GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Air sealing a beadboard ceiling

diznila | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

I am working to revamp our newly purchased 1908 home and increase efficiency on all fronts. One of the big projects I am facing is the ceiling and attic. After removing some hideous drop ceiling, I’m faced with the original tongue and groove beadboard. Apart from a few parts where a couple boards need to be replaced, and a bit of sagging, the ceiling looks great. However, I am certain it’s an absolute vortex of air passing directly into the attic and out to the world. Currently, the joists above are insulated with cellulose to the joists and the occasional fiberglass batt.

My question is: what’s the best way to airseal the ceiling while preserving the look of the beadboard? I am fine with covering it with drywall, but my wife is insistent that we try to make the beadboard work.

Ideas I have had:
1. Remove the cellulose, and put foam board between the joists. Seal the edges with spray foam.
2. Remove the cellulose, add a barrier like Tyvek and use Spray Foam between the joists.
2. Put a membrane of some sort (plywood? drywall?) on top of the attic joists, and cover it with more cellulose.

I’d appreciate any input! Thanks.

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    You're going to have to remove the existing cellulose, at least temporarily. If the cellulose is clean, it can later be re-installed.

    The best way to proceed (once the cellulose is removed) is to carefully remove the bead-board ceiling from below with a flat bar. Then install a drywall ceiling, tape the drywall, and re-install the beadboard.

    Once that's done, you can insulate from above -- either with the cellulose you temporarily removed, or with new cellulose.

  2. diznila | | #2

    Thanks Martin.

    That's somewhat disappointing but understandable. There's really no good way to take the ceiling down, it is fragile enough in places that it would likely just splinter and much of it would be un-useable.

    Would something like drywall on the top of the attic joists perform a similar function? Particularly if the cellulose was removed, and there was just an air gap between the beadboard and drywall?

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    If you are unable to temporarily remove the ceiling boards, and you have your heart set on keeping the existing boards, you could remove the cellulose; protect the back of the boards (facing the attic) with strips of cardboard laid between the joists; and then install spray polyurethane foam onto the cardboard from the attic side of the ceiling.

    One or two inches of spray foam would provide an air barrier. Then you could complete the insulation job with a thick layer of cellulose.

  4. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #4

    The cardboard itself would be a sufficient air-barrier, as long as you sealed the edges to the joists with can-foam.

    Another approach would be to use a broad-sheet housewrap and NOT cut it, but rather, to wrap the joists with it, stapling it to the sides of the joists down near the bead-board level, sealing it at the edges, and over lapping any adjacent sheets where they can be adequately taped & stapled to framing, and installing the insualtion over the result. With 8-12' wide sheets there will be far less seam leakage etc. .

    But if there are lot of nail-points sticking out that would tear a sheet-goods approach, a couple inches of open cell spray foam does wonders as an air seal. You'll still want the cardboard above the bead board to keep the spray foam from sticking to the bead board, which would make any repair/replacement of bead board more difficult in the future.

  5. diznila | | #5

    Thanks for the advice, Dana and Martin.

    I will peel back the cellulose and see how it looks. I am somewhat nervous about wide area spray foam because of losing the ability to change something later (and off-gassing concerns). But put over cardboard, it could be a great solution here, and off-gassing shouldn't be an issue in the attic.

    Cool, I've got some work to do!

  6. diznila | | #6

    Just wanted to follow up on this old thread for anyone seeing it in the future. I ended up removing the old cellulose, and using rolls of cardboard padding between the joists. For the most part it was a great fit - I found 24" rolls that fit (most of) my joists.

    Then I had a contractor spray on a flash coating on spray foam, and then topped it off with more cellulose. So far, it has been working great!

  7. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Thanks for sharing your success story. I'm glad the job went smoothly.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |