Types of Ceiling Materials

Laurie Brenner

Surface-damaged ceilings don't look so hot. Instead of replacing the drywall, cover the ceiling instead.

The good news is that you don’t have to settle for a boring white or a stained ceiling; instead, add ceiling squares made from a variety of materials. Line the ceiling with wood planks, or, for a touch of flair, cover the ceiling with draped fabric. If none of these options is right for you, add a dropped ceiling and install ceiling tiles that replicate antique tiles used during the Victorian era.

Wood-Paneled or Planked Ceiling

To add warmth and color to your ceiling, install cedar or pine boards, fastening them to the joists beneath the drywall, unless the drywall hasn’t been added yet. And you don't have to install them in the traditional vertical or horizontal pattern on the ceiling’s plane; instead, place them diagonally, or section off squares or rectangles with boards perpendicular or diagonal to the section next to it. Add crown molding and molding frames to ceilings to create a distinctively Victorian look.

Stenciled Designs

Make an ordinary white-painted ceiling extraordinary with a stenciled painted-on design.

  • Using stencils, trail painted ivy along the border of the ceiling near the walls and add a mural or design in the center of the room.
  • If you have an older home with a high ceiling, you can pick up stencil kits that take a bit of time to apply, but the payoffs are worth it. 
  • A painted-on compass rose brings attention to the room and creates a different kind of focal point.

Metal Ceiling Tiles

Install ceiling tins or copper squares on a boring, water-stained ceiling or a damaged ceiling – after the leak is fixed – and transform it into a gleaming work of art.

Near the end of the 19th century, ceiling tins were an inexpensive option for costly wood paneled ceilings. Today, companies make a variety of tin and metal tiles, some in reproduced versions of days gone-by. Metal tiles are easier to install than you may think:

  1. Attach a plywood underlayment to your ceiling on which to install the tin tiles.
  2. Align tiles by adding installation layout lines.
  3. Nail the tiles into place.

Wallpaper or Fabric

Wallpaper works as well on the ceiling as it does on the walls.

  • Paint your walls in a color pulled from the wallpaper that you use on the ceiling.
  • For a romantic feeling, drape fabrics from the corners in the room and gather them in the center. 


When adding fabrics to ceiling, attach the fabric to joists through the drywall.


When attaching fabric to the ceiling, add clearance for light fixtures to prevent fires.

Dropped Ceilings

In rooms with not-so-great ceilings or in a basement, a dropped ceiling allows you to add acoustic or ceiling tiles that resemble the ceiling medallions of yesteryear. A light metal – usually aluminum – framework attaches to the ceiling at the desired measurements. Once the metal grid is in place, the tiles slip inside the grid and rest on a lip that becomes part of the ceiling design.