How to install a plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!

Hello, I am so happy to have you here, I would love for you to follow me on Pinterest and if you enjoy Instagram you can keep up with me there as well!

This post has been a long time coming...

I am happy to finally share how to install a plank wall, and how to avoid...the biggest mistake EVER!  (of course I wasn't planning on the biggest mistake ever part...life happens)
You don't want to miss this tutorial on how to install a Plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!
I am loving it!!  Finally.  This tutorial will help you see how easy it is to do your own, minus the one mistake of course.  :)
measuring and marking studs on the wall
Let's start with a little shot of my wall shall we?  I know you are jealous...ha ha ha!  I have been wanting to paint over this since the day we moved in (cough cough...5 years ago) but it always got put on the back burner. Until now.  

My sister-in-law, Lisel, came to help me paint my room one weekend and we also got the plank wall up too. I had her use the stud finder and she went above and beyond by using a yard stick and a marker to let me know exactly where every stud was down the wall (above).  Thank you Lisel!  You could also use a chalk line to easily mark your studs.

It was very helpful.  And lest you think I was sitting back eating bon bons or something...I was outside cutting wood to build my Farmhouse Storage Bed.  Yay for teamwork!
selfie before we paint and do the plank wall
Blurry selfie, ready to conquer the cave room.  
tempered hardboard at Home Depot
*this post contains affiliate links* 

Let's back track a bit and see where my mistake began.  It began with tempered hardboard.  I have read several plank wall tutorials saying they used this material.  But, only one mentioned it wasn't working, and they scrapped it early.  Well, they were the smart ones, I should have done the same, but I am stubborn.  

I figured all the other tutorials worked so I would be fine...after reflecting on it in hindsight...I think the "tutorials that worked with hardboard" had cut smaller (not as wide) planks.  At least that is the only thing that makes since in my mind.

*FYI* Even though I used a material that I DO NOT recommend for you to use, the following process of how I planked my wall is still great, just use 1/4 plywood or Underlayment and you should be good to go!
Cutting 6 inch wide planks at home depot
I measured my wall and figured out that I needed 4 pieces of 4x8 hardboard to cover my wall, with some left over.  I got it for less than $40 and was so excited about the price.

To avoid the boards bending while they were cut I suggested that the Home Depot guy cut two boards at a time so they were more sturdy and to help keep the cuts straight.  It worked.  I had him cut the planks at 6 inches wide. 
Starting the plank wall with the first plank, using a level
I think this is the easiest and fastest way to get your planks up on the wall and have them staggered without you doing any math!  Who wants to do math right?!  

Start with your first 8 foot plank and nail it into the studs.  Make sure you use a level and DO NOT follow the ceiling line which will most likely NOT be level, mine wasn't, even if you can't tell in the photos.
adding the second board on a plank wall
Next, I took a new 8 foot plank and held it against the end of the wall and marked on it where it met the other plank.  You could just measure the space from the end of the plank to the wall and then mark that measurement on your board.  I just used the board and saved myself a step.

Then I cut my plank to fit that space and nailed it on, still checking for level on the first row. You can see my left over piece sitting against the wall.  It will be used for the beginning of the second row.  
using pennies as spacers for a plank wall
In order to perfectly space your plank rows you need to use something really high tech like...pennies.  Or, if you are really rich you could use nickels or quarters.  Apparently I am poor, all I could find in my house was pennies. :)  Place your plank up against the one on the wall then slide it a bit to add your pennies, then slide it back so the pennies don't fall out.  I used two, one for each end of the board I was attaching to the wall. 
easy method for staggering planks on a plank wall
Then you continue in the same pattern...adding one plank at a time, one row at a time.  Some rows will have 2 planks some will have three (or more if your wall is super long).  Grab a plank, measure it to the space on the wall, mark, cut, and install.  Use the left over piece from the same plank to start the next row.  I used a miter saw to make my cuts.  Hopefully you get a better idea of the process from my photo above...  
planking a wall
At this point it was going awesome and I had visions of my plank wall painted and finished by the end of the day.  ha ha 

If I had used 1/4 plywood/Underlayment my vision would have come to pass.  But I didn't, I used hardboard.  I didn't realize that one of my 4x8 pieces of hardboard was warped, they looked perfectly fine in the store.  So when I started planking the wall I noticed that some of the planks were bent...and they wouldn't lay flat.  

