How to Install a Beadboard Porch Ceiling
Gussy up your porch in time for outdoor entertaining
Picture a warm spring afternoon - you, on the front porch glider, lemonade in hand, gently swaying back and forth. This is the life, right? Until, that is, your gaze drifts upward and there it is: builder's grade plywood.
Visions of lazy afternoons lounging in your own shaded haven have now been overtaken by how to avoid looking at the dreary underside of the porch roof. Rather than averting your eyes, grab your tool belt and start planning your next project: a new beadboard ceiling.
Paneling the underside of your porch roof with wood is strictly an aesthetic endeavor, of course. But with a little know-how and a lot of patience, it's a way to add a touch of tradition and charm to a covered entryway - or to a bathroom, kitchen, or mudroom, for that matter. And it makes for a much nicer view when you wake from that rocking-chair slumber.
Tip: To calculate the number of strips you'll need, measure in inches the longest span of the porch, divide by the width of the beadboard you plan to use to get the total number of boards, then add 10 percent to cover mistakes and offcuts.
Beadboard Ceiling Overview
Most porch ceilings are covered, at the least, with plywood—which is the perfect substrate for a high-grade finish like beadboard. However, if for some reason the joists of your porch roof are exposed, don't fret; you can either put up sheets of plywood first or, if your joists run parallel to the house, tack the beadboard right to them.
Here, carpenter John Fitzpatrick of Stone Ridge, New York, shows how to install the beadboard simply and quickly. The process doesn't require a lot of complicated engineering, but you do want to be very careful with your measurements so the boards look neat and even.
One thing you'll really want to consider is renting a couple of nail guns and a compressor, if you don't already have them. Sure, you can stand there all day hammering tiny little finish nails over your head. But you'll thank yourself many times over if you spring for the pneumatic guns—fasteners will go in quickly, straight, and without splitting the wood. And you won't be left with hammer dents and a bunch of nailheads that need setting and filling before you can paint the ceiling.
Using preprimed beadboard will also limit your labor on this project. If you want to be extra vigilant, you can take a page out of This Old House master carpenter Norm Abram's book and also prime the ends of the boards after you cut them. This seals the wood against warp and rot—a good idea in an exterior application. Then, once your ceiling is nailed up and finished, put a fresh coat of paint on everything—for the Victorian-era look, make it sky blue—and your classic porch is done.