Have you ever considered the fifth wall in a room before? If not, you may after this. When I set out to makeover our home office I wanted to try something new. A ceiling treatment. More specifically a DIY modern wood slat ceiling with LED strip lights! This was definitely a first for me and a little bit of an adventure. I love how it turned out and know you are going to want to try this DIY wood plank ceiling.
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We have all seen plenty of accent walls and might even have some of our own, but accent ceilings have been gaining in popularity over the years. Design trends are now addressing the fifth wall, aka the ceiling and I decided to jump on the train and try it out.
When I say accent ceiling, I am not talking about the stepped tray ceiling trend that was all the rage in the 90s and early 2000s. Nor am I talking about cheap drop ceilings you often see on a basement ceiling. I am talking about making the ceiling a feature in the same way you would an accent wall.
Modern Wood Slat Ceiling
I knew I wanted to try my hand at an accent ceiling since the closest thing I have done is painting the ceiling black in the wine room.
I contemplated several different options before landing on this crazy idea. One of which was a geometric pattern with pine tongue and groove. However the light fixture in this room is slightly off center which would have been a challenge.
Another option I considered was bead board or shiplap. Ultimately I decided against those options because I didn’t want to glue anything to ceiling. While it wouldn’t be an issue now, if I decide to change it in the future, I am sure I would regret gluing the ceiling.
Black Modern Statement Ceiling Supplies
*** Note, the amount of wood and materials needed will vary based on the square footage of your room and how close you space your planks. My room is about 100 square feet and the ceiling planks are 5 1/2 inches apart. For a small room like a bathroom or a laundry room you may need less. For a larger space like a great room or a living room you will need more.
DIY Wood Slat Ceiling How To
Step 1 – Gather your supplies
A quick trip to Home Depot or Lowes should do the trick here. I did choose to get longer length boards so I didn’t have to piece any together and create unnecessary seams. My room is just over 10 ft on the longest wall. And if you are like me and don’t have a truck, let me give you a quick lesson in sketchy trips home from the hardware store…..hang it out the sun roof 🙂 This feels a little safer than hanging it out the tailgate to me. Just saying.
Step 2 – Scrape the popcorn ceilings
This step may not apply to everyone, but unfortunately it applied to me. The downfall of owning an old house. This is the 2nd to last room left with popcorn ceilings and they had to go. So I started off by scraping them. Unfortunately the previous owners painted the popcorn which made it more difficult to remove. But with some time, a lot of water and Dexter plastic, my popcorn ceilings are no more.
To see the video behind the scenes of this process, check out my office makeover highlight on Instagram.
Step 3 – Retexture the ceiling
I initially thought I could get away with skipping this step, but that was a BIG mistake. Please trust me on this. The best time to re-texture is after you scrape the ceiling while everything is still covered in plastic. I did not follow my own advice and it added five extra days to my project. You can watch the entire saga in my Instagram office makeover highlight.
I received several questions on this throughout the process so I want to explain a little further. Yes, you need to retexture or skim coat the ceiling after scraping popcorn ceilings.
In most cases when the drywall ceiling was initially installed they didn’t spend a ton of time mudding the ceiling and filling in the screw holes at the ceiling joists because it was going to be covered in a bulky texture. When you scrape the popcorn all those imperfections stand out. Not to mention any divots from the actual scraping itself. This is what the ceiling looked like raw with just paint and no retexture. Not good.
I normally retexture my ceilings with thinned drywall mud and a hopper and knock it down after about 10 minutes. While this is a relatively quick process it is very messy which is why I recommend doing it before you pull up all the plastic from scraping.
NOTE Because I made the mistake of thinking I could skip the texturing step some of these steps will appear out of order but this is how I would do it next time with the lessons I learned.
I ended up retexturing the ceiling with canned texture after I tried many other options that did not work out. I did this after I installed the slats, which was a mistake, but this is what it looked like.
Canned texture is a great idea for small areas and patches. While the canned texture works well in my opinion it comes with an extra cost, so I recommend using a hopper and drywall mud for entire rooms.
Step 4 – Prime the ceiling
Again, this step may not apply to everyone but if you re-textured you need to prime the ceiling before painting. New wall texture or mud soaks up a TON of paint and paint is more expensive than primer. Since I was working on a whole room makeover here I primed all of my walls too.
Pro tip: Primer doesn’t have to be perfect. It will look streaky and uneven. That’s ok. You are painting over it.
Step 5 – Paint the ceiling and wood slats
After the ceiling is primed paint the ceiling. And trust me, ONLY use flat paint on the ceiling. Again, I learned this the hard way because I used satin paint on my accent wall in here and figured it would be fine for the ceiling too. WRONG! It looked terrible. Do as I say not as I do.
While all the paint dries, move on to painting the ceiling slats. I chose to paint these before I installed them because painting them on a table in my garage is way easier than painting above my head and I didn’t have to worry about edging close to the wall or taping anything off. You could paint the ceiling boards in place if you wanted to though.
Step 6 – Install the LED strip lights
After I added the LED lights to the back of the wine rack, I have been dying to try them on a ceiling and the time was now!
Once the ceiling paint is dry start in a corner of the room where you will have access to a plug. I actually drilled a hole through the office wall and ran the cord into the plug in the ceiling in the garage because I didn’t like the idea of running the cord down the wall.
These lights have an adhesive backing which peals off and sticks to the ceiling. I ran my lights along the perimeter of the ceiling flush with where the wall meets the ceiling. Initially I was concerned with the adhesive failing but the good news is they are very sticky and I haven’t had any problems in here or the wine room.
Step 7 – Install the perimeter trim piece
Once the LEDs were in place, I attached the ceiling perimeter boards with two inch brad nails. These basically framed out the ceiling and hid the light strips. I used 1x2x12s on the longest part of the ceiling and 1x2x10s on the other side. I used longer lengths so I could use full planks rather than piecing them together.
