A New Approach to Coffered Ceilings
Foam-core beams and moldings make for an attractive, easy-to-install ceiling.
Synopsis: A coffered ceiling can take a room from ordinary to impressive, but a conventional coffered ceiling is expensive and tricky to install. Drywall experts Brian Kitchin and Nick Aitchison have developed a technique for creating a coffered ceiling from EPS moldings and trim that are covered at the factory with a layer of joint compound. These pieces are easy to cut, are far lighter than wood, and don’t move with changes in humidity and temperature.
Click here to see a video of the Drywall Nation guys in action adding coffers to a flat ceiling.
As drywallers, we’re used to most of our work being the backdrop for other finishes. Increasingly, however, we’re adding those details that make a home’s interior stand out, such as the coffered ceiling shown here. Several manufacturers make EPS polystyrene moldings and trim for exterior and interior use. (Foamcore Architectural Mouldings, Toronto; foamcoremouldings.com.) These moldings are more commonly used for synthetic-stucco exteriors, sometimes called EIFS (exterior insulation and finish system). Recently, they have been adapted for interiors by applying a smooth coat of joint compound to the high-density EPS substrate. The visible surfaces are caulked and painted later.
We glue the moldings — which come in many profiles — to the ceiling and walls with polyurethane drywall adhesive, clamping them temporarily with coarse-thread drywall screws. Once the glue is dry, the bond is tenacious. We’ve had to scrape away misplaced moldings only a few hours later.
Once the pieces are hung, we fill any gaps that are larger than 3⁄8 in. with a squirt of the adhesive to act as a backer for the lightweight joint compound we apply to the seams and gaps. The moldings come with all of the visible surfaces coated with compound, and they accept paint like drywall. The finished product is often mistaken for painted wood. Because the EPS is very stable, it doesn’t move with changes in humidity and temperature, so the joints stay tight during our humid summers and cold winters.
Why would a homeowner or builder choose to install a coffered ceiling or crown molding made from EPS and joint compound instead of wood or MDF? The answer is simple: speed and cost. With a crew of three, we installed the coffered ceiling shown here in half a day. Caulking all the gaps and inside corners took another two hours. The material cost $1400 (U.S.), a fraction of what it would cost a finish carpenter to install a similar ceiling made from wood moldings. The only downside we see is that the moldings only come in 8-ft. lengths, so you end up making more cuts and filling more seams than you would with longer material.
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