This has been my favorite project so far. Most due to my wife’s reactions as it unfolded. Her birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something different for her. She’d been dreaming of doing a wood plank wall in the dining room for some time now. So with about $99 and a weekend’s worth of work this is what she got. I don’t think she’s ever expressed so much excitement about a gift before.
I used 5.5 inch x 6 foot cedar fence posts from Home Depot. I chose cedar for several reasons. 1) The boards have the rough sawn texture, Some were obviously cut with a round blade and some were cut with a band saw. I got some of each to make the boards look like they could have come from various sources. 2) The smell. Cedar contains an aromatic oil that slowly seeps out over time. I personally love the smell of fresh cut wood. I wanted our house to have a hint of that everyday. 2) They cost $2.29 each. That’s less than a dollar a square foot.
These boards are sold “ready to use.” However, when I purchased the boards. Some boards were a little heavy and felt damp. I feared they they would shrink after putting them on the wall so I stacked them with a little space between each in the garage for a few weeks. Here in Arizona the temperatures get pretty high in the garage. The wood dried considerably during this time. Your mileage may vary.
“Aging” the Wood
I’d seen a few of the wood aging/ebonizing projects on pinterest. It seemed simple enough … and other than getting woken up in the middle of the night with a loud pop it (apparently as the steel wool dissolves, gas is released, so leave the lid loose for the first few days) was pretty uneventfully simple to do.
Just pop a few steel wool pads into a container of vinegar and let it sit for a few weeks. Then just brush it on the wood. It smells a little so you will want to do it outside. The results vary depending on the wood. You’ll get browns, reddish brown, and greys, all of which look like aged wood. The variation I think is an advantage as you’ll see later when I drybrushed the wood. The cost of a gallon of vinegar and steel wool mix was around $5. I used about 3/4 of the gallon on this project. Each board took around 30 seconds to make sure the stain was spread well and got in all the cracks.
Drybrushing brings out the wood shape best I think. Think saw blade marks and surface texture. We could have white washed these as well, the difference would have been that white washing would accentuate the wood grain more instead of the texture. See my whitewashing and drybrushing page for a more detailed description of the methods. I used maybe a cup of white paint for the whole project. The goal was to not apply very much so that the “aged” wood color would show through. I spread it evenly so that it wasn’t blotchy and tried to get the surface texture to pop. Lightly dragging the very dry brush (just dip the tip) is the simplest way to describe it. I spent no more than about 30 seconds drybrushing each board.
Prepping The Wall
I prepped for the sill by cutting out the drywall on the existing sill. If I put the new sill on top of the drywall, the window frame would show smaller on the bottom. I didn’t think this would look right. I also had alarm sensors to make sure they fit. So using a utility knife and a hammer I cut out the rounded edge on the bottom and popped the drywall out.
To make it easier to find studs when nailing in the wood planks, I marked the each stud using chalk line. I used a stud finder to mark the top and bottom of each stud in the wall and snapped line to make a very visible mark on the wall.
This is the funnest part for me. This is when the project turns around. Up until now I’ve been doing stuff that unavoidably makes the wall look worse (demolition and chalk lines). Every projects seems to have this point. There is a life metaphor in here somewhere. This is the wall’s rock bottom. Laying the wood planks starts to dress up the wall. From this point forward the look of the wall will only improve.
We wanted a pattern that looks kind of random. So we chose the following two rules:
1) No two joints should line up vertically.
2) There should be multiple length boards. Some boards can be the same length, there should just obviously be boards that are also not that length. End boards don’t count for this.
This resulted in a nice staggered look that wasn’t repetitive.
Here’s where the chalk lines makes it go fast. The lines visible below the board you’re installing show you where you can nail and hit a stud. I suppose you could use panel nails for this and a hammer. I used a 18 gauge brad nailer with 2″ nails.
Prepping for Trim
To wrap the rounded drywall I made a wrap of 1/4″ plywood and 1″x2″. This covered the round edge and gave me something to nail the trim boards to later.
Final Trim and Paint
After screwing the trim boards in place, I patched up cracks, nail holes, and screw holes with some drywall joint compound. The joint compound shrinks a little when it dry’s, so I applied a second coat after sanding to make all the holes disappear for prep after patching I sanded and reapplied one more coat to cover the shrink. Masking and painting to finish the project
The Finished Wall
38 Fence posts @ $2.29: $87.02
1 Gallon Vinegar: $2.00
Steel wool pads @ $3.98 = $2.00 (only used 5 of 12 pads)
White paint: $3.98
Several rails of 2″ brad nails: $2
Plug extenders: $2
That’s only $97
Note: The trim was not included in the $99 cost for this project. If you are planning to cover a wall with wood, then for reference, my wall is 16 feet by 10 feet high. The window is 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall. My baseboards are 5 inches tall. The trim and sill added about $65 to the total. My wife thinks it would have looked fine to just cut the wood planks to stop at the beginning of the rounding part of the window frame.
This page is meant to document my experience with my house. If you decide to use this information to do a similar project, please consult a professional and your local building codes to ensure that you follow the regulations that apply to you. Please use safety precautions. I have not documented every detail of my project and cannot consult you on the applicability of this method to your own situation. Good Luck!