How to install a tongue and groove plank wall

master closet plank wall at


Installing a tongue and groove, wood plank wall is a super easy way to spruce up a boring wall.  Like the wall in my master closet that I just planked — I hated that wall.

master closet plank wall at


First of all, what are tongue and groove planks?  They are wood boards (planks) that have a groove cut into them along one side and the other side has a protruding strip (tongue) that fits into the groove of another plank.  These are 5/8″ thick.  I’ve installed thinner ones but didn’t like them.  They were difficult to work with and not enough cheaper than the thicker wood planks to make it worth the hassle.

master closet plank wall at


I’ve searched for primed tongue and groove planks but short of custom ordering, which I never plan ahead for, raw pine is all I can ever find.  I bought the planks for my library ceiling at Home Depot but found these at a local lumber yard for $4 per 8′ plank.  I hand selected the smoothest and least knotty planks I could find.  Set them on the forklift and then they were loaded into my truck for me.  (Love that!)

master closet plank wall at


My planks were already very smooth so primed them without sanding.  I’m using an oil based, stain blocking primer (Sherwin Williams ProBlock) because I don’t want any knots or sap bleeding through.  I do 2 coats of primer.

master closet plank wall at


After the first coat of primer, I fill all the visible cracks and then sand the entire plank lightly with 220 grit sandpaper.  It’s easier to see what cracks and knots are visible after you’ve primed than before.

master closet plank wall at


When sanding, make sure to get the V-grooves on each plank.  I find it easiest to do this by pushing a bunch of planks together and sanding the V with the corner of a sanding sponge.

master closet plank wall at


Make sure to let your planks dry completely between each coat of primer and paint.  I applied 2 coats of primer and then 2 coats of paint.

master closet plank wall at


I removed my baseboards because I want to put the back on ON TOP of the plank wall.  I also removed some thin trim pieces that were on the edges of my cabinets.  Scrape off all remaining caulk

master closet plank wall at


The installation is the easiest part if you have a nail gun.  Just make sure you:

  1. mark where your studs are so you know where to place your nails
  2. place your first plank perfectly level

master closet plank wall at


Putting that first plank on level is key to having the whole wall of planks being level.  Nail your first plank on below the top of your baseboard line.  You want to make sure the baseboards cover a plank.  I have the tongue facing up on a horizontal plank wall.  Then place the groove of the next plank over the tongue of the first one and nail into place.  Easy as pie!


If you have an outlet or light switch in your plank wall, use an extender for your junction box to bring the outlet flush with the new wall.

master closet plank wall at


My built in cabinets had additional moulding below the crown and I didn’t want to remove the crown to remove that trim so I  cut it off flush with a scrap piece of plank wall with my Black & Decker Matrix, slid the next plank up behind that and I was done.

how to install a plank wall @


I filled all my nail holes with wood filler and then painted the whole wall again because I don’t like to see touch up spots where the brush strokes make a different texture than the mini roller…it’s probably a perfectionist thing but that’s how I roll. master closet plank wall at

The great thing is these planks only have 4 nails each in them so if I ever decide to tear the wall down and go a different route, there won’t be too much repair work.  No glue or wallpaper paste or construction adhesive…

Just wood, nails and paint!


  1. I know it’s been a while since you posted this, which makes it perfect for this question. You probably think it’s silly, but I have to ask. I think of things in terms of how easy it is to clean. I do love the look of the planked wall. My question is doesn’t dust accumulate in the gaps between boards and if so, what have you found is the best way to clean it?

  2. Great tutorial. I believe the actual name of these planks is “car siding”. It’s now most frequently used inside, but originally it was an exterior siding. Called car siding because of its use on, of all things, railroad cars. I’m into old houses and doing DIY projects that fit them – I love your work.

  3. Kelley,
    Love the wall. Question: if the wall is longer than 8′ when you put up your next board do you try to cover that seam w filler or just let it show and stagger them?

    • My lumber yard had lengths available up to 16′ but if you had to seam together your planks I would stagger them.

  4. Kelley I live in a 100 yr old home too so I feel your pain. As long as you have baseboard and crown, it shouldn’t matter that your walls aren’t perfect. I would just measure from the floor to the ceiling on either end of the wall, figure out how off (out of square) the wall is and then determine how much of the wall space the baseboard and crown will take up once reinstalled. If you calculate that less than 1/4 of a board width will be visible once complete just rip your starter board for a more uniform look.

  5. Feral Turtle says:

    Excellent tutorial Sandra. I love your plank wall. It looks fantastic.

  6. I love plank walls. We live in an old house (100+) and talk about uneven walls; they are neither square or plumb. I’d do planks in several rooms, but the ceiling and floor do not run parallel! I have no doubt it would drive me nuts having level planks and the floor and ceiling each doing their own thing. I’ll just look at your wall and pretend its mine. :)

  7. THANK YOU for not using glue everywhere. I can’t stand tutorials that tell you to just stick paneling up with construction adhesive or the like. My biggest pet peeve is gluing frames to mirrors. Guys, how is anyone going to get that stuff off?!

  8. kristin says:

    This is where you say “I just answered your email Kristin”. I think that about answers most of my questions. I had seen the tongue and groove on another site and wondered if that was a good choice. The recommendation there was real thin wood is harder to do with the install into the groove–what thickness do you find is best? Thanks!

    • LOL These are about 5/8″ thick as were the ones I used on my library ceiling. I bought thinner ones for my laundry room ceiling but didn’t like them at all. They were difficult to work with, the groove isn’t very deep and they weren’t even much cheaper than these thicker ones so I won’t be buying those again.

  9. Wow, this is a very cool wall treatment. Thanks so much for sharing the inside story. ;)
    One question: did you keep the nails in the tongue/groove, like when installing hardwood flooring, or did you nail through the face of the planks?
    Great work! Keep creating and inspiring.