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Vaulted drywalled angled half ceiling (15'X13') and would like to attach barn wood planks.

It's an aesthetic ceiling - meaning it does not actually follow the roof. Rather, it is an angled "box" inside the attic, over that room, with a 2 foot gap between the top of the box and the inside of the actual roof.

The "ceiling box" does have seven 1.5" joists running down it, however, they are not very straight, they slightly curve all over the place.

The plan is to attach 3/4" thick by 6" wide reclaimed barn wood planks to the inside ceiling (as shown here) with wood screws (and construction adhesive), perpendicular to the joists of course. The wood all together is very heavy.

As a quick test, I held the plank up to the ceiling and checked for a known joist with the Zircon 740 - and NO reading, it is too dense I suppose ?

So, started marking the drywall with the center stud finder looks like this so far (not too good):

enter image description here

Next, when I place the 6 inch wood plank on the ceiling to attach it, it will obviously cover the line made for those 6 inches, so I will have to "project" where the line is for each plank as it goes up.

Between these two issues, I have less confidence that I will be drilling into the ceiling joist.

Given the situation and plank install - is there a way to confirm I have actually screwed the wood plank into the joist?

Thank You.

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    The joists deviate side to side by more than an inch over six inches of length? – Samuel Nov 28 '16 at 18:38
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    With your "angled box" description you're referring to what are called "scissors trusses". They're the common approach to a vaulted ceiling. – isherwood Nov 28 '16 at 18:56
  • @samuel: Yes, see the first line I did closest to the wall, there is a section where I could not get any reading (where there is a gap in my line), and when I finally did get a reading it was an inch over from before, almost like they put in a second joist and did not bother to align it, NOT 1 continuous joist - ....for that one,.... then perhaps a continuous joist for others...but it still is not staright.....uggg. – Greg McNulty Nov 28 '16 at 19:28
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I suggest you keep marking the centers like you've done and as each plank goes up, copy that mark to the face of the plank.

You can use painter's tape if you don't want to make marks on the planks. At minimum mark the entry and exit points of the projection of the joist across the face of the plank and make a line between them (a first order approximation). You'll hit a joist most of the time. If you want to be able to better detect a joist hit, then pre-drill holes in the planks or use partially threaded wood screws with a shank longer than your plank depth.

You may not hit a joist every time, but I really doubt that you actually need to. The screws are primarily going to hold the planks in place while the glue sets.


Concerning the weight: You're adding 1.5 lbs. per square foot.

You're adding about 12.2 cubic feet of wood to the ceiling (15'×13'×0.75"). You say it's barnwood, so I would assume something like western cedar. That's 23 lbs/ft­³ (plug in a different value from here if it's not right). So you're adding a total about 280 lbs of wood plus screws/glue. Say 300 lbs. It sounds like a lot, but it's spread over the entire ceiling which is 195 square feet. That's about 1.5 lbs. per square foot, which is approximately the same weight as the drywall itself. I'd be surprised if doubling the drywall was enough to make the ceiling collapse, but I'm an electrical engineer, not an architect; so I could easily be wrong about that. Do check with a local contractor/inspector if you're concerned about it.

  • Will the wood screws with a shank longer than the plank depth give me feed back of when I am actually screwing into the joist, is that the idea? The pre-drilled holes are based on the projected line i assume (good recommendation the painters tape). – Greg McNulty Nov 28 '16 at 19:35
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    @GregMcNulty The partially threaded wood screws will not have threads in the plank when fully driven in, this will better allow you to feel if the threads are biting a joist or just drywall. Otherwise you'd be trying to determine if you were getting plank and drywall or plank and joist, which is much more difficult. It also ensures a tighter fit of the planks to the ceiling. – Samuel Nov 28 '16 at 19:41
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    @GregMcNulty Not what I was thinking, but it's a much better idea if you only want to leave screws in that hit a joist. You might get some drywall screws too in case you completely miss and want to have the plank attached to something at that spot. – Samuel Nov 28 '16 at 19:50
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    @GregMcNulty A toggle bolt will work, but will be more difficult to get through the plank without drilling a large hole. I would just use a normal drywall screw, essentially it just has deeper threads. But I don't think you're going to add much to the liquid nails once it sets. I assume screws into the joists is just your attempt to not load the drywall too much, a glued or multiple-drywall-screwed plank will load the drywall in a very similar way. – Samuel Nov 28 '16 at 20:07
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    @GregMcNulty Added a section about the weight. – Samuel Nov 29 '16 at 18:28
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There's no good reason that your stud sensor shouldn't work (try a new battery and be sure your technique is correct), but you can simply use a hammer and nail or a drill with a small bit to conclusively locate your trusses. Do checks every 4 feet or so by one of those means and move on with your day.

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    I believe the OP was saying they can't use the stud finder while the plank is in place (3/4" plank -> drywall -> truss), which is pretty clearly not going to work, the stud finder can't tell the difference between plank wood and truss wood. So, they know where the trusses are, they're wondering about the next step. – Samuel Nov 28 '16 at 19:10
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    In that case, the stud finder should be used on the drywall adjacent to the blank. I guess I thought that was obvious. – isherwood Nov 28 '16 at 19:37
  • @isherwood: yes, that is basically what I am doing, but I just went ahead and marked the whole dry wall...noticing how non-straight it is. In the ideal world, I could use a stud finder on top of the plank...and only worry about that small part and also know I am directly over the stud. With it adjacent to the plank I have to approximate when I drill the whole in the plank, where the stud "would be". – Greg McNulty Nov 28 '16 at 19:50
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    I'd bet that if you used a hammer and nail to find the precise edges of your trusses at the top and bottom of the ceiling, then snapped a line between center points, you'd hit framing in 95% of cases. – isherwood Nov 28 '16 at 20:26
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I think you might consider nailing or screwing furring strips to the ceiling and then nailing the planks to the furring. See this. Screwing each plank would be very tedious and since the screw heads would show you would want to get them in straight line. This would be very hard to do.

A pneumatic nailer is so easy to use and if the planks are nailed into the furring with 18 ga brad nails (~1.5 inch long) the heads would not show and might not have to be filled.

The furring could also be nailed to the hidden joists with 2 inch 18 ga brads or with a 16 ga finish nailer. Or the furring could be screwed if you want.

  • Are you going to stain or paint the plank ceiling or are you getting it pre-finished? If the former, consider applying the finish before the planks are put onto the ceiling. It would make the painting so much easier. – Jim Stewart Nov 28 '16 at 21:15
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    I share the concern expressed above about using adhesive. I would use only nails and maybe screws to secure the furring strips. I don't think it is a good idea to load the drywall paper. – Jim Stewart Nov 28 '16 at 21:31
  • I was thinking the adhesive would secure more surface area, plus the wood screws for extra support. – Greg McNulty Nov 29 '16 at 2:00
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    More surface area for the wood-to-paper bond, yes, but it's all still hanging by the same few drywall screws, which were not intended for such a role. – isherwood Nov 29 '16 at 14:00
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When I started commenting and answering I forgot that these are 3/4" barn planks and so would be very, very heavy. Are you sure the truss system can take this weight? I think you ought to get an engineering opinion on this. You don't want the whole thing to come down. If you have got to have barn planks, maybe they should be on a wall. For the ceiling you could use pressed 'tin' squares.

  • @jim-stewartyes: all the wood is very heavy. I am also concerned. The truss system does have 7 standard size joists, connected to the A frames that go all the way to the roof. When looking at it from the attic, the design looks very similar to the rest of the house. However, if there is some other weakest link - I do not know. Who would I contact for a second opinion? – Greg McNulty Nov 29 '16 at 2:01

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