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The Direction of Beadboard on an Outside Porch Ceiling

Judi Light Hopson

Beadboard has been popular for porch ceilings for decades. Depending on whether you use stain or paint, the ceiling can look formal or informal. How you install the tongue-and-groove pattern will affect the overall look. The porch shape will come into play, however. You might select running the boards lengthwise on a very long porch. But a porch with an unusual shape or square shape might call for more planning.

Fit a Narrow Space

Beadboard can fit different patterns on a small porch ceiling.

A long, narrow porch usually looks better with beadboard running lengthwise. By staggering the boards, you can create a seamless look on the porch ceiling. You also could install wider beadboard -- such as 4 inches wide -- and fit the boards crosswise. The boards would run from the house facade toward the porch's front overhang.

Get Creative with Patterns

A shorter porch has more options. If you add a beadboard ceiling to the underside of an 8-foot square porch roof, for example, you could run the boards lengthwise or crosswise. Another option is to create a ceiling with all boards slanted on the diagonal as you look up from below. It's possible, too, to make four separate diagonal patterns with a seam forming a "t" in the center. Common patterns include a herringbone design, hexagon shapes or a pattern of concentric rectangles.

Work Outside the Box

Create your own pattern ideas. It's possible to develop a unique beadboard pattern to fit a given house. A unique design might be dividing up a long porch ceiling into six distinct sections. Frame each section to hold a "star" shape, for example, constructed completely of beadboard. Consult with an expert carpenter before you start the cutting process. A design that isn't pleasing will be difficult to redo.

Consider Finish and Style

Staining or painting provide different styles. Create a vintage look by painting beadboard cream or white, or stain the ceiling boards dark oak, dark cherry or walnut. Vintage homes often include light blue paint on porch ceilings, because blue is believed to keep certain insects, such as mosquitoes, away. The direction of the wood and the pattern are still important, but the overall design work takes on a more polished look when you use stain. Using stain can yield a high-end look because it brings out the grain in the wood. Always consider the porch flooring, furniture and light fixtures to tie the ceiling in with the overall design.

Draw the Ceiling in Detail

Always map a design on graph paper first. Talk with an expert carpenter and show him your graph paper drawing before you finalize your plans. Sketch the porch underside and draw any light fixtures you plan to install, including ceiling fixtures and wall sconces. Draw the boards to scale, so you get the true idea of how the complete beadboard installation will appear. The carpenter may have suggestions on how to make cuts in order to prevent wasting wood material, for example.