When spacing them on the ceiling I used a scrap piece of wood to allow enough room for the LED lights to shine through.
If you are standing directly underneath the perimeter boards you can see the strip lights but most of the perimeter of this room is taken up by my IKEA desk hack.
Once the perimeter pieces are installed, caulk the inside edges of the boards. If you don’t light from the LEDs will shine through in an awkward manner.
Step 8 – Install the ceiling slats
Before you start this step you will want to make sure this spacing will work for your room. The exact width of my office is 123 1/2 inches. I used sixteen 1×2 slats with two 1×4 boards on the ends that we installed in step 7. At the ends there is 4 1/4 inches between the perimeter piece and the first board and the last board. Between all the other slats there is 5 1/2 inches.
To make sure all the spacing was the same I cut four scrap pieces of wood to make spacing blocks. I cut two down to 4 1/4 and two down to 5 1/2 inches. We used these as spacers, one at each end. This was definitely a two person job. Barry helped me hold the slats in place while I nailed them in and we each used a spacer block to make sure the width stayed consistent. You can watch the entire install on Instagram in my office makeover highlights.
For this part I highly recommend starting at one side of the room and alternating back and forth. This way if you have a row with different spacing it’s in the middle and looks intentional. In the middle of the process it looked like this.
When we got to the middle we had to work around the ceiling fan. If you have light fixtures to work around you may want to take them down or remove any large parts to make this easier. The last piece butts up to the housing of the fan but it was cut in the middle.
Step 9 – Fill the nail holes
You will need wood filler for this part. This kind is my favorite. I apply just enough with my finger to fill the hole and then let it dry for about 10 minutes or so and come back and wipe off the excess with a wet rag. No sanding required. Just make sure you don’t apply too much because it will be more to wipe off when it dries.
Step 10 – Touch up paint
When painting smooth slats like this I usually use a foam roller. It prevents the slats from looking streaky from using a paint brush. You could also use a foam craft brush for a similar result.
Pro Tip: If you can’t finish a paint job in one sitting, wrap your roller up tight in a plastic grocery bag and stick it in your fridge. This will keep the paint from drying out and you can come back the next day and finish up. It will keep in the fridge for a bout a week. BUT I do not recommend doing this with paint brushes or trays because they tend to dry out much faster.
Step 11 – Hang your light fixture or fan
Next step, hang your light fixture or fan. Once all the painting was complete I put all the blades on the new ceiling fan. I chose a sleek black fan to blend in with the ceiling.
Step 12 – Enjoy!
This ceiling has come a long way! And it definitely beats the dated popcorn that was here before!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I DIY a wood slat ceiling without power tools?
Technically yes, but in my opinion it will be a very tedious process. Unless your room is exactly eight, ten, or twelve feet long (standard wood lengths) then hand cutting all the slats would take quite a long time. Not to mention nailing each board individually without a brad nailer would be difficult and your arms will be on fire when you are done! If you are serious about DIY, invest in some of the essentials like a nail gun and miter saw or circular saw.
Can I do this on a vaulted ceiling?
Absolutely! A wood slat ceiling would be a great option for a vaulted ceiling. It would make the ceilings feel even taller by drawing your eyes up. You could even do an accent ceiling with pine wood planks for a cozy mountain vibe.
How much did this project cost?
This project cost about $275 not including me messing up the re-texture.
Can I use a pin nailer to hang the slated ceiling?
Unless you plan to glue the slats to the ceiling with liquid nails or something similar I do not think a pin nailer would be strong enough or long enough to hold the slats in place. Brad nails are longer and thicker which give them a better hold for this type of project.
How tall are your ceilings?
The ceiling height in my home office is 92.5 inches tall which is just under 8 ft tall.
Will this make my room feel small?
No. Adding an accent to the ceiling, even in black draws the eye up and actually makes the room feel bigger. There is a design myth that dark colors and large pieces or furniture and decor make rooms feel small but the reverse is actually true.
I was actually in a neighbors house the other day who has the exact floor plan of our house. They also have the main floor bedroom setup as an office but they used small pieces of furniture and painted all the walls white. Barry swore the room was half the size of ours. But it’s not. They are exactly the same. The only difference is the design.
Can I cut my own ceiling planks from a sheet of plywood?
You definitely could and this would be a slightly more affordable option. You could probably do it for half the cost. I contemplated cutting my own slats from a sheet of MDF but decided against it because of the extra time to cut each one down and prime them. Not to mention sheets of MDF and plywood are only eight feet long so I would have had seams which meant more finishing time.
What paint colors did you use in here?
For the ceiling I used Iron Ore (Sherwin Williams color) in a flat finish. For the accent wall I used Iron Ore in a satin finish. For the other walls I used Seashell (Valspar color) in a satin finish.
Do you need to nail each of these into the studs?
That depends on what type of wood you are installing and how heavy it is. For these MDF strips I did not nail them into the wall studs or the floor joist above. I find that 2 inch brad nails are strong enough to hold them in place if you use enough nails. For each slat I used 14-16 nails.
If you choose to use solid wood slats you may need to secure them to the ceiling joists depending on weight. If you are using tongue and groove pine, paneling, or sheets of plywood, you will likely need to use furring strips and attach them to the ceiling joists and possibly glue them as well.
Why do you use MDF and not cheaper pine furring strips?
I have used furring strips before in my board and batten and an accent wall but I have found MDF is easier to work with. Pine 1x2s can be bowed or warped because they are real wood. The MDF is always straight and doesn’t need to be primed which is a big time saver for me.
I absolutely love how this project turned out! I find myself using the LED lights quite often. They make the office feel so cozy especially when I am working late in the evenings.
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