How to Construct Coffered Ceilings

coffered ceiling
  • 8-40 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 400-5,000
What You'll Need
Frame beams (in the chosen length and depth)
Shadow line beams (in the chosen length and depth)
Wood glue
Crown molding

With their waffled look, coffered ceilings add to the depth and style of any room. While they can be difficult to install, if you take your time and follow these directions, you can construct them yourself quite easily.

Size the Beams

The general rule is that the larger the room, the bigger the beams. Generally speaking, the beams that look the best will be 6-inches deep and 6-inches wide. When determining the size of the beams you will use, consider any crown molding and the height of the ceiling.

Layout the Grid

paper with tape measure and pencil

When constructing your coffered ceilings, you will be dealing with a lot of wood and several different measurements. In order to keep them all straight, make a layout grid, and choose a single spot to make notes of all of the different measurements. When planning your coffered ceilings, keep in mind that they will need to be attached to the ceiling joists for extra strength and support.

Frame the Boxes

While there are several different ways to build coffered ceilings, the easiest is to build a length of boxes at the same time. Attach one of the beams lengthwise across the ceiling, flush against the wall. Cut widths of the beam according to your measurements to build the other sides of the boxes.

These widths, which are often referred to as cripple studs, look like railway ties. Once you have cut the cripple studs, nail them to the side of the length beam according to your measurements. Then attach another length of the beam to the cripple studs to build the first set. Continue until you reach the opposite wall.

Shadow Lines

marking wood for a cut

If you want to spruce up the look of your ceiling, then you can add a shadow line to each box that you have created. A shadow line adds further visual depth to your ceiling.

Shadow lines are applied directly to the boxes you created in Step 3. 1x1-inch shadow lines create a nice look, but you may want to go with a slightly larger width, depending on the size of the beams.

Cut four pieces of 1x1-inch lumber. Two of the pieces will the same length as one of the boxes, and two will be the same width as one of the boxes. Attach the shadow lines directly to the box with wood glue, forming a rectangle. Repeat for each of the boxes on the ceiling.

Crown Molding

Measure the inside of a ceiling box. Use these measurements as a guide to cut the crown molding for each box. While you can install the crown molding piece by piece directly onto the ceiling, it is easier to assemble each crown molding box before installation.

Using wood glue, assemble your first crown molding box. Set it into the coffered ceiling box, making sure that it is the right size. If it is, use it as a model for the rest of the boxes. Secure each of the crown molding boxes with finish nails in each corner.