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10 Common Ceiling Materials You Should Know

10 Common Ceiling Materials You Should Know

You can choose between several different types of ceiling materials when you’re building a home or remodeling a room. The ceiling material you use will depend at least in part on your ceiling’s style.


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What Types of Ceiling Materials Are There?

Plaster, gypsum, paneling, and tin are a few ceiling materials available. You’ll also have the option of a flat, smooth surface for your ceiling or one with texture. If you have a shaped ceiling rather than one with flat surfaces, your material options change. 

Types of Ceiling Materials You Should Know

Various types of ceiling materials on a gorgeous lobby

Jokiewalker/Shutterstock

New options in ceiling materials like PVC can create a unique look on a small budget, but many of the classic materials remain favorites. 

1. Drywall

Drywall, also called sheetrock, gypsum board, and wallboard, is a popular wall material. Builders nail the large panels to the wall studs, then apply tape and drywall mud to the seams. Once they sand the seams smooth, they can paint or wallpaper over the drywall. 

Many homes have drywall ceilings, too. You can paint a drywall ceiling or apply a texture or other materials. Drywall is one of the most convenient and cost-effective ceiling materials.

The material also helps absorb sound and keep external sounds out. Drywall consists of gypsum, a soft mineral found in rock, between two layers of thick paper.

Gypsum makes up other types of ceiling material because it’s plentiful and inexpensive compared to many other options. Drywall works best on flat ceilings or those with flat areas, like a vaulted ceiling with straight sides.

The panels are rigid enough that you can’t use them on curved or textured ceilings. A 4×8 sheet of drywall weighs 70 pounds. You can find brands advertised as light or ultra-light that weigh 44 pounds.

You’ll need two people to install even the lightest panels without the specialized equipment. Drywall is one of the ceiling materials you should avoid in wet rooms unless you choose a more expensive moisture-resistant green board or purple drywall.

Read Next: Types of Drywall

2. Cement Board

Cement board consists of a cement layer inside and fiberglass outside with a look close to drywall. These panels install like drywall, but they’re much more water-resistant. 

You can use cement board as a wall or ceiling material, though it’s about two to three times more expensive than drywall. Cement board is one of the best ceiling materials for bathrooms or showers because of its water resistance. 

Cement board is called backer board and makes a flat base for laying tile. The board won’t warp or get soft like drywall if it gets damp. On a shower ceiling, you can use cement board and tile directly on top of it. 

3. Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris is a wet mixture that contains gypsum mixed with limestone or other materials that you trowel on and allow to dry. The compound comes as a dry powder that you mix with water when you’re ready to apply it.

The plaster requires several coats and specialized application techniques. The plaster dries hard and provides a sturdy ceiling ready for painting. Many homes have plaster of Paris on the walls and ceiling.

Many plaster elements decorate moldings and ceilings of older homes, and this look is still favored today. Plaster of Paris is one of the most durable ceiling materials as long as it stays dry. This material isn’t suitable for a moist environment. 

Many older homes have walls and ceilings made from plaster over narrow strips of wood or lath. In modern homes, plaster of Paris is troweled directly onto drywall or other materials. 

False ceilings finished with plaster of Paris involve a wire mesh and metal frame for the plaster of Paris application. Plaster of Paris is one of the ceiling materials that work well to create ceilings with designs because you can spread it over curves and angles. 

4. Wood 

Wood is one of the ceiling materials that’s easy to install and a good choice to bring warmth and a rustic feel to a room. You can choose from multiple shades and wood patterns and opt for acoustic panels made from wood designed to absorb sound and enhance the acoustics of a room. 

Wood panels or even wooden planks are a classic material in homes and a good choice if you don’t want sculpted ceilings or a painted surface. You can buy wood to fit curves, angles, and design elements, but this is an expensive option.

Wood materials work best on a flat ceiling or a false or drop-ceiling framework. Wood ceilings not necessarily meant to shine on their own can be painted or whitewashed to add to the room’s décor. You don’t have to have a ceiling that looks like your wooden dining room floor, either.

Panels or slats can be arranged with crossbeams to create patterns and draw the eye. Tongue-and-groove wood panels have straightforward installation, but you can use almost any wood material to create a look you’ll love. 

5. Metal

Ceiling tiles and planks in metal are a stylish choice for a room. Most metal ceiling materials are tin, but you can also cover your ceiling in aluminum, steel, copper, and brass. These and any tiles or planks need a flat surface for installation, 

Metal ceiling materials are thin and lightweight and offer a high-impact appearance. Tin ceilings in the 19th century were a less expensive way to achieve the look of a crafted plaster ceiling.

Many tin ceilings were highly ornamental while also providing a fire barrier to the room. Most metal ceiling materials come with ornate designs and range from one shade to hand-painted. 

6. Fiberglass

Fiberglass ceilings appear most often in drop ceilings in commercial buildings, but some people choose to install these ceilings in their homes. 

A fiberglass ceiling can be a cost-effective and easy-to-install solution when the function is more important than the design. Pressed glass fibers and polymers form the tiles.

Fiberglass tiles pressed into shapes and patterns can help a fiberglass drop ceiling look less institutional while saving you money on ceiling materials. 

7. Mineral Fiber

Tiles made from mineral wood and recycled newspapers or wood pulp emulate a high-end look. If left white, they look like plaster of Paris. You can also paint them any color and make them look like stamped metal tiles. 

Mineral fiber ceilings absorb sound better than metal and come in many shapes and styles.

You should be able to find one that works in your home. Mineral fiber panels, like fiberglass, make up many office building ceilings. Tiles for residential use are more ornate and designed for décor instead of merely function. 

8. PVC

Plastic ceilings cost less than many other materials, are lightweight, and are easy to install on a flat surface. You can find PVC tiles made to look like ornate brass with a patina or sculpted plaster of Paris. 

PVC tiles also come in sleek designs that don’t try to disguise the plastic. You can choose interlocking panels instead of decorative tile for a more modern look. You’ll lose the sound-absorbing properties of most other materials with a plastic ceiling.

But if the room has plenty of wood or fabric, those materials will make up the difference. PVC is a good choice for damp rooms because plastic resists moisture, mold, and mildew. PVC materials come with some controversy, so do your research before you opt for PVC tiles. 

9. Glass

A glass ceiling makes a room feel more expansive and brings nature inside in a way not even houseplants can do. If you want a constant view of the outside, you might enjoy this option. 

Sunrooms, enclosed porches, and small rooms work best for glass ceilings, though glass can work almost anywhere. The room will be more expensive to heat and cool because you lose any insulation you’d have above more standard ceiling materials. 

10. Cloth

A formal room is a suitable place for a draped cloth ceiling. Fabric is a good choice if you want the ceiling to become a centerpiece and make a dramatic statement. The fabric also covers flaws and irregularities in an existing ceiling. 

Any color or texture is possible when you use fabric, though you’ll want to choose something lightweight.

A draped cloth ceiling takes a large volume of fabric to achieve. You’ll want to consult with someone experienced with fabric ceilings to calculate the proper yardage and get the look right. 

Things to Consider

Types of ceiling materials made of wood and lighting

nieriss/Shutterstock

Here are some things to think about when you’re trying to decide which ceiling materials will work best in your home:

  • Ceiling materials in damp rooms need to withstand moisture even if they’re painted or treated after installation to resist it. 
  • You can achieve looks close to most ceiling styles with various methods. If the ceiling you want is out of your price range, other ceiling materials and installations might get close to the look for less. 
  • If you’re unsure whether you want a plain or elaborate ceiling, start with a base like drywall or plywood you can easily cover later. 
  • PVC is an inexpensive option, but try it in a small room first to be sure you’re happy with how it looks. Small rooms are easier to change and let you settle into a look or decide not to add it to another room. 
  • Drop ceilings with these ceiling materials hide flaws, leave room for HVAC and other structural objects, and make spaces cheaper to heat and cool.
  • Even bathrooms with water-resistant ceiling materials need proper ventilation. Run the ventilation fan as needed or install one if you don’t have one. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can plywood be used for ceilings?

Plywood is one of the least expensive wood ceiling materials. The panels are easier to cut than hardwood and lighter. Plywood’s hard surface works well for laying ceiling tiles, applying a texture, or painting.

Can I use shiplap on my ceiling?

Yes, you can use shiplap on a ceiling in the way you’d use any other wood planks. Shiplap usually costs less than tongue and groove planks, but installation will probably cost more.

Can you install a beadboard ceiling?

Beadboard is a common wainscoting material that you can use as ceiling material. Most beadboard is made from pine and assembles like tongue and groove planks. Beadboard costs less than many other kinds of wood while giving the same rustic effect.

Can you put floor tiles on the ceiling?

You can use floor tiles on a ceiling as long as you have a flat surface to adhere them to, like drywall or plywood. Ceiling tiles come in so many shapes and colors, there’s little need to use tiles meant for a floor on your ceiling, though.

Can I tile the bathroom ceiling?

Tiling a bathroom ceiling protects the ceiling from moisture and makes it easy to clean. Choose the lightest tile you can find and install cement boards or another waterproof barrier behind the tile.

Which Ceiling Materials Will You Choose?

We’ve covered the most commonly used ceiling materials and talked about uncommon ones that work on finished or unfinished ceilings. Remember to use one appropriate for your room and the ceiling shape. 

Most wall surfaces work as ceiling materials, so use whatever’s within your budget that will give you the appearance you want. 

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