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Design

Reviving A Shiny, Orange Wood-Paneled Ceiling With Dry-Ice Blasting: Was It Worth It?

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of good, natural wood paneling. In fact, I talk so much about my love of natural-toned wood, I’m fairly certain Google just automatically redirects any search inquiries about it straight to my site (I wish). Before diving into the nitty-gritty of the ceilings in this home, let me remind you of how we transformed the mountain house ceiling. Does walnut blasting ring any bells? If you don’t recall or weren’t a reader during those days, we learned so much from that process, including just how many different media types could be used to “blast” the wood down to its natural grain. We ended up going the walnut route (which looked weird TBH, so we redid the tongue and groove), but there’s silica sand, corn cob, ice and baking soda, each with its own intensity.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, I introduced a very fun seven-week, no-reno kitchen remodel we did for a reader here in Portland. The space was great but needed some refreshing…the ceiling being one of the big ticket items. As it’s been about five years since we shot walnut shells at the mountain house ceiling, a new blasting technique popped up on my radar and I was eager to try to give it a go. The ceilings here reminded me of one of my less successful spraytans – orange, shiny and not natural at all. They were much, MUCH shinier in person TBH. These wood ceilings needed a 2023 revamp to find to their natural, nicely tanned, non-orange state. We were going for a happy, sweet vintage-inspired kitchen, and those shiny planks needed to go.

As you may remember, a small part of me was disappointed in the texture we were left with at the mountain house after walnut blasting (it looked both pink and orange). My hope was that with a different technique, the blasting process would leave less evidence behind (aka too much texture). Ideally, the look we were going for here was pretty similar to my original vision for the mountain house–a softer, lighter-toned raw wood that felt updated yet timeless.

the mountain house ceiling

The goal for this kitchen ceiling was to remove the lacquer finish and with it (hopefully) the orange tone of the wood. As I said, the ceiling had great bones, with tongue-and-groove paneling and some solid beams, but in order for it to mesh well with our new design direction and color palette, the gloss just HAD to go.

From my research, dry-ice blasting seemed like it would fit the bill. It’s non-toxic and *claims* to be nonabrasive (more on that later) or at least gentler than most of the options out there. It leaves virtually no mess either, which is always something to consider when working in someone else’s home. The machine is definitely loud like it was with walnut blasting and despite it not leaving much of a trace in terms of debris, the area still had to be taped off and covered in plastic for protection. In general, dry-ice blasting is mostly used for pressurized cleaning, but almost all of the companies we reached out to assured us it would be a great choice to remove the finish on this wood ceiling. This was not me just guessing, the pros suggested this.

So I had my team contact a few companies to gather some quotes and a better understanding of the process. Costs were pretty similar across the board for this roughly 300-square-foot room, all coming in at around $4,000. The process requires a lot of equipment and securing the right amount of dry ice or liquid CO2 depending on the machine. Thankfully this amount was doable within the project budget, but it’s definitely a little spendy for a room this size.

The crew we hired was confident in their process yet still opted to do a test spot before diving all the way in. And let’s just say, there was some major troubleshooting. The first pass of dry ice had no problem removing the gloss, but it also removed chunks of wood that ended up looking like termites had a woody brunch with bottomless mimosas, and then bolted. We were left with tiny holes and an uneven surface that, while no longer shiny, gave us a brand new problem to deal with. Was dry ice even the right choice for this?! What happened to NONabrasive?? We wanted a smooth, matte, even finish. Not this.

After the guys assured us it was a matter of gauging the right amount of pressure and nozzle configuration, they came back the next day with a new approach. It looked better, but not great. While the blasting could successfully get into the grooves, it was all feeling uneven, and was weirdly hard to tell where they had blasted and where they hadn’t. Maybe it was the lighting or the residue, but whatever it was, it was kind of a bummer. Plus, with too much blasting, we’d have the same problem as before—a too-rough surface, or worse, no surface to work with at all if it was worn down too much. We needed to finish the job with something gentler that would even everything out.

