How to Choose the Right Wood for a Plank Ceiling

a room with wood walls and ceiling
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 15-150
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Pair of 6-foot stepladders
An assistant
Hygrometer to measure room humidity
Samples of the wood finishes in the room

A warm, glowing plank ceiling can bring a new dimension of beauty to a large, open room in a home or cottage. Choosing the right wood for a plank ceiling can be challenging, but the results are worth the effort. Consult these suggestions to select the wood for your plank ceiling that will ideally complement your room's decor.

Step 1: Determine the Room's Natural Humidity Level

If you live in a climate that is either very humid or very dry all year round, you will want to install wood laminate planks for your ceiling, instead of natural wood. In humid climates, natural wood will expand, warp and curve, while in dry climates, natural wood will shrink, exposing unfinished joints to dust and insect pests.

Step 2: Compare the Other Wood Finishes in the Roof

If you already have pine, oak, or cherry wood paneling, choose a plank ceiling wood that matches the paneling closely, to make the room seem larger with a higher ceiling. If your room is half-timbered or you have only solid wood baseboards, matching the ceiling to them will also make the ceiling appear loftier.

Step 3: Identify the Existing Ceiling Material

If the room has a tiled drop ceiling, or a plaster or stucco ceiling, remove it entirely before installing the plank ceiling. Attach the planks directly to the ceiling joists. This will increase the ceiling height by up to 12 inches. For an even more rustic look affix the ceiling planks, then attach ceiling beams of the same wood over them at right angles at evenly spaced intervals.

Step 4: Consider Recycled Wood

If you currently do not have any wood baseboards or paneling where you want to install the plank ceiling, consider using recycled wood planks. Many woodworkers refinish old wood from barns, sheds, garages and old homes to highlight the weathering of the wood surface. You could then add baseboard trim, door frames and window frames made of the same recycled wood for a harmonious look in your living space. Recycled wood often has a much lower moisture content that freshly cut wood, so you could use it in a very dry climate to add a plank ceiling and wood trim to your home's interior, avoiding the problems of further wood shrinkage.

Step 5: Choose the Plank Width for Your Ceiling

If your existing wall paneling has wide boards, pick a similar width for your ceiling planks. If the paneling has boards of differing widths, choose the narrowest size to unify the space.

Step 6: Choose the Plank Length for Your Ceiling

The longest planks, with the fewest visible joins, look the best in a plank ceiling. Measure the ceiling carefully to determine the longest plank length you will need. If you have an area where several short planks end parallel to each other, consider covering that strip with a ceiling beam laid at a right angle. Place another ceiling beam a proportionate distance away.