How to plank a ceiling (Shiplap on the ceiling)

shiplap boards painted with a roller paint

Giving the ceiling some interest, texture, it's ever more important when dealing with small rooms. This small bathroom of ours got a beautiful planked look.

The last project done in this bathroom makeover was the flooring, you can read all about it right HERE. I should've continued the updates with the installation of the wall tile, but the thing is, we couldn't complete installing the tile until tackling this, the planked ceiling - a shiplap ceiling.

This was one of those projects that happens mid-way renovation. At first I thought on doing nothing to the ceiling, but after getting a closer look while doing all the electrical, I changed my mind.

The picture below is the before and after the electrical work that was done a few weeks ago.
Ha, what a difference!! 🙄

I knew that at least I needed to fix the hole around the center light and paint the entire ceiling. However, I decided to go the extra mile and give that so called "fifth wall" something else. We all know how important is to take the ceiling into consideration, especially in small rooms like this one, where the budget doesn't go haywire.

The extra something for that ceiling was installing planks, shiplap that I bought at Home Depot and installed myself, no helper required. ;)

The area to be planked: about 6' x 11'

I'm going to go through all the steps I took to give that boring ceiling the beautiful planked treatment that's so in style!

*This post contains affiliate links.

The materials and tools you'll need:


I used the 12 feet pine shiplap boards. I asked the guys there at Home Depot to cut them in half for easy transport. They also have other lengths. I like that they are made out of pine and they come already primed. They're very smooth, they hardly need some extra sanding. That sure is a big plus!
I bought 15 boards - for a total of  $115. The width of my room's a little less than 6 feet, I had minimum leftovers. 👍

Arauco 9/16 in. x 5-1/4 in. x 12 ft. Radiata Pine Nickel Gap Ship Lap Board

So, the first step once you get them home is...


The picture below shows the boards already painted and getting dry. I used my Wagner paint sprayer, the same I used to paint my kitchen cabinets and that made that job so easy!
I gave them two coats of BM White Dove in a semi gloss finish.
The hard part was getting up very early in the morning to paint the boards before the garage turned into a sauna.
Once the boards are dry bring them inside to get acclimate to the space for a few days before installing them.
Wagner Home Decor HVLP Stationary Sprayer

The planks should be installed perpendicular to the joists on the ceiling. Find the location of the ceiling joists by using a stud finder, trace a line along the center of each joists.

Note: my sure way to find the studs was to climb into the attic and use an awl to poke holes on each side of the joists, at least three set of holes on each joist. Back in the room, I traced a line right through the middle of each pair of holes.
Husky 48" In. Box Level with Plumb Site

Well, for the very first board on my installation I needed to remove the lip on the board, the tile on the wall needed a flat surface where to rest on. If you're installing crown molding or another type of trim, you can skip this step. I used a circular saw for this rip-cut.
RYOBI 18-Volt ONE+ 6-1/2 in. Cordless Circular Saw 
Set a level line for that first board. Measure and cut the board to size.

Note: I started the installation on the lower part of the ceiling (it's a slanted ceiling) on the wall opposite to the entrance door.


I added a wavy line of construction adhesive to the back of each plank, maybe it's an overkill, because driving the nails thru the planks and into the joists is more than enough, but I wanted to be extra sure those planks are staying there on the ceiling without any sagging.

Now, this is pine, wood... Here in the bathroom where humidity is a big issue, the wood is more apt to contract and expand, that's why I used an spacer to give a little more room in between each plank to accommodate for this issue.  I used  1/4 inch thick scrap piece material as spacers.
RYOBI Cordless 15-Gauge AirStrike Angled Nailer  |  Liquid Nails

My way of measuring where to cut the hole for light fixtures was the following:
  1. The plank to be installed was brought right in front the light fixture and I marked the center point for that hole on the plank. (left picture below).
  2. Using a small scrap piece of the same planks, I determine how far into the the plank the opening started and ended. ( picture below - center) - Don't forget to use the spacer for a more accurate measurement.
  3. Transfer those marking points from the scrap piece onto the real board where you already marked the center point. (right picture below).

For those fixtures that got in between two planks, the circle was drawn following the measurement on the first board and aligning the second board there on the floor. Then, using a jig saw I followed the line to made the cuts.
RYOBI Cordless Jig Saw
It was much easier when working on only one board, using a hole saw attachment to drill the hole.
BLU-MOL Bi-Metal Hole Saw  |  DeWalt Drill
Continue installing the planks... I used a mallet to gently hit the planks in place. It's better to use a scrap piece of wood where to hit with the mallet to prevent damage onto the planks. But, I was working alone and I didn't have enough hands to hold the plank, the scrap piece of wood and the mallet.

-The photographer was my son.

After coupling the new plank into the previous one I drove one nail on the lower part closest to the previous board. That way I could still have a little wiggle room to accommodate the following plank.
RYOBI Cordless 15-Gauge AirStrike Angled Nailer
Working around the other fixtures was just about the same as with the previous light fixtures.

Bring the new plank and mark its location on the plank and cut it with the jig saw.

If you have to deal with a nail that went the wrong way of just half way through, pull it out using a end nipper pliers and a scrap piece of wood to protect the shiplap board.
End Nipper Pliers
Work all the way towards the other side of the room... And don't nail those two last boards until you have cut both of them. Most probably you'll need to do a rip-cut on that last board. And it will be easier to install it if the previous one is not set in stone yet.

DAP Fast'N Final 
Fill holes with a lightweight spackle. I had a good experience with DAP Fast'N Final, but there are many choices there in the market.

Fill the holes with product and then, wipe the excess with a thin plastic card.
Allpro Mini rollers
I went ahead and using a roller gave the entire planked ceiling an extra coat of paint.

bathroom ceiling covered with pine painted shiplap boards

Well, I LOVE it!!!  And here again it looks like it's not such a big difference because the lights haven't been installed. But, this is another feature I'm so loving in this small space.
It brings the eye from the floor all the way up!!

Once the entire renovation is done I'll update this post with better final pictures.

give the ceiling the popular shiplap treatment

The following are the links to the projects done in this bathroom:
Here's how I easily change the look of the shower.

    *This post contains affiliate links.

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    1. Great tutorial as always Cristina! Love how it came out!!

    2. Cristina,
      Another amazing, easy to follow tutorial. I hope to plank my laundry room when we redo it later this fall. Your tips will be helpful.


    3. The most important feature would be the ability to pick up items.

    4. Wow! It turned out great! (But SOOO much work!)

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