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Planks and trim in the soon-to-be cowboy room

Last January (as in over a year ago) I posted my plans for remodeling the boys incredibly boring nursery and turning it into a cowboy-themed room for them. Adam and I got started right away by ripping out the carpet, paper bagging the floor, and planking about a quarter of the wall…then we got distracted with some shiny new project and forgot all about it.


After a year of avoidance, the boy’s room has now become a shiny new project and the walls are complete! Even though this room is far from finished it already looks so much more polished. Of course, anything would have been an improvement over half-planked walls, but still.

vertical planed walls - how to

plywood planked walls

Two summers ago Adam and I decided to plank the walls in our kitchen and dining room, and it took me all of twelve seconds after starting install to decide that I LOVED the look. I could basically plank every single wall in my house and then wonder why I didn’t also plank the ceilings. So last year when I decided to redo the boy’s room, adding planks was on the top of my list. Fortunately I had learned a few lessons from the first planking experience and this time the results are better and the process was smoother. So if you are interested in adding planks to your home, go read this post first, then come back for this one.

So, step one was for us to replace the baseboards after papering the floor. These are simple pre-primed 1×6’s and I think they make great trim, we have used them throughout the house.

baseboards going in

As for the actual planks they are 5mm underlayment – a.k.a really thin plywood. It comes in 4×8 sheets and we had Home Depot cut them into 6 inch strips for us.

plywood planks

When we planked the kitchen we took those freshly cut strips and put them right up on the wall, but it turns out that wasn’t the best way. This time the boys and I took the time to sand all the edges, it went quickly and kept the edges from having that rough “furry” look.


Last time I also intentionally left the walls brown before planking, I thought brown seams would give the walls more depth and interest. Truth be told it just looked terrible, so I had to paint the seams white after the fact. I’m not going to lie…it sucked. I used a little craft brush and it never fully covered the brown, plus I went through about eight of them thanks to the non-sanded edges ripping the bristles off. So this time we painted first and it made a world of difference.

planking a wall

I would also recommend priming the edges of the planks before installing them, I did that on about half of them and painting that section was easier than painting the rest.

Next came the actual plank installation.

adding vertical planks

The planks are attached with brad nails, and we used a button to space them out…I think last time we used a comb. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as they are about 1/8 inch gap between the planks.

I do have to take a rabbit trail and tell you about our brad nailer though, since it got a workout for this project. Up until a few months ago we used a standard brad nailer that attached to an air compressor.

air compressor

It worked great, no problems there…but lugging that air compressor around while you work is a pain, it’s heavy and it takes up a lot of work space. That’s not the biggest issue though, the biggest issue is that it is insanely loud. Not only was the actual nailing loud, but every few minutes that air compressor would kick on and you might as well have been using a chainsaw. We usually try to work while the kids are sleeping (either napping or after bed) so the noise was an issue.

Then I went to a conference for DIYers and got to use the new Ryobi cordless brad nailer. Let just tell you…I instantly loved it. It’s light, it’s practically silent, and it runs off rechargeable batteries that also work with all of Ryobi’s other tools. I chatted with a Ryobi rep for a bit and they offered to send me a bunch of free tools – including the nailer – the use on projects.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled tutorial.

Adam added 1×2’s to the top of the planks to cap them off, it’s just deep enough that I can put frames up there but not deep enough to be in the way.

trim above partial planks

 Everything we used to do all the planks and trim work was really cheap. I didn’t keep track but I’d say we spent around $60 to do the whole room.

After all the planks and trim were installed it was up to me to finish everything up. Easy enough,  right? Throw up some caulk, slap on some paint, done. It’s all in a days work….except that it’s not. I feel like I always writing about a project that took me forever. The truth is, some stuff just takes a ton of man hours to finish, even if it is simple. Stenciling a wall for example, takes forever. Gluing paper bags to your floor? Forever. Caulking and painting planks and trim? Basically, forever.  My boys go to preschool two mornings a week, and this has become my project time (and about midnight is my writing time). So for four days of preschool I dropped them off and came back home to caulk and paint. It wasn’t all bad though, when I’m working (or cleaning) alone in the house I crank up Pandora and blare all the completely inappropriate club music I can stand until it’s time to get the kids. It’s like a painting party, dance party, and a day at the gym all in one.

I also ended up painting the top portion. I had intended to leave it the original color, but the leftover paint I was planning to use had dried up. I went ahead and chose a similar color that’s slightly lighter and warmer.

wilmington tan & flax straw

toddler room progress

plywood planked walls

23 planked wall

DIY plank walls

vertical planed walls - how to

So there it is, the blank canvas that I’m going to completely ruin with cheesy cowboy decor.  Just kidding (sort of) …I’m trying really hard to make it fun and kid-friendly while also staying far FAR away from being cheesy. It’s proving to be harder than it sounds. Not that my boys care either way, they’re just really excited that we’re building them bunk beds (short safe ones, don’t worry.)