The planks pulled away from the wall, nails and all.
removing warped board on a plank wall
I had to remove the warped boards, this is a photo of the first one I noticed.  I even tried using liquid nails on a few to help flatten them and make them stick to the wall...but it didn't work.  Arghhh!
a personal ben and jerry's break
What's a girl to do?  A PB&J was definitely in order...(that is our code for "Personal Ben & Jerry's, my husband is very creative like that) Lisel and I had a few scoops.   Ahhh, much better.

I went through my planks and pulled out all the good pieces and set the warped ones to the side...then I finished planking with the straight pieces.  The straight pieces went on great.
cutting bottom plank to fit on plank wall, and notching out for vent and moulding
For my last row I had to use a jig saw to cut my planks in half to fit the space.  Don't worry about your jigsaw cuts being perfect either, just make sure your jigsaw cut ends are against the moulding and you can use caulk to cover up any uneven parts!  I also notched out the pieces to fit the vent and the corner.  

So maybe you are thinking, "Hey, that wasn't so bad, just make sure to use non warped hardboard, Right?"  WRONG!!!  Read on...
hardboard planks popping off of plank wall, securing with nails
I planked this wall back in April.  I ended up not painting it right away, because I got started on my window and figured I could just paint the wall and the window at the same time.  Turns out it was good I waited because when we started getting buckets of rain look what started happening!!!!  Boards were warping out like crazy.

I know this is a picture of only one board popping off the wall (need I remind you that these were the straight boards that went up) but my whole wall was covered with popping off the wall planks!  WHAT!!!????hardboard warping and popping off plank wall
After frantically shooting a million and one nails into the popping planks and probably destroying my drywall forever.  I had the presence of mind to take a photo.  See all the nail holes?  Completely ridiculous.  One nail didn't do the trick it was more like 5, 6 or 7 nails.

I waited to paint this wall for almost a full month after installing it and I would weekly have to secure more boards.  I wanted to cry, but I wasn't giving up yet, I mean the wall was already filled with holes, taking it down was just more work.

I will NEVER use hardboard again.  I knew from doing my Final touches post in my Master Closet Makeover that the 1/4 plywood works great for a plank wall.  Sadly I realized it would have only been about $20 more to get the 1/4 plywood/underlayment.  Seriously?  Sometimes cheaper is not always better, it would have been worth every penny.

I hope you can learn from my mistake, because the process is very easy and simple, and pretty quick, IF you have the proper materials.
filling nail holes with spackle
I filled all the nail holes with spackle, then I waited about a week and luckily no more boards popped off the wall, even with rain.
plank wall ready for painting
I painted two coats on the wall before I caulked, then finished up with the last coat of paint.  You could caulk first... I just forgot. :)
caulking the edges of the plank wall
I caulked the top, bottom and sides.  You can see the difference the caulk makes, I wouldn't skip this step!  I makes it look crisp, clean, and finished. 
How to install a Plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!  MyLove2Create
It took me three coats of Behr Ultra pure white semi-gloss to get it looking nice and white.  I cut in the edges and rolled the paint on with a roller.  I kept a butter knife on hand for getting paint out of the cracks when I accidentally applied too much.  It mostly it went on quickly without going into the slats.
How to install a Plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!  MyLove2Create
Sorry for just boring pictures of a plank wall but I am STILL working on my bed, it is getting close.  The end of the school year has really stopped work for me, plus the rain that has been going non stop for a month.  Maybe I should have started my bedroom when I had less going on...oh wait....that would be...never. :)
How to install a Plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!  MyLove2Create
We have been sleeping on our bed pushed to the center of the room for over two months it is pathetic.  This is real life DIY at my house folks!  My poor husband.
How to install a Plank wall...and how to avoid the biggest mistake EVER!!  MyLove2Create
There you have it!  I am sooo happy to be done with this part of my room.  It is always a little disheartening when you expect a project to be done in one day and it takes two months, lol!  So think plywood/underlayment people not hardboard, it is so worth the extra dough.

Have you planked a wall before?  If you have any tips I missed please share in the comments, we would all love to hear them!

*UPDATE*  I received a very nice email from the manufacturer of the hardboard I used.  I am coping the information below as it can be very useful and hopefully eliminate any problems for you if you choose to use hardboard.  Good Luck! 

