Getting a Beamed Ceiling look for less money and effort

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The next step in remodeling the family room was to put molding in the coffered ceiling. A traditionally beamed ceiling would have looked fantastic in our formal living room where ceilings are 10 foot high and there is plenty of light. Not so great in this darker room, where a coffered ceiling makes the ceiling feel lower.

Let’s face it, neither of us wanted to go the expense either that boxed beams would require. Even doing a faux look (like at this blog) would have taken more time and money than we wanted to do.

However, this room lacks definition and with it’s huge coffered ceiling we knew some sort of molding would take it to the next level. The molding we decided upon makes the eye go upward and defines the ceiling but doesn’t lower the ceiling visually. I guess you can call this the poor man’s beamed ceiling look.

Before we begin, we installed recessed ceiling lights, and marked off all the lines for molding with chalklines. The ceiling should was painted the final color before we started this project.

Be aware that white molding looks best against a darker wall color. Here we are using Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720 from Lowes; this color is being used throughout the downstairs to make the space look larger (vs. using different colors in each room).

To prep for your project, measure your room and mark on paper where you want your molding to go: even and equally spaced squares work best. Our ceiling dimensions:  135″ x 201″.

You can tell from our rough graph that the squares aren’t perfectly even in their dimensions but the difference is minimal and not noticeable from below. Black lines mark 1×4 placement and red indicates the 1×6 boards.

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Mark out with a chalk line which will be erased or covered by projects end. Take a stud finder and be sure to locate where you can attached to studs in your ceiling. No studs for nailing up boards? We worked around that and will show you how too.

Materials for this project: a saw (we used power miter saw and circular saw), a nail gun and compressor is a must, chalk line, liquid nails (our project took two tubes), finishing nails, toggle bolts to mount in areas without a stud to mount boards (plan a bolt for every 4 feet approx.), paint for your molding, foam paint roller with tray, fine sandpaper block and wood putty. Drop cloths may also be needed; our floor had been removed in anticipation of replacing it.

Lumber for your project: we used white primed MDF boards (1×4 for inside squares and 1×6 for the outer border), in this blog post. Depending on what you want your own project to look like you can finish it off differently – this is just an example of what we did.

For example, the look in this post with no additional trim or crown gives an appearance similar to Board and Batten. However, our next post will show additional trim we used for a second layer.

For this project we started with primed white, MDF boards, because MDF is cheaper and the look of real wood doesn’t matter since we are painting. Because it was primed white, and I’m painting it white, painting went faster. If staining, go with real wood.

Boards were painted twice more to get even coverage and sanded lightly between the first and second coat because sometimes MDF (or any wood) has slight blemishes. If you paint before being mounted it saves a lot of hassle and just means final touch ups.

General Tips:

Before mounting the board up, make sure it is cut on both ends of the board to fit the space. You will want a tight fit – no gaps! This may take adjustment especially if you find that your walls and ceiling are not straight, which is typical of older homes or homes who have settled.

Speaking of which – ceiling molding will not look good up on an uneven, damaged, warped, wavy or crooked ceiling. Go with plaster and paint to repair these types of ceilings/walls.

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You may also have to work around fixtures. We had to cut around this ceiling vent which could not be moved. Also, shown is the corners where we went with mitered edges; other boards (see below) butted end to side.

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We also had to put in  board for the ceiling fan, allowing an area for electrical and hanging of the fan.

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Mounting to ceiling areas with studs: This is the easy part. Using your stud finder, mark the location of studs with painters tape. This helps as a guide for using your nail gun.

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Cut your board to fit, run a line of liquid nails on the back of the board, mount and nail into place. Be aware that liquid nails won’t be strong enough to hold a board in place on their own – nails or bolts are also needed.

You will need a helper on another ladder or step stool, while you finish nailing or screwing in the fasteners. This really is a two person job, not only for holding the other end of the board but to also let you know that the boards are visually lining up.

Mounting to areas without studs: Using our stud finder we found some areas would not have studs where boards would be mounted. This required the use of toggle bolts.

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On a long board we chose two areas to drill spaced out holes (ours was 1/8″) with a countersink hole of about 3/8″. Counter sinking a screw or bolt can be done with a  power tool and a specialty drill bit.

Another way is drill a shallow hole with the large bit (3/8 inch), then switch to the small bit (1/8″) and finish drilling through the board. The large bit leaves a V-shaped depression in the hole, so it is easy to line up the small bit to finish off the hole.

Hold up to the ceiling and mark the ceiling with a pencil or scratch it with a screw tip. Take down the board and drill a larger hole in the ceiling (about 1/2 inch) at your marked areas; the larger hole allows the toggle bolt wings to collapse and push through. On the inside of the ceiling the wings open giving your board support.

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Insert the screw in your board, apply liquid nails in a wavy pattern down the board, and mount. We used our power drill to screw down the bolt. Shorter sections and smaller boards (the 1×4) did fine with only one toggle bolt; our longer sections required two toggle bolts.

Use wood putty to cover holes, lightly sand after it is dry, and touch up with additional paint. At this stage we are finished with the first layer of molding. You can stop here if you wish for a simple board and batten look which would work well with an updated country, farmhouse or home with transitional décor.

Because there is a lower entrance to get into this room and I don’t have a wide angle lens these were the best photos of the ceiling I can could take today. The project looks a lot nicer in person!

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We will be installing additional molding so look for a new post after the next weekend with the details on trimming out your boards with additional molding for a layered and more detailed look.