Want a coffered ceiling on a budget? This coffered ceiling DIY will be the perfect tutorial to make your dreams a reality.
Ceilings are so overlooked. My entryway was fine but uninteresting so I wanted to find a way to add interest.
One of the most significant ways to add character into your home is through trim/millwork. Adding a coffered ceiling can make a space feel more elegant and unique to your home
- Want a coffered ceiling on a budget? This coffered ceiling DIY will be the perfect tutorial to make your dreams a reality.
- Cost Breakdown
- Step-by-Step Stained Wood Coffered Ceiling
- Prep the Ceiling and Room
- Sand all moulding to use with the coffered ceiling
- Bleach the wood using wood bleach
- Cut and install a border of 1×6 boards around your ceiling.
- Draw lines on ceiling for each box
- Secure 2x4s to ceiling to start your boxes.
- Secure the ¼” plywood boards
- Cut the 1x6s
- Start installing 1x6s around each 2×4 to create the coffered portion
- Installing face of beams
- Add the details with smaller trim and crown moulding
- Wood filler
- Stain the new coffered ceiling
For some reason, I can’t do anything the easy way. Coffered ceilings are commonly painted, allowing you to hide imperfections with woodfiller and caulk.
I may have shot myself in the foot by falling in love with these beautiful stained wood ceilings but I LOVE how it turned out but if you’re not confident in your woodworking, maybe consider a painted coffered ceiling.
I painted over the wood paneling in my living room so I wanted to bring some warmth back into my home and this is a great way to do it!
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- Box cutter to remove caulking (my fav box cutter!)
- Trim puller
- I used 103 linear feet pieces of trim, crown moulding and woodgrain trim
- I used 103 linear feet of 1x6s
- Drywall Sander (optional) & shop vac
- Large plastic sheeting for doorways and openings
- Wood bleach (A and B)
- Glass bowl
- Rubber Gloves
- Sander (what kind did you use for the wood?)
- microfiber cloth
- Nylon paint brush
- Bolts with toggle wings
- Laser level?? What did you use to put the lines on the ceiling?
- Brad nailer
- What size nails?
- Laser measurer
- Rubber mallet
- Wood filler
I purchased all the wood at peak wood prices which was super painful. These are approximations.
- $30 Stain and Wood Conditioner
- $20 in Fasteners (toggle bolts, nails)
- $1100 in wood (plywood, common boards, trim)
- $400 new finish nailer because the old one broke mid-project
Full disclosure: Woodgrain sponsored a small portion of this project. Woodgrain is a trim/millwork company that sells much of their trim at Home Depot.
Grand total: $1,150
Step-by-Step Stained Wood Coffered Ceiling
Prep the Ceiling and Room
To prep the space, start by removing anything from the ceiling. I would recommend using a box cutter to cut the caulk and a trim puller to help remove the crown molding.
I like using the trim puller because it helps save the drywall from damage.
Measure the space at the ceiling and create a plan. I practice architecture and interior design, so its easier for me to 3D model but I highly suggest sketching it out.
When purchasing your wood pieces, aim for the straightest boards you can find. Make sure to buy lots of extra because I always mess up at least one cut!
To finish prepping the space, cover any room openings with large plastic sheeting.
My ceiling is covered in a plaster texture that is too uneven to cover with wooden boards.
I like to use a drywall sander to knock down most of the ridges. For this step, there is no need to make it perfect since it will ultimately be covered.
Sand all moulding to use with the coffered ceiling
For all the flat boards, sand with an orbital sander. To save time, select the best side and mark the back.
For the decorative pieces, hand sand with a fine sandpaper and wipe down with a microfiber cloth.
Bleach the wood using wood bleach
This step is only necessary if you plan to stain your pieces. If you plan to paint, no need to worry about this bleaching step.
Wear gloves and a respirator while working with bleach.
Standard household bleach will remove staining from your wood and return it to its more natural color.
Specialty 2-part wood bleach will strip down some of the natural coloring, which is what I want in this case.
Using a gel stain might be a worthy alternative so please test on your wood pieces.
To get the most even stain coverage, be sure to check the undertones of the wood. On the left you’ll see 2 nearly identical pieces of crown molding, both pine but with different undertones.
The yellow tends to stain poorly so I went with the more neutral pieces.
Its a great idea to test stain on both bleached and unbleached wood. Once you decide your coloring, you may be able to save youself some work.
For this project, I had to bleach all the trim but saved myself from having to bleach the plywood because it matched better without the bleach.
Mix equal parts solution a & b in a glass bowl and apply in the direction of the grain using a nylon paint brush. You can clean the brush off later with mineral spirits.
Set them out to dry in the sun for 2 hours and 15 minutes or depending on your specific bleaching product instructions.
You may also need to neutralize the wood with water after that period of time.
Cut and install a border of 1×6 boards around your ceiling.
To begin install, nail the 1x6s against the top of the wall.
