Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Custom beadboard ceiling, part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, the problems with the primer and joint compound on the ceiling meant I had to come up with a new solution for the ceiling. My wife and I agreed on a beadboard ceiling, but the layout of the ceiling is such that this project, like most projects, meant a custom solution was needed.

To see what I mean about the layout of the room, read my Upstairs bathroom primer post and enlarge the photo of the bathroom’s blueprint. From the blueprints you can see that the primary portion of the bathroom – basically from the bathroom door to the far side of the closet door – is standard ceiling height and essentially a rectangle.

The ceiling near the window, while called “Arched Lower Ceiling” on the blueprints, is actually a flat ceiling that’s about a foot lower than the other side of the bathroom. The tricky part about this portion of the bathroom is that the area isn’t a rectangle or square. If you look at the blueprint, you’ll notice on the left side that the wall "jogs" in almost two inches as you move from the shower nook toward the window. (I assume it’s like this because the window area is one of the dormers on the front of the house.) That little jog meant I had to build the frame for my beadboard ceiling to fill that odd little area.

Once I had the dimensions from the bathroom written down, I took the time to create rudimentary drawings to help me with the construction of the two frames. This took a little time, but it was immensely helpful in the end because it helped me with the following particulars:
  • How long to cut the 1 x 4" clear pine boards that served as the sides of the frame.

  • How deep and wide to make the rabbetted lip on the 1 x 4" boards to support the plywood.

  • Where any oddities in the room where, like the placement of the bathroom fan in the primary portion of the bathroom as well as the notch for the wall jog in the window portion.

VERY IMPORTANT>>> If you make a drawing for your beadboard ceiling framework, just remember that your finished piece will be hung upside down. Keep in mind that your drawing will most likely be created looking down upon the paper, while the finished ceiling will be hung from the underside of the paper. Make sense? That’s why you’ll notice on my drawings that I included North, South, East, and West to help keep the framework’s orientation correct (I also did the same thing on the actual boards themselves). Plus, you’ll notice that my drawing goes North, West, South, East, opposite of the traditional map style of North, East, South, West. That way, then I went into the room to get an idea of how the drawing compared to the actual room, I flipped the drawing over my head and look at it as though it were the frame’s finished side. If I hadn’t done this, the opening for the bathroom fan may have wound up on the East side of the room, instead of the West. I hope all of this makes sense.

My custom beadboard ceiling is made from beadboard plywood (shown to the right). To support the beadboard plywood, I built a custom frame that would not only hold the 3/8” beadboard plywood in place, but would also give me a rigid structure to fasten the framework to the ceiling.

Since the plywood would sag in the middle if I were to only use a frame around the outside, I also included a board down the middle of the frame. This was also necessary because of the bathroom fan in the primary portion of the room. I’ll jump ahead a little bit and show you the finished frames so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. If you enlarge the image to the right, you’ll notice the framework on the left is a rectangle (for the primary portion of the bathroom), while the framework on the right has a notch protruding from the lower left side. This is the frame for the window section of the bathroom, and that notch will fill the notch area mentioned above. You’ll also notice in the photo that the frame for the window section doesn’t have a support board on the top side. This was intentionally left off because the beadboard on that side of the frame will snug against the window trim and I didn’t want a support board to cover the window’s trim.

Next time I’ll cover how I milled the lumber, assembled the pieces, and hung the finished ceiling.


  1. Wow, I'm impressed with your thoroughness! We did a similar thing a year ago in our living room (except using normal wood paneling instead of beadboard).
    We weren't as careful about everything as you were; at first it looked good, but as the seasons changed, the boards warped/shrunk, and now the ceiling looks a little out of whack!
    Careful with those wood boards!

  2. Do you have to worry about moisture or mold if you put a beadboard ceiling in a bathroom?