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  1. That looks amazing, and totally professional. You guys are getting good at this! What a tremendous upgrade. We have half-walls around the edges of this place (it’s in a basement.) They’re beautifully finished with a shelf and trim all along the top, but I wish, wish, wish I could plank from the floor up to the shelf. I just know it would look so good! Maybe I’ll ask our landlord after he’s seen some of the other changes we’ve made. (Then again, maybe that’s not the best time to ask him… o_O )

    1. Yes, ask your landlord! In each place I’ve rented I’ve made changes after asking the landlord (and some before…shhh).
      And I do feel like we are getting better at this…maybe not faster, but better. Most people call their first homes “starter homes”…we call it our “practice house”. Hopefully by the second house we will have got all the mistakes out of our system. Riiiight :)

      1. Ummm…yeah. Along those lines, I’ve helped change at least four toilets over the years in the last three houses we owned. So when this one needed a new seal, no problem, right? We didn’t even call the landlord, just bought the seal and got to it. And when we put the toilet back in place, we somehow crushed the seal and pushed a bunch of wax INTO the drain, plugging it entirely. So, if you’re anything like us, I wouldn’t totally count on past experience ruling out future mistakes, lol!

  2. Check out all the fun cowboy stuff at Hobby Lobby! I have faith that you can keep the cheese factor down – can’t wait to see it all finished.

      1. Did you look beyond the pin and go to the blog it came from? She actually has two horses. I like the shape of the other one better. One is wood on white and one is white on wood and they face each other (with a pass-through in between). She said her and her husband met on a horse farm (or something like that). Her mom told her that when she is mad at her husband she should have the hangings switch spots so their rears are facing each other! LOL! I love your southern lingo, I never heard “take a rabbit trail” before (we just say in a very boring, non-picturesque way “go off on a tangent”).

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one with unfinished projects like that! I have been working on my son’s room for nearly a year. The planks look great. What a fun transformation!

  4. Love the look of the planks and the floor! I’m sure you can do “cowboy” without cheese. Our boys have a huge, tall bunk (with side rails) and we all love it. Good luck!

  5. The walls look great! I have a couple of questions, pls. Why planks and not beadboard? The planks are wider? Or planks are less expensive? Why prime the edges first? Could you put them all up and then prime? Seems like it would be easier if they were all in place? After seeing your walls, I am seriously thinking of doing this, so all hints are appreciated!!

    1. I choose planks just because I like the look better than beadboard. Plus I had already planked the kitchen and this way the house feels a little more cohesive (although these are vertical and the kitchen is horizontal). It was easier to prime the edges before you put them up because it’s kinda difficult to get between the cracks otherwise. You can certainly do it, but I’ve done it both ways and priming first is easier. To prime the edges first you just line all the planks up (smooshed together like book pages) and run a roller over them.

  6. Looks great! I got the same rug and the lamp from Kirkland’s! I won a gift card a while back and couldn’t resist them. The rug is holding up great in our play room for now and the lamp goes in any room. Now, where it gets really creepy is the wall color you picked! We’ve chosen “Buckskin Pony” from Valspar. It’s already in our dining room and since I love it so much, it is going in our future boy’s room as well. Practically the same color as your walls. Great minds, I tell ya! I just love a cowboy theme for little boys!

  7. It looks great. I love your tutes and what you do in your home. I also love your pics; they look like a real home not something out of a faked up magazine and I like real.

  8. Looks great so far! We did a cowboy room for our son way back when (he’s going to be 36 in a few days!). I’d found a vintage parchment-type shade with a cowboy on a horse, lasso, cacti etc. on it and made a little ceramic sueded boot for the lamp base. It was so cute. Still have it. Love how you let yours boys always help. :) Can’t wait to see it finished.

  9. I am so excited to follow this transformation. You’re doing a great job! I have an off-the-topic question. I hope you don’t mind. Where did you get the paisley rug? I am so looking for one and that one would be perfect. Thanks in advance. Keep up the good work.

  10. I am on my second Ryobi Cordless nailer and it is becoming the bane of my existence. It jams after literally every nail I shoot. But I love that I don’t have to deal with a compressor evwry time I want to nail something. I’m planking a wall in a desk nook we’re making from my daughter’s closet and I had to exchange it in the middle and this one does the same thing. Nice walls BTW!

  11. Love your blog! I’m sure my husband wishes I hadn’t found it though…it’s been non-stop planking at our house since I saw your kitchen. One quick question..lit looks like you used a wider board to cap off the top of the planks in a few pictures. Did you use 1×2’s for the whole room?

    1. Thanks Leann! I’ve now planked three rooms in my house, so I understand. You just can’t go wrong with white planks! In my boy’s room I did use a wider board between the two doors so that it would act more like a shelf than just a tiny ledge…the 1×2 aren’t quite wide enough to put stuff on. Well, maybe of there weren’t kids jumping around in there constantly, but there is.

  12. did you have to use stud finder to nail it the stud? or can I nail it wherever? thinking about planking our master bedroom…

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