Though they weren’t too happy about it, we agreed that the best way forward was to have them manually go over it all again with a pole sander. Think of a Swiffer with a sandpaper attachment instead of a dust catcher. Let’s just say I didn’t make any friends here since this is definitely rough on the body and super time-consuming to go at a ceiling this way. But had we just done this from the jump, the process likely would’ve been much faster (this all took about 3-4 days) and would’ve given us a much smoother finish. But dry-ice just was suggested by the pros and sounded COOL (pun intended) and we had to see how it worked in case it would be a good option for future, similar projects.

So…would I recommend it?

Honestly, probably not. What we realized pretty quickly is that the job should’ve been done the old-fashioned way from the start. Not even sandblasting, just sanding. The lacquer was thin enough to come off with a little back and forth (we know this because the homeowner, Julie, got up there between dry-ice sessions and sanded it herself, achieving the look we were going for from the start). I will say the blasting was great at getting into the grooves, sure. But, overall I think it just caused more trouble than it was worth.

We’re not mad at the results though (Thank goodness). And we learned a lot as we usually do around these EHD parts. Ultimately we were left with a look pretty close to what we had hoped for. The new, raw wood ended up pulling a little more pink, which at first felt like an issue but actually paired really nicely with the wallpaper and paint colors we chose (that you’ll see tomorrow). So I’m happy to report the ceiling is gloss-free and so much prettier. No more light glare or orange tones. Mission accomplished, with some to be expected bumps in the road (like most design risks we take).

We can’t wait for you to see the reveal as we’re pretty darn proud of it. COME BACK TOMORROW!!!!!

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Ellen F
11 months ago

looks great, but will the wood get “ dirty”, will it absorb food and cooking odors?

Paula
11 months ago
Reply to  Ellen F

Yes, and will it get greasy? I just replaced a knife block today and was surprised at how greasy the surface was….when it wasn’t very near the stovetop at all.

Heather
11 months ago
Reply to  Ellen F

I have unfinished cedar on my ceiling in my kitchen. I figure if it ever gets dirty, I can sand it down. But it’s high enough that it just doesn’t get dirty.

11 months ago
Reply to  Ellen F

Mine never did. I guess after 20 years it might, but basically any finish you put on the ceiling would need a refresh eventually. It also depends on your climate. California is easy to keep windows and doors open.

KT
11 months ago

I love this series! Thanks for sharing the process with us!

Kate
11 months ago

Fascinating! Can I ask a question though? Why does everyone hate this tone wood? I feel like it’s become just part of the zietgeist to “hate orange wood,” and I’m not truly sure why! I have a early 1900s home with warm wood and it feels just right, and I also have always loved midcentury styles that also lean into this coloring. Is it just personal preference or do you think there is something else going on? Would love your thoughts on this as design people who really watch trends! 🙂

Admin
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

on our first call with julie, this was the only change she asked for specifically! we also loved the wood (i remember opening her submission email and us all being like “ooooh!!! pretty!”) but we wanted to make her happy. the final product does look more harmonious with her flooring, though, so i’m glad we did it!!

Kate
11 months ago

Totally get it. Personal preferences matter a lot! That’s what make our houses clearly “ours”! Excited to see the final product!!

Vicki M
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Thanks for asking this. I have orange coloured wood floors in my 115 year old home. I like the idea of living with it 😉. All adds to the charm. And before you asked and Caitlin replied I was thinking I needed to sand it back!

Michelle
11 months ago
Reply to  Vicki M

I’m here to advocate leaving (and living with) orange wood tones if that’s what you have and it isn’t a personal pain point. Unless it needs refinishing, which is a good time to change colors if you want. But I’ve lived through several trends in wood flooring and they ALL eventually go out of favor with designers. And truth is, orange IS vintage and classic. That said, I think it really all depends on the context of the house and personal preference. So no, I don’t judge wanting this ceiling to be different and I can’t wait to see how it looks in the final reveal.

