Sustainable Wood Ceilings — 6 Comments

  1. Owen offers good suggestions. I’ll add another for you to choose from.

    You can also try what I call, “Cheater’s Tongue and Groove Trick.”

    Use a table saw to cut a 1/4 inch curf in both edges of the boards. I like to use a saw blade with a wide set to the teeth to get a fairly wide curf cut. Use a fence and featherboards to hold the boards against the fence and down to the saw table to make the work go fast and easy. If the boards vary in width, then skip the featherboard holding the work to the table, and just carefully hold the boards down manually. Use pushsticks as appropriate.

    Then, cut thin strips of wood… any scrap lumber will do.. even pallet wood… that are just barely thinner than the curf cuts. The strips need to slide in and out of the curf cuts with just a slight bit of friction, but not so much you need to drive them in with a mallet. You’ll need just as many linear feet of strips as you have of boards with curf cuts to be installed. The width of the strips needs to be just slightly smaller than double the depth of the curf cuts in the boards.

    Use the strips like floating tennons between the board as they get installed…. or maybe they’re really long biscuit joints? Call them whatever you want. (I call them Cheater’s Tongues.)

    When installing, use the wood strips in the curf cuts, and then toenail along the open edges of the boards just like installing real T&G. The strips can be glued as well as nailed, but I usually don’t bother with glue.

    It works really well, and all the nails are completely hidden except for the very first board you install, and the very last board.

    A power brad nailer or a T&G flooring nailer are recommended to make the job go fast. However, if you’re willing to take the time, or it’s a small job, it can be done by hand if you set each nail with a nail set, but it will take a while. Personally, I HIGHLY recommend using a nailer on any job bigger than a small closet.

    Have fun cheating. Just don’t tell your wife what you’re doing. She might get the wrong idea.

    • Brad guns are my favorite. They’re very fast and easier than nailing over your head. They leave a tiny rectangular nail hole that’s almost invisible on rough sawn wood and can easily be puttied on finished wood. You can further hide the nail holes by shooting the brad in a streak or spot of color, and aligning the nail head with the grain.

  2. Recycled wood is wonderful if you can get it. I have found that generally speaking the older developed and affluent areas are the best resources. House remodels can be gold mines. Houses built before the 60s have old growth wood which is hard to come by today. The problem is that recycling old lumber in many areas especially in the west is almost none existent. Usually contractors when dismantling a building for remodel or replacement want to use the quickest and cheapest methods around. That means materials that might other wise be salvageable are destroyed. The best approach is to search older residential areas for remodels and talk to the general contractor. Let him know your interested in certain items and offer to purchase them. Many times the contractor will give you some for free and offer the other at a minimal price. It saves him disposal fees.

    One problem with using recycled material is building codes. Structural lumber is graded and building departments can be picky about beams that do not have grade stamps. The same goes for bathroom fixtures and windows. Older windows do not meet energy requirements for new construction. Old toilets and faucets do not conserve water. There is also a lead hazard with some older faucets and painted materials.

    Quality of wood issues. Houses built in the last 40 years used s4s green lumber. In the west it was usually Douglas Fir. For structural non exposed areas it is more then adequate. But it doesn’t take stains well and because it was used green, dried unevenly. The uneven drying causes cracks, splits and warping. Of concern too is the possibility of dry rot and mold. During the building boom of the late 60s and 70s, lumber would be shipped out to the job site so wet, that water would spurt from the lumber when driving a nail. We used to joke that if we stuck a 2×4 in the ground it would probably grow.

  3. When I was 19 and vacationing in Colorado, I got a tour of a nice cabin made almost entirely of reclaimed wood. It was stunning visually and made a pretty big impression on me. I had no idea you could build a house almost for free with salvaged wood. They were successful business owners and could have easily afforded new wood, but they much preferred the rustic natural look. There really is no comparison. Thinking about it now, I realize this was one of those experiences that helped set me on the path to learning about sustainable building. And as a side note, think how much money the owners must have saved over the decades. It’s mind boggling. Are there any financial guru types who could punch this into a spreadsheet for a future blog post?

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