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How-to Make a Plank Wall in 10 Easy Steps

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption (www.gracegumption.com)

I’ve been wanting to give my living room a makeover but I initially decided to put it aside until I got our dining room finished. Well, that plan completely changed after just one episode of my favorite show, Fixer Upper on HGTV. If you’re not familiar with the show, let me give you a quick breakdown. The show stars power couple Chip and Joanna, who’s talents combined create nothing short of beauty. With Joanna as the designer and Chip as the head of construction and Real Estate, they are able to flip the not so desired houses into beautiful homes.

The episode that changed everything wasn’t because of the work they did for another family but for their own home. Joanna and Chip planted their roots in an old farmhouse that was in desperate need of the couples special touch. To keep the genuine feel of the farmhouse, Joanna upcycled the weathered lumber from the old house to create plank walls in her home. Let me tell you, it is beautiful!! See for yourself here or below. Once I saw it, I wasn’t able to stop thinking about it and had to make at least one plank wall for our home.

Fixer Upper Inspiration at Grace + Gumption

Without an old farmhouse to pull scrap wood from, I knew this may become an expensive task to take on. But after doing a little bit of research, I found a great fellow blogger over at Sweet Pickens Furniture who wrote up a tutorial on how she achieved her plank walls using sheets of plywood. At just $11.50 a pop, these sheets of plywood were going to make my plank wall cheap and easy. Although Sweet Pickens Furniture inspired my tutorial, I did change a few things that I would like to show you below.  

Supplies

  1. 4′ x 8′ Plywood, $14 a piece
  2. Two 8′ quarter round moulding, $5 a piece
  3. 5/8-in steel brad nails, $4 for a pack of a 1000
  4. Patching plaster, $5
  5. Putty knife, $1
  6. Paint, $25
  7. Paint supplies – rollers, trays, brushes, (things I had on hand)
  8. 320-grit sandpaper, (already had on hand – similar here)
  9. A couple of nickels (you’ll see why later)

Grand Total ~$100

Tools

  1. Nail gun (I used Bostitch 5/8-in Electric Staple Gun)
  2. Jig saw or hand saw (I used an old one was a hand-me-down from my dad)
  3. Hammer and nail finisher
  4. Stud finder

Project Time: 3-4 Days

STEP 1: Measure your wall(s) and draw up a plan.

My wall measured out to be approximately 13′ 3″ wide and 8′ tall. Instead of investing in high dollar wall panels, I went with a cheaper route without sacrificing style. To get the 2’x7′ wall plank look (like from Fixer Upper), I decided to use thin sheets of plywood that could be cut into six inch strips to give the appearance of real 2’x7’s. The plywood at Lowe’s that I planned to use came in 4’x8′ sheets. Drawing the wall plans helped me determine that I could get the project done with just four simple sheets of plywood without too much waste.

Plank Wall Plans by Grace + Gumption

 STEP 2: Purchase your materials and cut your boards.

Instead of cutting the boards myself I decided to take advantage of Lowe’s cutting service thinking it would only save me time (but unfortunately that didn’t up being the case which I’ll explain in further detail in a follow-up post.) During my trip to Lowe’s, I purchased four sheets of plywood and two 8 ft. quarter round moulding that would trim the wall where it meets the adjacent walls. I gave the Lowe’s worker the instructions to cut the wood and if done right, I should be left with four sheets worth of 6″ boards.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

plank wall tutorial

 STEP 3: Lightly sand the cut edge of the wood planks.

Using 320 grit sandpaper, I went over the edges of the wood to remove any roughness or jagged edges. [Sanding prior to installing also helps avoid unwanted splinters during the installation process.]

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

STEP 4: Find and mark wall studs.

Once your boards are ready to go, it’s time to prep your wall for installation. Remove any existing nails or screws from the wall. Then using a pencil and stud finder, mark the location of the studs.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

 STEP 5: Install your first plank, beginning at the ceiling.

Once you have marked the studs across the entire wall you will be covering, you are now ready to begin installation of your planks. I would recommend beginning at the ceiling, so that you start with a nice crisp line. When placing the plank at the ceiling, use a level – although you would assume your ceiling is already level, that is not always the case.

Once you have the plank where you want it and it’s level, you are now free to nail it to the wall. Using the the stud marks you made previously as your guide, insert two nails per stud. I used an electric nail gun that I got from Lowe’s. If you don’t have one, I would recommend this one because it’s completely electric (meaning you don’t need an air compressor to use it and it was very inexpensive…just $30).