Shannon
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Ha! This is such a good point. I guess it’s like any trend that becomes overly ubiquitous, as orange wood recently did in the early 2000s. It’s everywhere for a while so it becomes closely associated with a specific time period, i.e. dated. Plus the entire interior design ‘industrial complex’ relies on convincing us of the need to update our decor. Humans are highly suggestible and want to be perceived as “in the know” and “up-to-date,” so we buy into this arbitrary influence far too easily. But you’re right, there’s nothing inherently wrong with orange wood and hello, we all embraced in wholeheartedly not that long ago, often with our designers’ consent. Thanks for bringing this up, it’s a good reminder not to lean too hard into trends.

Ally
11 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Plus, most wood naturally turns warmer in color with age and light exposure. (See: Most antiques. Remember when “brown furniture” was regarded with abject horror?)

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Agreed.
Interior design ‘trends’ are as fashion trends; wait a while (generally @20 yrs) and everything old is new again!

RachieT
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I love the orange “before” ceiling too.

11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Not everyone hates this wood tone, but these days it’s considered “unfashionable”. And I would say that the preference for all things white/grey is part of why people don’t like it. It’s can be harsh and clashy with cold whites/grey, but if you work with warmer colours I think this tone can be lovely. Trends for long lasting things in our homes, like wood anything, are things to be avoided – go with what is pleasing to your own eye because it feels good to you.

Michelle
11 months ago
Reply to  Jessica

Well said – although white/grey is NOW considered to be unimaginative. I grew up with “builder’s beige” being the slur against mainstream design. Now its “builders grieve”…. so hold on to your hats folks as 8-10 years from now everyone seeks to redo their modern farmhouse with gold, browns. wallpaper and curtains. Oh wait! Dang, time flies… any bids on whether wall to wall white carpet will be back? (Any Mad Men fans out there?

Sunny
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Although the homeowner wanted the orange wood gone, I wonder if seeing it with a new color palate would have changed her mind? Curious how an untreated (pine?) wood ceiling will hold up to cooking odors/steam/grease from normal kitchen use?

Lane
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Everyone might have a different reason for not liking orange wood. I can share mine, which is coincidentally based on scientific evidence. I’m light sensitive. I naturally have much larger pupils and more light comes into my inner eye than it does for most people. There’s scientific evidence that shows that people who are light sensitive don’t enjoy orange color in their interiors. Their color spectrum actually is sensitive and they see more colors and more orange than an average person. And they just don’t find orange calming. I personally don’t have any orange in my interiors. I like warmth that natural wood brings, and I would never put in a gray floor, but orange wood is just too much to feel well around it. I hope this helps.

Karyn Meadows
11 months ago
Reply to  Lane

Wow, I had no idea that this was a thing. My son has huge pupils (premature) and we have orange wood all over. He never said anything…I wonder if it bugged him!

Rita
11 months ago
Reply to  Lane

Thanks for your comment Lane. I’m going to ask my daughter about this as she was always sensitive to light (and sound) and she HATES the colour orange. I wonder if that’s why. She is amazing with colours, she can see a colour and tell you what are the main pigments etc. in the colour. And yet my son is colour blind (no joke). I ask how did one get all the colour sight and the other missed out. You may have just answered my question re my daughter.

Michelle
11 months ago
Reply to  Rita

I think Science Friday did a thing about people who can see a broader range of color, and more precisely. For nearly all designers it’s learned, but they did demonstrate that a small percentage of people, like the commenter above, can detect more colors, more precisely. And most of these are women, due to the recessive genes related to it, but not all. My gut says seeing orange more vividly doesn’t automatically equal hating orange, but I’m of Dutch heritage so I have some natural fondness for it that maybe compensates.

jules
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

LOVE my orangey douglas fir beams made from vintage telephone poles….. 🙂

Mariele
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

So true, my fiancé and I are now considering a glossy, orange wood ceiling like the before for our eventual master bedroom renovation. I can’t believe how gorgeous it was!!

LW
11 months ago

does the team think it is at all likely that shiny orange wood will become fashionable again? I just really like it! but i completely understand that it’s not really in style now.

Renee
11 months ago
Reply to  LW

I would be interested to know what the team is thinking about this also!