Drywall is rarely square. This project will require some level of precision so you could use this opportunity to get your angles as close to square as possible.
Draw lines on ceiling for each box
I used a chalk string marker to mark the centers of my beams, though a pencil and straight edge will work well too.
When deciding my pattern, I centered the opening around the fixture and divided by 3 to get the sizes I wanted.
Secure 2x4s to ceiling to start your boxes.
I struggled with this step because I had the incorrect size toggle bolts.
If your ceiling joists run along where you want the beam, perfect! Just screw directly into the joist.
Drill holes in 2x4s for bolts with wings of the toggle bold. The hole needs to be big enough that the wings fit through, about ½”.
The length of the bolts need to be long enough that they fit through the 2×4 and the drywall AND the length of the wings plus a little for wiggle room.
For me, that ended up being over 3½”.
Secure the ¼” plywood boards
You could secure a board the full size of each coffer if you wanted.
I wanted the look of individual pieces so I cut the plywood into 4″ strips.
Determine what direction you want the boards to go ahead of time.
I cut all the boards to be 2″ short of the 2x4s on either side to conserve materials ( the crown molding will hide the gaps).
Be sure to mark a level start line along one of the 2x4s to ensure the boards arent angled. Apply wood glue to each board and tack them to the ceiling with a brad nailer.
For any boards that are around the light fixture, use a jigsaw to cut the circle in the wood.
Cut the 1x6s
This is where things can get tricky.
I used a router to cut a channel through every one of these boards in order to secure the bottom plywood piece.
To ensure precision, measure and cut each section individually, ensuring the channel remains on the inside of the beams.
This may take time but is an important part of ensuring everything works out in the end.
If everything was super square, these measurements should all be the same. I learned a lot from this process and would have double checked this step.
Create little diagrams on a piece of paper to help you keep track of exactly what to cut for each coffered box.
I cut each of these 1x6s with a miter saw to get a 45 degree cut.
Take this slow and one at a time.
Start installing 1x6s around each 2×4 to create the coffered portion
You don’t want to put up all of your pieces right away because you want to make sure everything is square and keep remeasuring as you go.
This is definitely a two-person job. Getting all the precise points to meet was the hardest part.
I like to err on the side of making my cuts too big. This typically means 5 trips to the miter saw but the results are worth it.
This design results in 20 pieces, but you cant put them up without securing the ¼” plywood into the channels.
Installing face of beams
I started by installing the 1x6s on the inside of the center coffer.
Shoot nails at the top of the 1×6 into the 2x4s.
Do this at the top to ensure that you have minimal nail holes, they will be covered by the crown molding if secured at the top.
Each beam face panel comes to an arrow point to allow a 4-way connection at the crossings of the beams.
I wasn’t able to get this perfect and might consider doing this differently in the future. I’ve learned a lot about woodworking and believe that I could be better next time.
For each panel, I secured with tape and glue until I was ready to insert the other 1×6 on the other side.
Once I was confident in each face panel position, I added the 1×6 to the other side.
Once secured with glue and nails, I clamped the beam together to ensure it dried tightly in place.
Do this step slowly and cut each new panel one at a time as well.
My preferred way to put the horizontal pieces in is to tuck one side into the channel and line up one of the corners. Now you need to push the one end into the channel and push the other side all the way over.
Use a rubber mallet when needed to get the pieces as snug as possible.
When adding a new beam face piece, I recommend prioritizing the most complicated joint. In this case, it was almost always at the cross.
To get the 1×6 fully in, use your rubber mallet to secure fully in place for each beam.
Use your clamps to hold the beam box around the two-by-four securely together
Nail the 1×6 to the 2×4 using your nailer towards the top near the ceiling
Add the details with smaller trim and crown moulding
Now that the coffer boxes are complete, its time for decorative trim!
Add the crown to each box and your done. It can take a while, expecially if you are coping.
For time reasons, I chose a miter cut in the corners. Unfortunately, I sacrificed quality for this. Wouldnt have been a big deal if I were painting and could fill the gaps with caulking.
A coped crown molding, even if done somewhat poorly, can be better than a poorly done mitered joint.
Once again, measure each of these cuts individually to ensure precision.
Fill all the nail holes with wood filler. I tried to find the best match for my stain.
If I were to do this project again, I would test how the woodfiller and wood absorbed the stain.
As you can see from the image above, I was very messy. This required me to sand a lot which felt like a waste.
I recommend minimal woodfiller to avoid this hassle.
Stain the new coffered ceiling
To start, I applied a wood conditioner to make sure the application was even across the trim, 1x6s, and plywood.
There were a lot of stain drips on my wallpaper so I recommend taping drop cloths to the wall.
In order to find the right coloring, I tested a ton of stains and ended up combining Golden Oak with a little bit of Antique White.
I am definitely not a stain expert and have a lot to learn but I recommend wiping the stain in the direction of the grain.