DIY Paneled Ceiling (How to Cover Popcorn Ceilings)

I’m so excited to share how we DIY planked our living room ceiling today. This one week project adding a TON of personality and made our living room feel much more expensive, polished and true to 1965 when it was built. This project is surprisingly affordable (around $800!) and can be used to cover over popcorn or any ceiling that is not your taste or needs more detail. It’s the single BEST DIY we’ve done in this home so far!

But first, a walk down memory lane. Here’s how it looked when we purchased the home last December—

As you can see here, when we bought this home the ceiling was painted gray to match the walls. We were excited to have a vaulted ceiling, and to remove the curtains to modernize this room. That said, the room felt very off. It felt tall, but small, and very boring. We were pretty confident that with some vision and DIY work we could make it really special, but it felt a bit overwhelming as we had never taken on a wood ceiling before this.

Thankfully, some guy named Collin (inside joke from our podcast if you don’t listen yet) is the most fearless DIY-er I have ever met in my life. He assured me that we could figure it out, no matter what. So we went for it!

This is “after,” WOW-WOW-WOW, right? What we did was add pre-made paneling to the entire ceiling, white washed it, and then rewrapped the beams so they are just a tiny bit more substantial and modern. It was absolutely the right call for this home and made a NIGHT and DAY difference in the overall vibe when you walk into the home.

Oh! And by the way, here’s the affordable chandelier we chose for our entryway.

Alright, I am going to pass the baton to Collin to tell you the DIY information. I really hope this DIY will be one you all keep doing for years and years to come.

Supplies:
cedar wood planks
white wash stain
-liquid nails

Tools: 
-circular saw
-measuring tape
-pneumatic nail gun

Measure the square footage of your space to determine how many planks you’ll need. The wood planks come in packages of 14 square feet, so this makes it easy to calculate how many you will need! We had about 425 square feet to cover, so we needed roughly 30 packages.

The panels are suuuper lightweight so it makes this pretty easy! Especially if you have an extra person to assist, which i would recommend if you’re adding them to a really high ceiling. It can get a little intimidating attaching them yourself while up on a really tall ladder if you don’t have much experience with ladders or aren’t great with heights. So, play it safe and ask a friend or family member to help! To attach them, you will need to use liquid nails and a nail gun. Simply put a bead of liquid nails on the back side of each panel, stick it in place and shoot nails into each end and into the middle of each panel. These panels are also tongue and groove, which means they actually connect into each other, making a really seamless look!

This next part is optional, but i think worth it for how beautiful the finished product is! After all of the panels are attached, take a brush and white wash stain and brush it onto the planks, making sure to brush in the direction of the grain. We just did one coat, but if you want a really dramatic white wash, give it a few more coats until it has the desired look. Additionally, the existing beams that run across the ceiling in this space were awkwardly thin and didn’t look right, so we simply added some pieces of 3/4″ wood to the 3 sides of each beam to make them bigger and look more appropriate for the size of this room.

And let’s wrap up this post with a few more completed images!

Thank you so much for reading. Be sure to pin this project for the future! xx- Elsie + Collin.

Sources: White Chairs/Article (c/o), Standing Mirror/Rejuvenation, Hygge Rug/Apple & Oak, Pom Pom Pillow/ Anthropologie, Stripe blanket/ Lucky Collective Shop, Chandelier/Wayfair.

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Project Assistant: Collin DuPree, Photography: Amber Kelly. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • Is there a benefit to installing the panels before staining? I would think it would be easier to stain them first, especially with such tall ceilings.

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing! My brother is a professional painter and he always advises to paint anything such as doors, trim, baseboards ect… before it’s installed.

      • For $800.00 you could hire a painter to remove popcorn treatment and repaint. Also not a always a good idea to hang more weight on top of ceiling dry wall especially in older homes that may have had many renos all those boards nail and glue. I have seen ceilings come down. Also may hide leaks.