To understand why the planks popped of the wall you first need to understand how it is manufactured.
We start with wood fibers, wash and dry them, add linseed oil, form into a mat and put into a large heated press. The heat and pressure activate the lignin’s in the wood which work as a natural adhesive to bind the fibers together. That’s it, no resins, no formaldehyde, no chemicals. In fact, the EPA uses DPI as an example in their educational materials on Green and Sustainable Manufacturing.

So what does that have to do with your struggles to put in on the wall?  When it comes out of the press it is only at 3 – 7% moisture content. Being stacked in a unit it stays this dry. You then take it home and put it in an environment that may have 50-60% humidity. As the wood fibers absorb this moisture they swell and grow. It is very minimal, but enough to cause problems if not accounted for.

With any of our products we ask that the panels are spread around the room in which they will be installed at least 24 hours before hand. (48 in the case of basements). This allows them to acclimate to the humidity level and become balanced with their new environment.

Next, we recommend using adhesive, not nails to install. Adhesive will give a little as the panels expand and contract. Nails don’t give so as the panel expands the only way it can move is away from the wall. DPI recommends Loctite PowerGrab.

This leads to the final tip. You gapped your planks side to side, this is very good, but you should have also gapped them end to end to allow for the expansion. An 1/8” is all it takes. Fill this gap with a good quality paintable caulk just like you did with joint compound. The caulk will give a little and allow expansion and contraction while the joint compound is too rigid. Now when you paint it will look like one solid plank.

These three simple steps will insure you do not have panels popping of the wall in the future.

Hugs,
Mindi

I will be linking to these parties and Savvy Southern Style

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47 comments

  1. Yay! It looks great Mindi! I can't wait to see it in person!

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  2. Ugh! I went through the same thing...but instead of bowing I had crappy crooked cuts from HD! I learned my lesson and will never use hardboard again! But it looks great!

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  3. It's really nice even though it took a while :)

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  4. I love the look of planked walls! I'm glad I found this in case I ever do one. Now I know better than to use hardboard even if it's cheaper!

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  5. I think we are planking a half wall in our ever ongoing bathroom remodel that still isn't done. I hope ours goes smooth. Thanks for the tips. Pinned. Thanks for sharing at the party and see you again soon. Theresa @DearCreatives

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  6. Hi, Mindi, Here from #HomeMattersPArty.
    I was a Mindy in 8th grade! Love that name.
    You are so handy. I am too chicken, and feeble to ever attempt something like this. You did a fabo job.

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  7. You must have been so discouraged to see that all coming off! I remember years and years ago wallpapering a kitchen and the next morning I got up and most of it was falling off the walls! Maybe if you left the hardboard to sit for a while in the room to acclimate it? I wouldn't think hardboard was strong enough to actually pop out nails and glue. Ah well, it looks lovely now!

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  8. Thank you for posting 'the real story," Mindy. I love the way it turned out. One of these days I want to plank some walls and maybe ceilings in our house. I am pinning this to refer to so I don't make a mistake too. It turned out awesome though!

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  9. I would love to do this to all my walls in my bedroom. Just need someone as nice as your sister-in-law to help! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty

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  10. Pinning this my friend! I have so wanted to do this in my house! You did a beautiful job!!!! And thank you for showing us the whole story and what not to do! Amazing Mindi!!! I wish I could fly you out here to help me with this one! I will let you know how it goes! Nicole xo

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  11. whoa! You sure are persistent. I'm sorry you learned the hard way. I've never used hardboard for anything... well I have reused pieces off of furniture, but I haven't bought it.
    I did do a plank wall, and used underlayment. I used washers as spacers, and the gaps were too large. I didn't caulk.... I would think that would make the horizontal lines disappear?

    Your project looks great, and btw they say it only takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so sleeping in the middle of the room should seem "right" by now. heheheheh

    gail

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  12. Your wall looks great. Can't wait to see the rest of the room finished. I'm going to do a plank wall in my powder room. I'll be using old leftover picket fencing. Wish me luck.

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  13. sorry about that hardboard stuff. Definitely sometime it's better to spend a few extra $$ to buy a material you know it's going to work. Live and learn. Right?

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  14. Mindi, it was great to meet you. Reading this post makes me smile, it's totally something we would do, I'm impressed at your perseverance! It really looks great!

