Thursday, 16 October 2014

Repairing the plywood ceiling

The joys of aged maple plywood ceilings end when the reality of repairing them slaps you in the face!

The hole left behind when we removed the wood heater
As many of you would know, we recently removed a wood heater from the main living area. You can read about it here if you are new to the blog.

The hole after the roof was repaired
A lot of creative thought went into repairing the hole left in the ceiling after removing the heater flue. The ceilings are made from rotary cut Queensland maple plywood panels. They are the most sumptuous ceilings to behold and was part of the reason we fell in love with this home when we first saw it.

a distance shot of the hole left after we removed the wood heater
We tossed around various ideas with the help of Danny, a builder who has great experience working on mid-century homes. Initially we thought we could replace the whole ceiling panel; it had sustained water damage from where rainwater must have seeped through over the years.

Sadly, finding rotary cut maple plywood is next to impossible. We tried to source it second-hand and we also looked at the newer plywood products with a view of colour-matching it to 50 year old maple.

Another idea was to steal a panel from one of the bedrooms, and substitute it. You know, do the old 'switcheroonie' trick with a less attractive repair being relegated behind bedroom doors.

In the end our final solution would be the least intrusive and most efficient. We recycled the doors of an old maple plywood cabinet (the original kitchen overhead cupboards to be precise) that had been left behind in the garage by the previous owners (bless them!). Re-purposing the doors and converting them to a ceiling panel seemed the most viable option.

It was a slightly unorthodox solution but it meant we could colour match the ceiling without it being horribly obvious. It also had the added benefit of being free material!

Danny came over and did the job for us...with surgical-like precision...

Cutting out the damage with the help of a template and small cutting tool.
Yep, Danny is a surfing hippy who like all our recent builders is extremely well-read! Tick!

Danny made a simple template, based on the plywood doors which he had jointed together, as guide. With that template he was able to cut out the damaged ply and make a new space in which to fit the re-purposed plywood doors.

A neat ceiling gap in which to place the re-purposed plywood doors

Making the plywood piece fit proved slightly tricky. There was a lot of hand sanding the edges and corners to get a precise fit. Poor old Danny spent a lot of time getting it perfect which is just a beautiful thing to see in action - he took so much care.

A good fit. The plywood piece is in.

Danny planned to nail the piece in place but was afraid the nail heads would detract from the final finish. He changed his mind and decided a quick drying super-grip adhesive would be the best option. He used the Sika SuperGrip 30 minutes and held it in place with a telescopic prop. We left the prop up overnight just to make sure the plywood was not going anywhere!

The final product.

Et voila! You don't instantly notice the repair, particularly if you weren't aware a wood heater occupied this space. Nonetheless you can still make out there was a repair which I guess forms part of the new history of the home.

We couldn't be happier with the final result...and now we have more flexibility with this space and the ceilings still look great despite the repair.


  1. Thie reminds me of a lovely quote my sister sent me when I was having all the business done. It basically says that the Japanese would celebrate any damage to ceramic vessels by repairing them with pure gold showing that the object had history and was therefore made even more beautiful.
    It works for me. I love that it is not totally invisible. It has integrity.

    1. I love the sentiment in that Japanese quote. There's no point denying the past, eh? Perfection is in the imperfection. Xx

  2. What a great outcome and a great job by your tradesman. So glad to see you had some spare timber under the house. Unfortunately our new house has no spares (like roof tiles, or floor tiles, or outdoor tiles) that you normally encounter hidden in the garage :-(

    Love that Japanese quote as well.
    Cheers, Col

    1. Thanks Col! We were very lucky that there were some hidden treasures under the house... xx

  3. Clever and good result, nice to have such good builders!


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