Installing tongue and groove wood paneling on walls or ceilings is an easy way to add a new look and a sense of coziness to any room. Installation of tongue and groove paneling, even for those with limited knowledge or skills, can be done by every do-it-yourself weekend warrior.

Compared to drywall (which includes steps of installation, taping, mudding and sanding of multiple coats, and 2-3 coats of paint), installation of tongue and groove wood planks is easier, cleaner and much less time consuming. So how easy is it? Let’s walk through the steps of how to install tongue and groove paneling.

Step One

Select the species of wood that matches your design. Options for wood include pine, cedar, oak, hickory, birch, ash, cherry, aspen and knotty alder. Pine and cedar are more rustic and provide a more “northwood” look. Hardwood species contain much fewer knots and are more elegant. To learn more about wood species, read What Wood Species Would Look Best in Your Home.

Step Two

Calculate the amount of paneling that you need. Measure the length and height of each wall, and multiply the height times length to get square footage. Determine the width of plank that you want to install. Pine and cedar normally come in 5″ and 7″ widths, but hardwoods normally can be made in any widths. With these two pieces of information, your supplier should be able to provide the right amount of boards for your job.

Step Three

If it is an existing wall, remove the trim. Use a hammer or pry bar and try to be careful so that you can reuse the trim. Next use a stud finder to locate the wall studs and ceiling joists and mark their locations. Decide how you would like to install the paneling. If you install the boards perpendicular to the joists, you can nail directly to the joists themselves. This is the easiest and quickest method of installation. If you wish to install the boards parallel to the joists, you will have to install furring strips and then secure the paneling to the strips. (On a new wall, blocking between the joists or studs will be needed rather than furring strips).

Step Four

Decide how you are going to finish your paneling. Painting can be done after installation is complete. Finishing with a polyurethane is best done before installation. Since polyurethane is self-leveling, it is best to lay out the individual panels horizontally, (think saw horses), and spray or brush the polyurethane on before installation. Another great idea is to buy your paneling pre-finished and avoid the hassle altogether.

Step Five

Now for the fun part, installing the paneling and watching your wall being transformed. Start at one side of the room. Leaving a gap of 1/2″ at each wall surface for expansion and start to install the first row. Install the plank with groove closest to the wall. Secure the first row by nailing into the tongue to the joist, (or furring strip) and secure the groove side of the plank by face nailing into the joist. Insert the nails into the tongue at an angle and use enough force to have the nail flush with the surface of the tongue. If done properly, the groove of the next board should slide easily over the nails on the tongue of your previous plank.

Checking to make sure you are keeping the plank parallel to the wall, continue nailing the plank until you get to the end of the plank. If your wall is longer than your planks, you will have needed to pre-cut the plank to have the end land on the nearest joist. Face nail at the end to the joist. You will need to do the same on the next piece. Measure from the end of your first plank to the end of the wall, leaving the 1/2″for expansion. Cut to length, butt it to the first plank, and face nail at the seam to the joist. Continue nailing the plank down the length of the wall into the joists as before.

One easier method yet of installation is to buy end matched paneling. End matched paneling has a tongue and groove on the ends, eliminating the need for the seams of the two planks to be nailed into joists. Since the end of the board will be secured by the tongue and groove, it is now secure enough to eliminate pre-cutting the boards and securing the seams on a joist. Not only does it make installation that much easier, it reduces waste.

Step Six

Install your next row by sliding the grooved side on the tongue of the first row. It can be butted up tight to the previous row. Nail the tongue to the nailing surface. Since the groove side is now secured by the tongue of the first row, there is now no need to face nail the board on the groove side. Continue to install rows. Check every two-three rows that you are still parallel to the first row or the wall. It may be necessary to cheat on a row by not butting up tight to the previous row. This should not cause any problems as the tongue is milled wide enough to prevent any problems. Remember to leave a 1/2″ gap at all wall surfaces.

Step Seven

The space left at the last row usually will be narrower width of your plank. Measure for the width needed and cut along the length on the tongue. You may need a crowbar to assist the board to slide into place. Nail this last board along the face of the board.

Step Eight

Reinstall the trim. For where two walls meet on an inside or outside corner, trim pieces can be purchase to cover the gaps. Call us at 715-369-5700 as these usually are produced custom to your job.

Renovating on a budget can be challenging and one great way to save money is to do it yourself. Using these how to install tongue and groove paneling instructions will help ensure your have a successful do-it-yourself project. Call us at 715-369-5700 for tongue and groove paneling in any species, and for any budget.