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  15. Oh, Mindi! First, so sorry you had so many problems with this project! It can be insanely frustrating; especially when the project should not be that hard. I can relate very much to this right now and I laugh out loud at your ice cream photo! Hey, at least the level was within reach. ;) lol

    Second, I LOVE the final look of your plank wall! I have been debating about doing a partial plank wall, but can't seem to make up my mind. Did you use a foam roller to apply the paint? Is your bed going to be up against the plank wall? I like the gray walls on the side. I hope your bedroom is coming along smoothly now and you have no more DIY issues! :D

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  16. Mindi, thank you so much for sharing this! If I ever decide to try this on a wall, this information will be priceless! I'm so sorry it was harder than anticipated, but at least it looks great!
    Thanks so much for sharing at Something to Talk About!
    Karen

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  17. Great tutorial on installing a Plank wall. I'm sure it will be helpful to many. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick
    http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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  18. It turned out SO GOOD! I'm glad you stuck with it. So sorry you had so much trouble. I've been there before and it sucks all the fun out of a project.

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  19. It turned out SO GOOD! I'm glad you stuck with it. So sorry you had so much trouble. I've been there before and it sucks all the fun out of a project.

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  20. I've never tried this before! Your project turned out great though!! Thanks for the amazing tips! So glad you linked up with us at the Talented Tuesday party :)
    Lindi @ www.lovecreatecelebrate.com

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  21. I absolutely love this! Thanks for sharing it with us. Pinned and tweeted. I hope to see you tomorrow night at 7 pm. We can’t wait to party with you! Lou Lou Girls

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  22. I clearly haven't checked any blogs in months, because I missed THIS! I know you've wanted to get your bedroom done forever. It looks amazing but sorry it ended up taking so much time and effort. I love the gray walls too. It looks so good in crisp combination with the white planked wall. I wanna come see it in person.

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  23. Super cool. I am hoping for a pallet wall one day.

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  24. Great end result. Hardboard is pretty rubbish isn't it! We use it here in the uk, mainly as an underlay for vinyl flooring etc.

    I wonder whether cheap laminate flooring would work for a plank wall?

    Or here in the uk we have stuff called MDF ... A bit like hardboard but a finer & stronger consistency. Sold in 1/4" upwards.

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  25. you should cut the planks so that each one ends half the width of the studs. Nailing into the wall and not a stud is only holding to the drywall and if the board is not straight it will definitely pop out.

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  26. Removing the baseboard until the wall is complete aleviates the need for intricate cuts at the bottom.

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  27. Glad to know I'm not the only "trial and error" DIYer out there. Even though I take the hard way around it comes out pretty good and even when I know of the flaws no one else can see them (or perhaps they are too kind to point them out). No one else can tell a "story" about every scare inch of their house and every project (injuries, mistakes, etc). The best part? My Dad is my cohort and helps me with whatever I want to do without question. Now that he's had a few strokes and heart attacks and our projects have slowed- I remember each one more and more fondly. My house is a piece of me (and my Dad). ♥

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  28. You poor thing! You really had a struggle with that wall! I admire your perseverance as well as the fact that you gave us A true, honest post, warts and all. I think the finished wall looks beautiful! I am planning on doing a plank wall in my living room and I learned from you what materials to use and what not to ! Thanks! Jeannee

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  29. Glad I found this, in case I decide to try it!!

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  30. I am so glad I read this! You are awesome for sharing your mistakes. I will definitely use 1/4 plywood.

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  31. Love this!! I have a few questions, 1) if you didn't use the spacers (pennies) would it not look right? 2) how did you know how much wood to buy

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    1. Thank you! If you don't use the spacers you won't have the gaps between the boards, It would not look the same, the boards would be right up against each other. I suppose it is personal preference. In order to know how much wood to buy, I simply measured the wall and figured out how many 4x8 sheets of plywood I needed to cover it, then bought that amount. I hope that helps! Best of luck to you!

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  32. Any material does better if it allowed to "cure" in the home a couple of weeks before installation.

    This looks great and I'm definitely going to give it a shot! Thanks!

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  33. Hi, I just found this post and I have done several plank walls in our home using underlayment. Even with that, there were one or 2 boards that liked to pop off the wall. I just angled the nails, like one angled down and one next to it going up. Sometimes if the nails are straight in, they will pop out easily. Second, I put one coat of paint on each plank prior to install. With underlayment, the plywood layers can sometimes start to separate. Painting the sides really well prevents this. Your wall looks great!!

