How to Add Tongue & Groove Over a Popcorn Ceiling

If you want to cover your unsightly popcorn ceiling, wood ceiling planks is an attractive option.
Traditional tongue and groove (T&G), wooden planks are made from a variety of woods. You need to apply the same sanding and finishing steps as you would for any wood products. T&G planks are also made from lightweight, composite materials that don’t require any finishing. You simply attach them over the old popcorn ceiling.

Step 1

Locate the center ceiling joist in the room, using a stud finder. Mark this joist by snapping a chalk line.

Step 2

Sand any rough areas on untreated T&G ceiling planks. Apply polyurethane finish or paint to the T&G lumber if that is the product you are using. Cover the tongue with finish or paint as well. Allow the coating to dry according to package directions. Temperature and humidity can affect drying time. Apply a second coat if the directions require it and allow it to dry. Skips this step if your T&G is prefinished.

Step 3

Cut the groove from enough boards to span the length of the center ceiling joist twice, using a circular saw. Sand any rough edges.

Step 4

Attach one row of planks with the cut edge aligned with one side of the caulk line in the ceiling. Hammer finishing nails through the cut edge of the plank and at least 1 1/4 inch into the ceiling joist. Butt ends together, as necessary, to complete the first row. Use a nail gun to put additional nails through the tongue side of the plank, using a nail, placing the nails as close to the inside of the tongue as possible.

Step 5

Repeat Step 4 for planks along the opposite side of the chalk line. The tongues on this row should point toward the opposite side of the room. Stagger joints to improve the aesthetic appeal of the ceiling.

Step 6

Slide the groove of a board over the tongue of the first board to start the second row on either side of the ceiling. Nail through the tongue. Depending on the T&G manufacturer’s recommendations, you may need to apply a coat of construction adhesive to the back of the plank before nailing it in place.

Step 7

Continue attaching the T&G in the second row. Remember to stagger the joints as you work. Add all the remaining rows on that side of the ceiling except the final row.

Step 8

Measure the width between the last row and the wall. Cut the tongue and any portion of the plank necessary to get the last plank to fit. Attach the outside edge to the ceiling with finishing nails placed through the top of the plank.

Step 9

Repeat Steps 6 to 8 for the remaining section of the ceiling.

Step 10

Measure and cut molding for trim between the wall and the ceiling. Attach the molding to the walls to cover any gaps between the walls and ceiling.

Step 11

Fill any gaps in the tongue and groove with matching wood caulk. Cover any nail holes with matching caulk as well. Smooth the caulking with your finger to blend it in.

Things You Will Need

  • Stud finder
  • Sandpaper
  • Polyurethane finish or paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • Finishing nails
  • Nails
  • Nail gun
  • Construction adhesive (optional)
  • Tape measure
  • Wood caulk
  • Caulking gun


  • If you have any odd-sized openings in the ceiling, such as for light fixtures, measure and cut the plank before installing it, using a jigsaw. Sand the rough edges.


  • Use caution when working on ladders while installing wood ceiling planks.

About the Author

Denise Brown is an education professional who wanted to try something different. Two years and more than 500 articles later, she's enjoying her freelance writing experience for online resources such as and other online information sites. Brown holds a master's degree in history education from Truman State University.