saw fitted with a metal cutting blade.

Man screwing track into ceiling
Step 8

Attach Each Track Securely

Screw each track at the point where it crosses a joist.

Man uses level on ceiling track
Step 9

Check Tracks for Flatness

The mounting tracks must be flat. Check with a 4-foot level.

Shims underneath track
Step 10

Shim Track Where Necessary

Wherever the track bows upward, showing a gap between the track and level, loosen the nearest screw and insert shims. Re-tighten the screw to hold the shims in place.

Tracks on ceiling
Step 11

Mounting Track is Ready to Receive Planks

With the track up and shimmed where necessary, installation of the planks can begin.

Using a table saw to rip a boarder plank
Step 12

Cut the Border Plank to Width

The first and last row of planks will need to be cut to the proper width. The formula for calculating what the width should be can be found on this Armstrong Ceiling web page The planks can be ripped to length using either a table saw or circular saw.

Setting a first plank
Step 13

Set the Border Plank in Position

Set the first (border) plank in place being sure to leave a 1/2" expansion gap between the edge of the plank and the wall. Leave a 3/4" expansion gap between the end of the plank and the wall.

Space at the end of a plank
Step 14

Leave Expansion Gap at End of Planks

Leave a 3/4" expansion gap between the end of the plank and the perpendicular wall.

Man screwing first plank to ceiling
Step 15

Screw the First Plank Into Place

On the wall edge of the plank, drive one or two screws through the plank and track and into the ceiling joist. The screw will be concealed when the crown molding is replaced.

Man snapping clip on track
Step 16

Snap Mounting Clips on Track

Snap clips on several tracks.

Clip in groove
Step 17

Push Clip Into Groove on Plank

Slide the clips along the mounting track until the tab on the clip engages the groove in the plank.

Engaging tongue and groove planks
Step 18

Insert the Tongue of One Plank Into the Groove of the Next

There is also a tongue and groove design on the ends of the planks.

Man creating a cutout for recessed light
Step 19

Cut Openings to Accommodate Light Fixtures

Measure from the edge of the nearest plank to determine the hole center for the cutout. Circular cutouts can be made using a jig saw or hole saw.

Man installing plank on ceiling
Step 20

Install Remaining Planks

For the final row of planks (the finishing row), measure the distance from the last full-width row of planks to the wall. Deduct 3/4" for the expansion gap and rip the finishing (border) planks to width. The wall-side edge of this row will be also be held in place with screws that will be concealed by crown molding.

Man replaces light fixture on plank ceiling
Step 21

Reinstall Light Fixtures

Man nailing crown molding
Step 22

Replace the Crown Molding

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