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1961 house. Recently bought. The house appraiser told me that I had post-and-plank type walls and could get a fun "barn" look by removing the finish. So I did a test and stripped a part of a wall. The wood was covered with tar paper, wood laths, two layers of gypsum board, and white "brick" prefinished panels on top.

The thick wooden planks have shrunk, leaving gaps that are about a quarter inch wide. Through the gaps, you can see another layer of tar paper (behind that is insulation, and the exterior brick wall). The gaps seem to be a problem, insulation-wise. Even though I was told that one does not need to insulate the inside of a plank-and-post wall, the temperature inside the gaps is about 53°F, and 63°F in front of the wall (outside temperature today is 5°F). So there is an airdraft problem.

On the pictures you can also see that some of the planks have a broken corner (like the vertical plank on the right) or are cracked.

So if I want to go with a bare wall / barn look, that leaves me with a few questions:

  1. How do I fill the gaps?
  2. How do I fix the broken/chipped planks?
  3. Should I sand / apply some sort of protective finish to the wood?

1) I looked at ressources on how to fix gaps in old wooden floors and it seems that my best option for the gaps is cotton rope for the smaller gaps and oakum for the larger ones. Would that do the trick for a wall?

2) For the broken and cracked planks, I am thinking of filling the holes with a paste made with glue and sawdust from the wood laths that I removed. Another option is colored epoxy filler, or maybe just leave it like that.

3) For the finish, I really don't know if it is even necessary. It's a wall in a living room. But guests or children could get a splinter from touching the wall, so maybe a light sanding and some sort of protective finish would be better.

Thank you.

Top of a wood plank wall 1

Whole wood plank wall here (antique chair for size)

  • The rough wooden planking is not suitable as a finished interior wall. Drywall is far preferable. – Jim Stewart Mar 18 '18 at 14:06
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    If nothing else, wood planks like that have a 0 finish rating and probably aren't going to meet any sort of standards for smoke-developed or flame-spread either... – ThreePhaseEel Mar 18 '18 at 14:25
  • I love it. but not sure the amount of work to make it draft free is worth it. How about non exterior walls do they have planking as well, if so i would expose those. – Alaska Man Mar 18 '18 at 19:50
  • Alaska man: the non-interior walls do not have planking. Supposing I only plug the gaps with rope, it could still take a while. – GuillaumeL Mar 19 '18 at 2:13
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In my opinion, I would put the wall back as it was. Part of the whole charm of the barn look is the roughness, textures, cracks etc., the things that sounds like you want to fix. Even if you could get an "upscale" barn look by doing what the questions surround, would severely change the look you have now. Gluing cracks will change the color of the wood, it will run and drip. Mixing sawdust in the glue will leave a mess on the surface, it never goes in the gap clean, and will require sanding. The planks have a great patina. Patina (aged look) is a color that can only be achieved by time, and is highly sought after. It can be faked, but is expensive. Sanding this patina will remove the saw marks and the patina and pretty much render the wood to an almost new condition. IN doing that you would be better and simpler in some ways to just install new wood planks. Shiplap is a big trend now.

When the appraiser discerned the type of building you had, there was no way to know how cut up the paneling was or what condition it was behind the drywall. One could only hope it is in good shape, well enough to salvage. What I see is where a window may have been filled in or a repair made a long time ago, or perhaps the builder ran short of material, or changed their mind about having a window there. It happens all the time.

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What you are doing is like removing plaster to expose the underlying brick wall. That's rather fashionable these days but may not be a great solution in terms of energy efficiency and comfort. Read over this opinion piece on the topic and I think you will see the parallels with your situation:

  1. Old townhouse party walls are made of soft, porous brick sloppily laid up because the masons knew the walls would be covered with plaster.

  2. Once stripped, the exposed brick both collects dust and sheds its own mortar and brick particles.

  3. If the bare brick is covered with a sealer to retard exfoliation, the sealer imparts a plastic-looking sheen that detracts from the desired natural, rustic appearance of the brick.

  4. The plaster acts as an extra layer of insulation and protection in case of a fire in the row house next door.

  5. Worst of all, the lack of plaster greatly increases sound transmission from the adjacent building. If your neighbor also exposes the brick on his or her side of the party wall, you can conduct a conversation through the bricks.

  • Thank you. In my case I have to mention that there is no adjacent building. – GuillaumeL Mar 19 '18 at 1:47

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