Installing Beadboard
Start by priming or staining both faces and edges of the boards before you nail them up. This is an important step: Backpriming the boards, for example, helps prevent moisture from passing through and blistering the finish on the front face. Then determine which direction the ceiling joists run so the beadboard can be installed perpendicular to them. That 90-degree alignment provides a joist every 16 in. for nailing. If the ceiling is accessible from above, peek into the attic to check the direction of the joists. Or use an electronic stud finder from below to locate the joists. The low-tech approach: Lightly tap the ceiling with a hammer until you hear a dull thud indicating a joist. Explore either side of the joist by tapping a nail up into the ceiling. Once you find the center of the joist, mark it and then measure over 16 in. to find the next joist. You might end up poking lots of holes in the ceiling, but they'll be covered up by the new wood paneling. Once you have located and marked all the joists, snap chalk lines along the marks to indicate the center of each one (photo 1).

Hold the first board up to the ceiling with its grooved edge against the wall. Have a helper measure from one end of the board across the room to the opposite wall. Now measure from the other end of the board to the wall to be sure the board is parallel to it. If both measurements aren't exactly the same, angle the board slightly until they are. Don't worry if there's a slight gap between the board or boards and wall; it will allow room for expansion and will be hidden by molding. What if the room is wider than 8 ft.? Span the distance with two or more boards. Make sure that each joint falls on a joist centerline.
With the first board held in proper alignment, drive 4d finishing nails through the tongue and into the joists. Then secure the edge along the wall by nailing straight up through the face of the board (photo 2)—a technique known as face-nailing. Do this on only the first and last boards, not on the ones in between. Before nailing the board ends, drill pilot holes to prevent splitting the thin planks (photo 3). Tap the nailheads slightly below the surface with a nailset and hammer (photo 4).

Install the second board by pressing its grooved edge over the exposed tongue of the first board. If it doesn't fit tightly, hold a scrap of beadboard against its outer edge and tap it lightly with a hammer. Be careful not to damage the tongue. Secure the board by nailing through the tongue and into the joists. Set the nailheads below the surface. Then install the rest of the boards except the last one across the ceiling the same way. Be sure all joints between the boards are tightly closed.
If you come to a ceiling-mounted light fixture, air-conditioning grille or other obstruction, remove it and cut the board to fit around the electrical box or duct hole. For a recessed light, remove the decorative trim and slip the board into position. Hold the trim against the ceiling fixture and mark where it overlaps the board (photo 5). Cut the board along the line with a sabre saw, nail it to the ceiling and then replace the decorative trim.
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