Asked on Jan 22, 2015

How do you seal wood ceilings to prevent dust from coming through?

Susan Cotten
by Susan Cotten
We are remodeling a home built in 1912. When we removed the ugly drop ceiling, it has beautiful wood ceilings. We would love to keep the ceilings in some rooms but the dust is unreal that makes it through the cracks. How can I seal and keep the ceilings? Thanks!
  15 answers
  • jam the space between the boards with string that has been soaked in PVA it dries clear and looks good when finished
  • Viktorija Briggs Viktorija Briggs on Jan 22, 2015
    We have a similar situation with our 12' high ceilings. After tossing around several ideas over the last couple of years, we decided that we will be cover the spaces with 2" battens. Once completed we will then paint the ceiling an off-white. This will keep the room bright to reflect light, as the walls will have intense deep colors on them. The battens will also give an added dimension to the ceiling, and the room overall. Our ceiling boards are also on the diagonal, another neat architectural aspect to the design.
  • Loretta Clark Loretta Clark on Jan 22, 2015
    Lucky you with a board ceiling! I'm sure you will find something to seal it with. Enjoy!
  • I have a similar situation and I was thinking about running clear caulk down the seams.
    • See 6 previous
    • Thank you for the information, I truly appreciate the advise!
  • Beadcarver Beadcarver on Jan 22, 2015
    Why not go big? We have a ceiling that goes up to the roof. The roof does not have a very good angle for the area where we live. There is snow here and this is not a snow roof. But it looks great. It is about twelve feet at the peak. There are four by ten beams up on the ceiling. My ceiling is white the beams look like me cedar. No shiny finish.
  • Pati Russell Pati Russell on Jan 22, 2015
    Clear sealer is the best. Because of the fumes its best to do it when you can open the windows. We have a knotty pine and grooved wood in our whole house ceiling to floor.
  • Change of Art Change of Art on Jan 22, 2015
    This might sound silly, but it worked for me on a similar situation... Vacuum the heck out of the ceiling – using the brush attachment (canister vacuum sitting on another ladder). And, really 'brush' it to loosen bits stuck in the crevices – and even dust in the wood's open grain. You'll want to wear some kind of mask and goggles. Cover your hair, too -- it could get pretty messy!
  • Norman Ransom Norman Ransom on Jan 22, 2015
    If you haven't already insulated the attic I would suggest you first remove all the old insulation. On a house that old be sure to check for asbestos. Being a native Texan I know just how much dirt has accumulated in the existing insulation. Dirt packed insulation has lost most of its insulating ability and this may be the source of some of your dust. Re-insulate in which ever method you like best after cleaning, insulation will pay for itself fairly quickly. I bet the house is beautiful and well built.
  • Margareth Margareth on Jan 22, 2015
    @margareth There are many different colours and patterns in duck tape. Maybe you can choose one to match your ceiling and use interesting shapes to fix the problem.
  • Kristan MacKay Kristan MacKay on Jan 28, 2015
    You can use wood fill that is paint or stain abilities, or clear caulk that can paint or stain.
  • Mya Mya on Jul 05, 2018

    I know this is an old thread but want to put this up for the benefit of anyone struggling with this problem. Our house is hundreds of years old. There are hand hewn chestnut beams and plank ceilings of tulip poplar. Above that, someone added blown insulation and then bats on top (versus cleaning out the loose fill first) in the attic and the rooms below are dusty beyond belief. We attempted caulking and I will tell you this is a *very* bad idea. Wood shrinks and expands with the seasons, and the caulking will fail. You will be left with a major clean up at some point and it won't keep the dust out. The only way to tackle this is to get above the ceiling and cover the area, then lay your insulation on top of that. You are likely getting dirt and insulation fibers as mentioned above and these are not healthy to breath. I attempted other "sealing" approaches, as well, and very sincerely, you need to tackle the problem from above, not below.

  • Stuart Stuart on Aug 04, 2018

    I am struggling with the same question in an old multistory building we have renovated for apartments (to brig life again to an old downtown). The floors above have been cleaned and sealed and the ceilings sealed with varnish but dust still comes through between the beams . I am looking for a paintable sealing solution on the ceilings. Any ideas?

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    • Lindsay Lindsay on Apr 26, 2020

      I know that this is an old thread but if you happen to see this, please do share what you ended up doing to seal your boards. We are in the exact same situation and are desperate to find a fix.

  • Ruby Ruby on Aug 29, 2023

    I've chipped the plaster off my lath due to broken keys, (main floor living room, ceiling. Discovering that my lath was red oak, I decided to get them off the joists, pressure wash, sand and stain them. With the intention of putting them back up. Same issue major dust. I am taking this opportunity to shove some insulation on the exterior wall sides, in between the wall and plaster cove and what I this is called the sil joists. The space between the joists and wall...

    I've decided to cut up old wool blankets to give a natural layer of fire retardation to run along the refinished lath. I'll throw some moth traps up there and I'll seal up the joists at the wall as well. I have used a wire brush on the joists vacuumed with a power spinning brush attachment and a regular brush. Most of my dust came from the plaster removal. However check any ducts for cracks, that would cause loads of dust. I also got bats... fun times.

  • Lou Reszoly Lou Reszoly on May 14, 2024

    I have an 1827 home with plaster ceilings on the second floor. Once the plaster and lathe was removed I exposed beautiful rough sawn chestnut beams 24" on center. Above that is pine flooring 1" thick tongue and groove. I am experiencing the dust problem as well.

    Here is my solution: I have no insulation in the rafters or the attic floor at this point, but all the wood is dirty and dusty everywhere.

    I am first off vacuuming the attic floor and scraping out the joints with a can opener. Second in the attic I am building a 2x4 platform, stood on edge,3.5" toward the roof. I will then spray in closed cell spray foam and cap the top of the 2x4's with 1/2" plywood, basically creating a new floor but encapsulation the old floor and containing/or preventing further dust from above. Then all the attic sheathing and rafters will get 1" of closed cell as a moisture barrier and then 8" of open cell with intumescent paint applied. My attic is only 7' tall to the ridge, so it is inhabitable.

    Now tackling the exposed finished ceiling. My plan is to sand the boards from below with an orbital sander as well as the beams, then Re vacuum. The final step will be to use a paint spray gun with a lacquer sealant, possibly two coats focusing on the board joints.

    These ceiling are priceless and deserve to be enjoyed and craftmanship from years ago revisited.

    Good luck

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on May 15, 2024

    Go into the loft area and clean up, lay membrane down and then insulation. that should do the trick!