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  34. Dear Mindy, I really enjoyed your adventure into the "scary world of unfamiliar material's".
    I have had the privilege of working in the field of Finish Carpentry and Cabinetmaking & Design for 43 yrs.
    And I never get tired of hearing and seeing the awesome projects that others take on. Your creativity inspires both my wife Theresa and myself.
    I do have a few thoughts regarding your hardboard debacle!

    I have worked w/ hardboard in its many forms over the years. It is indeed challenging to work w/ it effectively. If I may, i'd like to offer a few tips for "Hardboard Mastery"

    I don't know if this will be too long for your blog? So if your interested please drop me an email and I can either post or send it to you in pdf format.

    I think you'll be surprised by how useful and cooperative hardboard can actually be!

    warmest regards, Jim Herring

    If you

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  35. Your nightmare of a project turned out great. There is no such thing as easy. Thanks for the tip. You've inspired me to try this.

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  36. Great Job: you are way funny with a lot of personality and character.....and... Endurance.. You have core strength to be able to deal with the maddening conditions and surprises of projects.. Congratulations on your job and who you are:-)

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  37. It's gorgeous! I'm jealous, despite the trouble you ran into, because I have plaster walls, and cinder-block on the shared walls - ;( ;( ;(

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  38. Hi Mindy. So I just finished my plank wall (I used underlayment) I wish I could attach a picture. My question is I'm ready to finished the edges I've already done one coat of paint, and I'm worried the caulk will seep into the nickel spaced gaps I have between each plank? I'm terrified to even start haha. Could you explain more as to how caulking the sides of the wall went.
    Thanks so much! I appreciate it.

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    1. Hi Nicole that is so exciting! When I caulked on the sides I used a small bead of caulk and smoothed it out with my finger. I kept a butter knife handy just in case some caulk went into my slats between planks. If it did, I would just use my butter knife to remove it from the slats. You can count on some going in between the planks, so don't stress! Just remove it before it dries and you'll be fine! I hope that makes sense, good luck!

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  39. Hi Mindy. So I just finished my plank wall (I used underlayment) I wish I could attach a picture. My question is I'm ready to finished the edges I've already done one coat of paint, and I'm worried the caulk will seep into the nickel spaced gaps I have between each plank? I'm terrified to even start haha. Could you explain more as to how caulking the sides of the wall went.
    Thanks so much! I appreciate it.

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  40. I followed your tutorial to a t (including using underlayment) and it turned out wonderfully.

    To Nicole Caten, I just taped the wall adjacent to my plank wall and ran a bead of caulk down the corner and smoothed it with my finger. I then took a flathead screwdriver and scraped any excess caulk from the spaces. It worked really well.

    I too wish I could post a picture!Thanks for the great tutorial!

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    1. Yay Andrea! I am so glad it turned out for you!! I would LOVE to see photos you can email them to me at Mindi@MyLove2Create.com Also great idea to tape the wall for the caulk! :)

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  41. A couple of quick tips... if using this in a bathroom or moist environment, consider rolling a l l faces (front back sides and ends.. yep- even the grooves of t&g) with Redguard™ prior to priming and then painting.. no job is ever better than your prep.

    You're right, plywood is much better than Hardboard ( no more than "H" away from cardboard ) Hboard (aka MDF or Multi-Density-FIBERboard< blech!) is the stuff many cabinet companies use as counter top underlayment.. yep. It's the cause of many a raised eyebrow when homeowners find 'sawdust' falling into their dishwasher every time they open it up. But there's a solution for that, too.

    Pre-paint with 2 coats with Redguard™, a simple to use waterproofing membrane and then make sure to double coat all scuffs and nail holes once your material is installed. If you choose to avoid the extra steps, well-- once this stuff swells up like a pig you'll kick yourself and continue to do so while ripping it all out.

    Another trick to stop warping, nails pulling and the dreaded shrink-swell associated with most wood products used as planks ( including wide plank flooring installation TIP TIPS ) is to "kerf" or reverse-cut grooves into each plank. Run your planks through a table saw (back side down) with the blade set to under one half the thickness of the material. These grooves on the back of each board will serve as relief cuts, which may very well be what saves your hole job in the long run.. this works for floors, walls, ceilings and even door casing. You wouldn't want any of it to warp after all of that work, would you?

    Happy homemaking!

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  42. Thank you for sharing this story! Did you plank over wall paper? I am getting ready to plank our laundry room and I was hoping to plank over the wall paper but I am afraid to see a bit of blue in the gaps between the planks.

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