How to install tongue and groove ceiling?

How to install tongue and groove ceiling?

Installing a tongue and groove ceiling can enhance the aesthetic appeal of any room, providing a classic and refined look. This guide will take you through each step in detail, from removing the old ceiling to adding the final touches. By following these instructions, you can confidently install a tongue and groove ceiling yourself.

Remove the old ceiling, trim, and prepare the surface

Before installing a new tongue and groove ceiling, you need to remove the old one. This task might seem intimidating, but with the right tools and approach, you can do it efficiently and safely. First, ensure you have safety goggles, gloves, a pry bar, a hammer, a utility knife, a dust mask, and trash bags on hand. 

Source: Waste removal USA

Begin by taking down any light fixtures, and ensuring the electricity is turned off for safety. Next, use a utility knife to score the edges of the ceiling, which will make removal easier. Carefully pry off the old ceiling material with a pry bar and hammer, starting from one corner and working your way across. Once the old ceiling is removed, clean up the debris and dispose of it properly.

Mark the center and make a plan

Planning is crucial for a successful ceiling installation. Start by measuring the width and length of the ceiling to find its center point, marking it with a pencil. From this center point, snap chalk lines to each corner of the room, creating a visual guide for the board placement. 

Mark the center and make a plan for the installation of tongue and groove ceiling
Source: Family Handyman

Decide on the direction you want the boards to run, typically perpendicular to the ceiling joists for added support. Use a stud finder to locate the ceiling joists and mark them. This detailed planning ensures that your boards will be installed evenly and look professional.

Ordering pine ceiling planks

Choosing the right materials is key to a successful installation. Pine ceiling planks are popular due to their durability and aesthetic appeal. Start by calculating the total square footage of your ceiling, adding an extra 10% to account for waste and mistakes. 

When selecting the planks, consider the grade of the wood; higher grades have fewer knots and imperfections, offering a more refined look. Order planks in lengths that minimize waste and make installation easier. It’s always wise to order a few extra planks to cover any mistakes or future repairs.

Priming and painting wood ceiling planks

Before installing the pine planks, priming and painting them is essential for protection and a smoother installation process. Lay the planks on a flat surface in a well-ventilated area. Lightly sand the planks to remove any rough spots, then use a paintbrush to apply a coat of primer to all sides. 

Allow the primer to dry completely before applying your chosen paint color. Apply multiple coats if necessary, ensuring each coat dries before applying the next. This step ensures that your planks are well-protected and have a beautiful finish.

Priming and painting wood ceiling planks
Source: homebuilding & renovating

Priming the boards

Priming is a critical step that enhances paint adhesion and provides a more durable finish. Choose a high-quality wood primer and apply it evenly, covering all surfaces of the plank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time to ensure the primer sets properly. This preparation step will make the paint application smoother and more lasting.

Prepping the ceiling

Preparing the ceiling surface is essential before attaching the tongue and groove boards. Start by checking if the ceiling is level using a level tool. If the ceiling is not even, you may need to install furring strips to create a level surface. Attach these strips perpendicular to the ceiling joists, ensuring they are evenly spaced and level. Mark the joist locations from your earlier measurements to guide the placement of the boards.

Attach the tongue and groove boards

Attaching the boards requires precision and care to ensure a professional look.

Steps to Attach the Boards:

  1. Start at the center: Begin at the center of the ceiling and work your way outwards.
  2. Use adhesive: Apply a construction adhesive to the back of each plank for added stability.
  3. Fit the boards: Fit the tongue of one board into the groove of the previous board. Tap gently with a rubber mallet if needed.
  4. Nail the boards: Use a finish nailer to secure the boards to the ceiling joists or furring strips. Nail at an angle through the tongue to hide the nails.
Attach the tongue and groove boards
Source: Angi

Make a cut list

Creating a cut list helps keep track of the measurements and cuts needed for your project. Measure the length and width of each section of the ceiling where a cut board will be placed. Write down each measurement and mark it on the boards before cutting. Including a little extra on each measurement to account for errors ensures that you have enough material to complete the project.

Installing the cut boards

After making the necessary cuts, it’s time to install the boards. Fit each board into place to ensure it fits properly before securing it. Apply adhesive to the back of each board and nail it through the tongue to the ceiling. This step-by-step approach ensures that each board is securely attached and fits perfectly with the others. If you want to know about the installation of Corrugated metal shower walls then click here.

Nailing in the boards

Nailing the boards correctly is crucial for a sturdy installation. Use finished nails for a clean look and angle them through the tongue of each board to hide the nails. Make sure the nails are evenly spaced and securely fasten the board to the joists or furring strips. This technique provides a seamless and professional finish.

Nailing in the boards for tongue and groove ceiling
Source: Stonehaven Life

Making special cuts

Special cuts are necessary to fit boards around obstacles like light fixtures and vents. A jigsaw is ideal for making curved or irregular cuts. Measure the area accurately and mark the board before cutting. Cut slowly and precisely to ensure the board fits perfectly around the obstacle. These detailed cuts ensure that your ceiling looks polished and complete.

Trim, caulk, and add light fixture

Adding the finishing touches like trim, caulking, and reinstalling light fixtures completes the installation. Install trim around the edges of the ceiling to cover any gaps and give a finished look. Use caulk to fill any gaps between boards or around the trim for a seamless appearance. Reinstall any light fixtures or ceiling fans, ensuring all electrical connections are secure. These final steps enhance the overall look and functionality of your new ceiling.

Bathroom renovation next steps

If installing a tongue and groove ceiling is part of a bathroom remodeling, there are additional steps to consider. Consider adding tongue and groove panels to the walls for a cohesive look. Updating old fixtures with new, modern ones can significantly enhance the bathroom’s appearance. Finally, paint the walls and add decorative touches to complete the renovation, ensuring that your bathroom is stylish and functional.


Installing a tongue and groove ceiling can be a rewarding DIY project that adds charm and character to any room. By following these detailed steps, from removing the old ceiling to adding the finishing touches, you can achieve a professional-looking result. Take your time, measure carefully, and enjoy the process of transforming your space. 

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