tim: Blogging a Timber Frame House > Home > tim's Home page > Building a Timber Frame Home > Build Blog > 

Basement ceilings, part 1 of a probably large number

One of the last remaining jobs is to put up ceilings for the rooms in the basement - my office, the guest room and bathroom, the lower living room and so on. We didn’t want plain drywall ceilings - and certainly not that dreadful ‘popcorn’ textured awfulness that is so often used to cover up incompetent joist and/or drywall work - so I had long ago sketched out an idea for a wooden panel equivalent of the T-bar and fibre tile system used in many commercial buildings. These have the advantage of allowing later access to the ceiling plenum to add or fix cables and pipes and hide bodies. A wooden panel system is a bit more difficult to install since the component parts have to be made first.
Since the entire idea of the house is ‘converted barn’ aesthetic, I didn’t intend to do a formal, stained, highly finished ceiling; it simply wouldn’t look right and would likely cost some where in the ‘small car’ range. A long time ago we had lunch in an old timber building and noticed the ceiling was painted, rough cut boards over the rafter timbers. It looked both rustic and appropriate and seemed like a really good concept to try. So, an order was sent out for a large pile of plain old construction lumber and unsanded plywood, in the hope that once painted and installed it would replicate the look we wanted.
There are a few places where a stain-grade (or strictly speaking oil-grade) faux beam is needed to provide a visual tie-in to the real timbers and to mark out areas corresponding to the floor plan. They are built from 2x8” douglas fir lumber, cut from rough 2x16” planks, planed and trimmed. Even moving a 2x16 around to cut it is hard work when it is 15ft long!

Planing a large,long, fir beam

To plane these monsters I had to move the MiniMax almost out of the garage for clearance and in order to keep mess under control I had to install an extra 10ft of dust collector hose to reach the chip catcher. Still, they look pretty good.
The ceiling panels are 4ft x 2ft sections of unsanded ply, primed and painted the same colour as the closet doors, producing a nicely rough-cut texture. They’re literal pain in the back to paint though, being heavy to move, prone to absorbing paint like a sponge and hard to store out of the way. I’ve been painting them as 8x4 sheets before cutting them down, which at least means moving fewer pieces. To support the panels there is a framework of 2x4 ‘crown moulding’ (for want of a better term) and some 2x6 faux beams, all painted in the same colour as the panels. This allows use of plain old studs - cheap! - with an option to add more detail at some later stage. The frame needs supporting as well and that is handled by small brackets attached to the bottom of the floor trusses, all aligned with my trusty laser level; what would we do without them?
The result, after a huge amount of milling and sanding and painting to prepare everything, along with a lot of head scratching about the details of installation, is pretty damn good. At least, in the office, where we decided to do a ‘try it out’ version first it looks amazingly appropriate. The light paint reflects light much better than the bare trusses and subfloor.

Office ceiling installed

Next job is to paint all the rest - 800 sq.ft - of the panels and make many, many little brackets and fittings.