Aimee
11 months ago
Reply to  LW

I feel like the real “issue” with orange toned wood is that it’s not very versatile with other color palettes, whereas more natural tones can flex better with warm or cool decor. That’s what I keep coming back to when I think about working with orangey toned woods. Objectively, there’s nothing wrong with it, it just seems to box in your other design elements quickly.

MBJ
11 months ago
Reply to  Aimee

I agree with this, Aimee! I have orange tone wood closet doors that are original to my 1951 home… they have a gorgeous grain on them and I LOVE them and you’d have to pry them out of my cold dead hands BUT they are super orange and you really do need to plan the rest of the room’s palette around the doors. They’re kind of in charge. And I’m ok with that, but it sounds like this homeowner was not, which also totally makes sense.

Lynsy
11 months ago
Reply to  Aimee

So true. Friends just moved into a true 80’s home and it’s orange wood galore. They’ve found the balance with their decor and other colors and it’s beautiful. Imagination, patience and skill can oftentimes take you just as far as money in making a beautiful and welcoming home.

11 months ago
Reply to  LW

I think the trends have been towards very cool tones for a while now, and if you like it, work with it! You can make something “fashionable” with other less permanent decor and still love your space.

Lane
11 months ago
Reply to  LW

I think orange is still fashionable for those who like MCM I see a lot of furniture in that color in MCM antique furniture stores I follow.
I think everyone should buy what they like and enjoy, to make their home their own. I’m light sensitive and like many light sensitive people, don’t enjoy the orange color in interiors. I’d never paint a wall that color, and I’d never buy an orange pillow. I prefer red and brown brick to orange on the outside, and either slightly cooler yellow or cool brown floors. It’s a personal preference that goes beyond trends. It is nice though that the current trends give people like me a choice to buy cooler looking wood tones. I’m not into completely cool tones wither. But my version of the warmth I enjoy is on the cooler side.

Julie
11 months ago

I also have (and like) what other people call “orange” wood in my 1955 home. I like how some designers have rebranded it “golden” wood tones. Also, it looks great with light pink.

11 months ago

Emily,

Do you know what size dry ice particles were being urilized? It’s an important parameter besides blast pressure and nozzle selection. Initial results would be expected with 3.0mm pellets, but 0.3 MicroParticles work well on wood surfaces. It is used in homes on wood for restoration, mold remediation and soot removal. Don’t toss in the towel on dry ice cleaning without trying MicroParticles. The process can be very gentle. Check out the 1:40 mark of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbMDL4xr8iA (Cold Jet on TV National Geographic Showdown of the Unbeatables).

Alice
11 months ago

Arvin Olano on Youtube recently went through this whole exact thing with his ceilings being destroyed by this sort of “sandblasting” technique. His partner had to re-sand the beams by hand.

Lane
11 months ago

I love how it turned out. The original ceiling doesn’t look bad in pictures , but everything looks different in person. Thank you for more details on how to sand it. It will be very helpful if I have to do it someday. Can’t wait for the full reveal

B.
11 months ago

I have a timber-frame house with tongue and groove ceilings. Mine is Douglas Fir and it looks like this might be as well. When we finished ours, we used a UV protectant with a clear matte finish because we didn’t want the shiny finish either. It turned out beautifully. HOWEVER, even with the UV protectant, because it is Douglas Fir, it did deepen in colour and got more “orange”. We used a lot of creamy neutrals in our decorating and we are happy with it. I do think the “shiny” look can be avoided by using a matte product, but there is no way to avoid the wood tone changing. It is the nature of wood!

11 months ago

I’ve done this more than once on home renovations, and in my not so humble opinion, hand sanding is your best solution. Also, don’t expect perfection, good enough works just fine. In my LA house (that is pictured in The New Design Rules book) the ceilings had a green stain on them when I bought the house. I had my contractor bring in a crew to sand the ceilings, and left them raw wood. I could have stained or sealed the ceilings after sanding but I had a tight timeline and budget, so they stayed unfinished. It was fine, they didn’t get dirty or greasy, just needed the occasional dusting. So based on my own experience, hand sanding is the way to go.

Kj
11 months ago
Reply to  Christa

Christa, I love your house.