        • There are so many reasons for doing this instead of what you suggest:
          • Removing popcorn ceiling could be hazardous because pre-1980 they were made with asbestos. Therefore, no regular painter should do this. Furthermore, the asbestos particles will spread throughout the house.
          • This planked ceiling is much more beautiful than a plain ceiling. From a design perspective it is much improved.
          • This planked ceiling has increased the value of the house.
          • The added weight that you mention is inconsequential. It was clearly stated that the planks are very light.

  • Such a beautiful space! I’m glad you included links because I love that white Article chair and it would accent my sofa I just got for my living room perfectly! But, let’s talk about those ceilings! So much better than the popcorn ones! Was it hard?? I am making a few exterior and interior home updates  and I have popcorn ceilings in the basement! Wondering if I DIY or hire it out! Let me know!

  • WOW! I would never have the guts to try this big of an undertaking, but what a transformation! I wouldn’t have thought this was possible!

  • Beautiful! The roof line looks different in the before and after photos. Is it, or is it just the angle of the photos? In the before photo it looks straight across, but in the after photo it looks pitched (taller in the middle).

  • This looks great! I’m wondering how you handle seams. I have a similar ceiling (popcorn 💀) but there’s only the 1 beam running along the highest point. I don’t know if seams should be staggered?

    Also, do you know if liquid nail sticks to popcorn well? And do you have to figure out where the “studs” are (I don’t think they’re called studs in the ceiling lol) or are the nails secure in the drywall?

  • This is STUNNING!!! So glad to know Varathan makes a white wash stain–I have a project in mind and that will be easier than making my own white wash. 🙂 I did your paneled ceiling DIY in my bedroom and it made such a difference. Might have to redo it with this though! I love the look so much. Great job some guy named Collin!! 😉

  • Beautiful Elsie! So over the top! Question: would this work on a popcorn ceiling that has heated electricity in it?

  • Have you had any issues with contraction and expansion between the wood pieces?

  • Wow, this is brilliant! I actually wish we had popcorn ceilings… I could wet and scrape them. Instead, we have stomped ceilings. They’re not painted, but in our bathrooms, I’ve tried wetting and scraping to remove the texture and skim coating. It still doesn’t look great…that rosette pattern is persistent! We might be doing this in one area of our house!

  • I have been obsessed with the idea of doing this to our (rather boring) vaulted ceiling since I saw you do a version of it at your old house. LOVE it here too! Tactical question…did you put the new “fake beams” around the original beams before doing the planks? We would have to just create the hollow “beam” ourselves, so trying to understand order of operations. Thanks!

  • Hi! This is so beautiful! Can it be done the same way for walls? My old family house has big popcorn all over 😭 thank you!

  • I see Collin likes Radiohead – I have the same tattoo on my shoulder.

  • Wow! I really think wrapping the beams made the biggest difference. The color also really helped lighten up the room.

  • Hi Elsie! This looks great, and I’m definitely pinning it for a future project!

    Really off-topic and you might not even see this, but I just listened to the podcast about how to get your home ready to sell (since we’re currently entering that stage) and heard you talking about the girls’ outgrowing clothing so quickly, getting the girls’ clothes mixed up with each other, and having to constantly look at tags to tell them apart since there are so many sizes for even just one of your daughters. You may have found a solution since the podcast first aired, but I had an idea! I was wondering if it would help to write an “N” on the tag with a marker for Nova’s clothing and an “M” for Marigold’s, and then as Nova outgrows her stuff just adding a line to the N to make it an M. It means a lot of unattractive marks on the tags of the clothes, haha, but since you’re looking at the tags anyway when you’re folding and putting them away the clothes would be “pre-sorted” already according to size. Like if Nova has dresses in 3T, 4T, 5T etc you wouldn’t have to then find the smaller matching dress just to know which girl it belongs to. Hopefully that long run-on brain rant makes sense! 🙂

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