Thursday 25 July 2013

Ceilings and Internal Walls Completed

We had intended to do all the plywood ceilings in the house before the internal walls. However, over three ad a half months ago work on the ceilings stopped when we found that the remainder of our batch of BB hoop pine plywood had unacceptable blue stains. We took up this issue with the local supplier, Huskisson Ply.  After countless phone calls to Husskison Ply that were not returned, we even tried phoning the distributor Gunnersons. We were happy to swap the ply sheets for those without blue marks and even pay for the extra transport costs. After three months (!!!) I finally got a reply from Huskisson Ply that we could return the sheets less a 20% restocking fee. So we would only get back 80% of the cost of the sheets.

We resorted through the remaining 26 sheets of ply and measured and calculated exactly how many sheets we needed and the size of each sheet. We worked out that any sheets less than the full width we could use the back of the sheet, as many with blue marks on the front did not have them on the back, and cut off the manufacturers big purple stamps that were on the back of the sheets. Other sheets with only patches of blue marks we managed to cut around the marks, resulting in a bit more wastage as some sheets we could only use about 1/3 of the sheet.

In the end we returned 13 sheets, but due to careful measuring we only needed to purchase 10 new sheets. This made up for the 20% we lost on returning the sheets. We returned the unused sheets to Huskisson Ply ourselves as we needed to get them out of the house as they were in the way where we needed to finish the ceiling in the main room.

The new sheets came from Mister Ply and Wood at Penrith. I had dealt with Chris Carter from Mr Ply several times over the previous few years and should have got all the ply from them in the first place. Instead I chose to go with an unknown local supplier to save on transport costs and support local businesses where I am building. Since I was only getting 10 sheets I was able to pick them up and transport them to site myself, by trailer, saving transport costs. I was also able to go into Mr Ply and Wood and due to my previous poor experience they let me go through the sheets they had in stock and select the ones I wanted.

Main room ceiling half done
We are very happy with the result. The new sheets of ply have slightly less figure in the grain. In the bedrooms we love the interesting swirls in the ply, it was this unique feature of the wood that made us choose to do the ceiling in ply in the first place. However in the larger main room the less figure in the ply works better as it makes the ceiling less busy.

In the smaller rooms, such as the bathrooms, entry and hall we were originally going to have the black expressed joints between the sheets and put up the blocking and painted it black. However, when we realised that the smaller bathroom would only have one joint we realised that this would look a bit silly and decided to butt the sheets together with no express joint. In doing this I tried to match the machine cut joints together. I could not always do this, particularly where I was using the backs of the old sheets as I had to cut the manufacturers stamps off both ends. So I had to cut the ply very carefully and then sand the cut edge until it was perfectly straight, or as near as I could get it. Not doing the express joints meant that I did not have to paint the edges of the ply black, thus the ceilings in the smaller rooms went up quicker.

For the main room we also chose not to have a black border around where the wall meets the ceiling. This had worked well for the first two bedrooms we put the ceiling up in, but in the third bedroom one of the walls was not quite square and this upset the process of trying to get the black border around the room. This is something we will have to try to disguise with some creative rendering.

Butt jointed ceiling in the smaller bathroom
The ceilings in the laundry and top of the hall were covered in one sheet. This was very neat but required careful measuring as the frame along one of the walls in the back section of the house was not straight.

Ceilings covered in a single sheet
With half of the main room ceiling left to finish, illness in the family, looked like delaying the completion of the ceiling. With very good timing my mate Tony offered to come down and help out on the build for the weekend. Over two days the rest of the ceiling went up like a dream thanks to the panel lifter, the 9mm strips of timber used to measure the gaps, careful measuring and Tony's help. It was truly a joy to look up at the completed ceiling in the main room, reminiscent of Japanese Tatami mats on the ceiling.

Completed plywood ceiling
The internal wall sheeting had previously stopped short of the ceilings so that I could put the ceilings in first. With the ceilings done work continued on the internal walls. I had under estimate the number of screws required to put up the internal walls. The house does not have many internal walls, but some of the internal walls are quite high and the raked ceiling meant that none of them could be completed floor to ceiling in one sheet. The built in robes also required more sheeting that it first appeared. I initially bought from Nepean Boltmaster 1,000  x 30mm  and 200 x 20mm fibre cement screws. The shorter screws were for the sheets attached to the cavity sliding door units as the screws could not go through to the other side of the timber side rails of these units. I then bought 300 more of the 30mm screws. Then another 100 x 20mm and 200 x 30mm and a further 200 x 30mm to finish off the job. That adds up to 2,000 screws.

Almost 2,000 screws used
Internal in walls in bedroom and robe sheeted with MgO Board
Bedroom and robe MgO sheeting completed, in late afternoon sun
Before ordering the MgO Board I had done a rough drawing of all the pieces I would need and roughly worked out what pieces I could get out of each sheet. When I cut each sheet of MgO I cut the large pieces out first and worked out the most efficient use of the remaining piece. This way I used the MgO board much more efficiently than I had first calculated. I will have 8 sheets left over after I use one more for the bath hob. The left over MgO Board will be used for the ceiling of the shed I will build later.


  1. Hi there,

    The new ceiling looks amazing, and you have inspired me to do the same!

    What grade (AA/BB -F?) and size of plywood did you get from Mister Ply & Wood? Also, how did you work the spans - I.e. how wide should each panel be? My truss are 600mm apart and I'm planning to do expressed joints and run the ply perpendicular to the span to visually increase the width of the room.

    1. My ceiling joists are at 600 centres. The ply needs to go perpendicular to the ceiling joists, as this way the ply spans across several joists. My choice of BB grade hoop pine ply was a compromise between costs and aesthetics. CD grade looks too rough and AA grade was outside my budget, so I settled on BB grade. Full sheets are 2440 x 1220 or thereabouts, it is best to use full sheets where possible and just trim them where needed. Place the machine cut edges toward the centre of the room where it will meet other sheets, where possible, as these cuts will be better than your own, unless you gave a table saw. I was just using a circular saw and a steady hand to cut my sheets. Good luck with your job. For the owner builder the ply was much easier to put up than plasterboard, so this made up for the higher cost of the ply. Plus the ply looks great.

  2. Hello - you have done a beautiful job of your ceiling. Thanks for sharing the details.

    I am looking at doing the same in my house but am struggling to find a way to install the ceiling with hidden fixings (as specified by my architect). Did you use glue/nails/screws? Can you see the the nail/screw holes?

  3. The plywood is held up by both glue and brads. I use Bostich SF flooring glue on the underside of the joists, but only through the middle of the sheet so the glue would not be seen at the edges. I then used brads from a Paslode bradding nailer (also called a fix out nailer) as they only have a very small head and you can hardly see them from a distance, but they hold the sheet until the glue has a chance to go off and they also hold the edges down. I used brads each 100mm or 150mm around the edges of the sheet and each 300mm along the joists through the centre. I tried filling the tiny holes made by the brads, but it actually looked more noticeable. Just leave them unfilled they look fine and it is less work.

  4. Thank you very much for your speedy reply - much appreciated

  5. Hi, thank you so much for sharing what you've done. We are owner building and we hope to also do a hoop plywood ceiling. We are interested in finding out if you applied a seal or stain to the plywood. Cheers, Nadia & Rick

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