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How to Make a Panelled Ceiling

The first room that we completed in our house was our living room. We knew that we wanted to fix up basically every space in our house but also knew that we wanted to work on it over time – not all at once. However, we had a small list of what we wanted to accomplish before moving in so we could feel comfortable in the house and have clean and calm rooms to live in, even when other areas of the house were a mess because we were doing work. Before moving in we did temporary makeovers to our bathroom and kitchen and we fully fixed up our living room.

The living room was the perfect room for us to start on – it was time consuming because it involved weeks of wallpaper removal and plaster repair but the overall scope of work was really straightforward – perfect for the renovation newbies that we are! I shared the completed room and ceiling on my Instagram last fall and continue to receive interest on the room so I wanted to do a tutorial on how we made this beautiful panelled ceiling.

I have always loved the look of a coffered ceiling but, it felt a little heavy for our space. I modified the design for something that would give the same look but with a lighter feel. When I did this panelled ceiling back in October it was completed in partnership with the Home Depot Canada and Alexandria Moulding and all of the product was provided for me. I loved how the ceiling turned out so much though that I purchased everything again to do the crown moulding and trim in the dining room just beside this a few months later. I’m also currently working on the next space in our house, our stairwell, and you can bet I will be buying all of these same products again!

This is a project that requires precise measuring and the use of a mitre saw but it is not overly difficult to pull off. I had all intentions of doing this on my own along with just the help of Dan and a mitre box and hand saw but when my brothers caught wind of the project they showed up unannounced with scaffolding and a huge table saw and helped get the job done way more quickly and easily. Yes, I feel very lucky!



*A note on the above materials – there are many similar options for the MDF fibreboard and any of them will work for this project. The perimeter boards should be approximately 2″ wider than the interior boards. This is because the crown moulding will overlap the perimeter board and the goal is for all boards to look the same width in the end. Similarly, any cove product will work as will any crown. Feel free to adapt the style of the cove and crown to suit your home.


  • Construction Adhesive (like PL glue)
  • Latex Caulk
  • Spackling + Putty Knife
  • Sanding Blocks
  • Paint


  • Caulking Gun
  • Nails + Nail Gun
  • Mitre Box + Saw or Mitre Saw
  • Tape Measure!
  • Chalk String Line

Design + Ordering Materials

  • Determine where you will be putting your interior divisions. In our room I did 3 equal sections in each direction. I centred the divisions on the wall as opposed to the windows as nothing was perfectly even in the room. I recommend this regardless of window placement in a room – centre your divisions on the wall. See plan view below.
  • Using the guide below as reference, measure how much of each piece of trim/crown you will need. Bear in mind the length that each trim piece comes in (some pieces came in 12′ lengths but I purchased 8′ as it was what fit in my car) and think in advance of how you would ideally cut and install the pieces. For example, the cove moulding comes in 8′ lengths but the interior of each square where it would be placed was approximately 3’x3′. So, to make the least amount of work we used (2) 8′ lengths per square and cut each piece in (2) 3′ lengths. This made for 2′ of waste from each piece that was not realistic to use elsewhere for this project. Making your estimate based on how you will cut the lengths rather than overall length required will give you a more accurate count. If you measure based on overall length, be very generous with your calculations and waste, you can always return any full lengths that you do not need.




General Instructions

  • This job is most easily completed with 2 people to ensure a safe hold of the wood pieces overhead
  • 2 ladders will be necessary – one for each person to stand on. Scaffolding, if available, makes the job much easier.

  1. Cut each trim piece to its measured length as you need it – do not cut all in advance
  2. Using construction adhesive in a caulking gun, apply adhesive to the backside of the piece of trim to secure it to the ceiling
  3. Hold the trim in place and secure with your nail gun as required for it to be secure in the above ceiling

Step by Step

  1. First place your perimeter flat piece of MDF
  2. Measure your interior sections where your more narrow lengths of MDF will create the interior grid. With you and your helper on the other end of the room, mark the straight grid lines you will follow with a chalk line.
  3. Add your interior panels. These are all flat cuts.
  4. Add your cove pieces to each square section created by your flat MDF boards. These corners will need to be mitred.
  5. Finish off the room with your crown moulding. These corners will also need to be mitred.
  6. Using spakling and a putty knife, cover all nail holes and joints where two pieces of flat MDF meet.
  7. Using a latex caulk and a caulking gun, caulk all seams where two pieces of wood touch – on that image above, wherever there is a line…caulk that as well as the corners! This is a lengthy process but makes all the difference.
  8. Sand the spackling.
  9. You are ready to paint! I painted the panelling the same colour and sheen as the ceiling and did the crown a semi-gloss the same as the rest of the trim in the room.

Chalk lines mark the centre of where the boards will be placed

The end result after all the panelling has been added. Caulk and spakling will be next!
The end result! We are so happy with the character that this ceiling adds to the room. And, just as a note, we were still in construction when I completed this room but the floors did get properly refinished after this photo (they look pretty worn here…and they were!).

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