Each row for my wall, required two boards per row. So once you have first board up, ensure to continue using the level for any adjacent boards on the same row until the entire row is completed (like the picture below). Please disregard the paint trials that you see in the picture. I ended up painting over this again later to make sure that the pops of color wouldn’t show between my boards.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

 STEP 6: Continue adding rows, using nickels as spacers between planks.

Once your top row is finished and level, continue adding planks under the existing row. the depth of a nickel is the perfect amount of space to leave in between each plank. So, go couch diving until you find three or four nickels that you can use to space out each plank like so.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Once you have a couple of rows done, it should start looking more like this. Tip: Try to space out or alternate your seams. Variation makes them less obvious.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

 STEP 7: Make special cuts in boards for outlets and light switches.

As you work your way down the wall, you’re more than likely going to come across at least one outlet or light switch.  Instead of cutting the plank all the way around the outlet plate (which would look tacky), you can adjust your outlet to be mounted directly on top of the plank.

To do this, take a screwdriver and loosen the outlet screws just until you have enough space for your finger to fit in between the wall and outlet.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Once that is done, place your board on the wall in the place you will be installing in. Then use a pencil to mark the section that needs to be cut out from the board. Tip: Aim for the top of the cut to fall just above the screw as you can see in the picture above and below. The side can be cut at the same width of  the junction box.

Next, use a jig saw or hand saw to make cuts along the cut lines you just created. Once you’ve made your cuts, place your board back up on the wall as you regularly would but this time, make sure that your outlet prongs are on the outside of the wood (as you can see in the picture below). Nail the board to the wall and retighten the outlet screw on the outside of the plank to hold it in place. Continue this process until you have worked around the outlet and proceed with installing the planks as you would normally.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

STEP 8: Patch and hide nail holes and wood creases.

Once you’ve covered the entire wall with the wood planks, take a nail finisher to any nails that may be sticking out from the surface of the wood. Tip: It’s better to have your nails below the surface than above because these little holes are easily covered and sticking out nails are not.

Once you’ve checked to make sure all nails are sunken past the brim, use patching plaster and a putty knife to hide nail holes and fill in the creases from where your wood pieces meet.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Let the plaster dry for the duration that the instructions say – mine had a drying period of about 30 minutes. Then, take a piece of 320-grit sandpaper and go over the plastered seams and holes until it is all completely smooth to the touch. Tip: To completely hide seams, it may take a couple of layers of the putty – just make sure to sand after each application.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

STEP 9: Paint the wall.

I used dutch boy paint (my favorite) from Menards. The color I chose was Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. Below is an example of just one coat of dutch boy paint – no primer needed (isn’t this paint awesome?) I was done after just two coats. Tip: To keep high contrast between rows, don’t paint between the planks.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

STEP 10: Add the quarter round moulding to each corner of the wall.

This step really gives the wall the final touch because it hides any width measurement mistakes that may have been made in step 1 of this tutorial (woohoo). Before installing the moulding to each corner, paint the pre-primed pieces using the same paint you used on your boards. This proved to be an easy way to keep from getting paint on the adjacent walls.

Once the paint is dried and ready to go, take one of the two quarter round moulding and place it into the corner of the wall. Most likely you’ll have to cut the moulding to get it fit just perfectly above of the baseboard. So take a pencil and mark where you need to make the cut – I did an easy 90 degree angle cut.  I used my clamping box guide and saw from Lowe’s to do the job. Once cut, place the moulding back into the desired position and use your nail gun to affix it to the wall. Repeat the same process with the other corner of the wall.

Finish any nails that may be sticking out and hide the nail holes with the putty you used on the wall earlier. Once dry, take a small brush to paint over these areas. The corner of your walls should now look a little like so.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Now, just reattach any switch plates and your wall is ready to go! Tip: Instead of replacing mismatched switch plates, paint them instead so that they match and blend into the wall perfectly. 

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption

All that’s left is to decorate your new wall! I didn’t waste any time. See below for the finished masterpiece.

Plank Wall Tutorial by Grace + Gumption (www.gracegumption.com)

I loved making this wall and I love even more how it turned out! It really adds so much to the room but in such a subtle way. Good luck with your own wall in your home – I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

God bless,
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