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Decorative Kitchen Ceiling

Update your kitchen - or any room - with a new decorative ceiling made of ornamental beams and panels.

 Painted beam and paneling ceiling

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools and Materials


  • Table saw or miter saw and circular saw
  • Finish nail driver and air compressor (optional)
  • Hammer and nail set
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Carpenter's square
  • Electronic stud finder


  • 3/16-in x 4-ft x 8-ft hardboard wall panel, #296727
  • 8-ft prefinished white cove moulding, #95840
  • 3/4-in x 3-1/2-in x 12-ft primed board, #229547
  • Construction adhesive
  • Valspar Signature paint: Withered Moss (#6007-3C) and Sunday Times (#ar915)

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Prepare to Install the New Ceiling

Step 1

Begin by mapping on graph paper the dimensions of your ceiling. Note the locations of potential obstacles such as recessed light fixtures and vents. Then add evenly spaced beams.

Step 2

Don't assume the walls come together at perfect 90-degree corners. Check for irregular angles using a carpenter's square placed against each corner of the ceiling (if you don't have a square, you can also use a piece of paneling with two adjoining factory edges). For odd-angle corners, plan to cut mitered parts slightly oversize and fine-tune the angle as you cut them to length.

Step 3

Remove light fixtures, recessed light fixture trim, vent coverings, smoke detectors, and anything else that might keep the beaded panels from resting flat against the ceiling surface.
Good to Know
When removing light fixtures, always turn off power to the lights at the circuit breaker. Don't rely on simply turning off a light switch.

Step 4

 Measure along the walls to mark panel locations.
Mark the panel seam locations along each wall. (Measurements should be identical along opposite walls.) Double-check the marks against your graph-paper pattern to make sure the beams will cover the panel seams.

Step 5

 Stretch and snap a chalk line to mark the beam locations.
With a helper, snap a chalk line between marks along opposite walls to mark the panel locations. Note any panels you'll need to cut to an odd shape for corners or along walls to fit the grid.

Install the Ceiling Panels

Step 1

 Glue ceiling panels to the existing ceiling.
Cut panels to fit the grid. Beginning in one corner, test fit the first panel against the ceiling and check that the panel edges follow the chalk lines and are tight against both walls. Apply construction adhesive to the panel corners and center, and then press it into place.

Step 2

 Nail panels to the ceiling while the adhesive cures.
To help support the panel while the adhesive cures, use an 18-gauge pneumatic nail gun with 3/4-in nails to fasten it against the ceiling. (Nail only around the panel edges, not in the center.) If you don't have a pneumatic nailer, hand-nail #17 x 1-in wire brads. Repeat for the remaining ceiling panels.

Hardboard panels can be tricky to nail, even with a pneumatic nail gun. Before reinforcing your panels with nails, test the compressor settings using hardboard scraps on drywall scraps. Nails should countersink just below the surface. Test the nail gun again before installing spacer strips and the solid wood parts.

Step 3

 Nail a shim strip around the ceiling edge.

Mark the beam locations on the ceiling panels and snap chalk lines between the marks. Then rip a ceiling panel and leftover scraps into spacer strips the width of the primed 3/4-in x 3-1/2-in stock. Beginning with the outside edges of the ceiling, glue and nail strips to the ceiling panels.

Why not go straight to nailing up the 3/4-in x 3-1/2-in boards? Their 3/4-in thickness means the cove mouldings you'll install later wouldn't leave much of a profile. By adding strips the cove moulding will cover up later, you give the "beams" more texture (Decorative Ceiling Project Diagram).

Step 4

 Fasten the shim strips at beam locations.
Working with a helper, nail the long strips in place first. Then cut shorter strips to fit between the long strips and nail those in place.

Step 5

 Nail beam boards over the ceiling shims.
Measure and cut 3/4-in x 3-1/2-in stock to fit over the strips; glue and nail them in position. Check that your nails countersink below the wood surface.

Step 6

 Add mitered cove mouldings to the ceiling.
Use a mitersaw to make 45-degree miters on both ends of the cove mouldings cut slightly oversize. Carefully cut each to length.

You can measure mitered strips carefully and still leave gaps. For tight-fitting miters, cut pieces slightly oversize and then trim off tiny amounts until they fit. If a piece seems just a hair too long, flex the moulding slightly to pop it in place.

Step 7

  Fill gaps and nail holes in the ceiling mouldings.
Fill nail holes and small gaps with a latex filler like the kind used to patch drywall nail holes. Wipe smooth and sand lightly if needed.

Step 8

Tape over the walls around the outside mouldings and paint the beams first; let dry. (We used Valspar Signature in Sunday Times.) Add a second coat and let that dry overnight. Then tape over the mouldings where they meet the panels and apply two coats of paint to the panels. (We used Valspar Signature in Withered Moss.)