The type of ceiling material you pick out depends on your design goals and the size of the room in question. Do you want it to look luxurious and extravagant? The design, attitude, and even the type of ceiling material you use can have a significant impact on the overall feel and look of your room. We’ll outline the most popular types of ceiling material below, and you can decide which one will work out the best for your ceiling.
1. Cement Board
Cement board comes with a cement layer on the inside and fiberglass on the outside, and it mimics the look of drywall. The panels also install just like drywall, and they’re very water-resistant. You can use this type of ceiling material for the walls or ceilings, but it’s roughly two or three times more expensive than traditional drywall. Cement board is arguably one of the best materials to put on your ceiling in the shower or bathroom due to the water-resistance it has. Cement board is also known as backer board, and it makes a flat base for you to lay tile. The board won’t get soft or warm like drywall if it happens to get damp, and for your shower ceiling, you can use a cement board with tile right on top of it.
A more formal room is a great place for this type of ceiling material. Fabric is a great choice if you want the ceiling to make a statement and become the centerpiece of the room. The fabric will also work nicely to cover any flaws or irregularities you have in your current ceiling. Any texture or color palette is possible when you use fabric, but you want to pick out something that is more lightweight. A draped cloth ceiling also takes a huge amount of fabric to pull off, and you’ll want to bring in an experienced designer who specializes in fabric ceilings to figure out the correct yardage you need to get the right look for the finished ceiling.
Also referred to as sheetrock and wallboard, drywall is a very popular ceiling and wall material. Your contractors will nail large panels of the studs or rafters before applying tape and drywall mud to the seams. Once they sand the seams to make them smooth, they can apply wallpaper or paint over it. A lot of homes feature drywall ceilings too, and you can paint this ceiling or apply a texture or other materials without an issue. Drywall is one of the most cost-effective and convenient types of ceiling material there is.
This material also works well to absorb sound and keep any external noise out. Drywall features gypsum, and this is a softer mineral that you’ll find in rock, sandwiched between two layers of thick paper. Gypsum makes up all types of ceiling materials too because it’s very easy to source and inexpensive when you compare it to many other items. Drywall is best applied to flat ceilings or ceilings with flat areas, like a vaulted ceiling that has flat sides.
The drywall panels are rigid enough that you can’t use them on textured or curved ceilings. Also, a four by eight sheet of drywall will weigh in at 70 pounds. You can find ultra-light or light drywall sheets that weigh roughly 45 pounds. You’ll need two people to install these panels without any specialized equipment. Drywall is one of the ceiling materials you should avoid in wet or damp rooms unless you get a more expensive green board or purple drywall as it resists moisture better.
4. Fabric or Leather
Fabric, leatherette, or leather can work to create a soft false ceiling in your home. These types of ceiling materials will help you get a more ornamental false ceiling. The pattern, type, and color of the fabric will contribute to the ambiance or setting of the room. The advantage of using these materials is that you can have any desired form. The material shouldn’t be used alone, and it works well when used in combination with other materials. They attract mites and dust, so they’re more difficult to maintain. They also don’t work well as a long-term solution. However, if you empanel or frame them, they can work for a few years without any issues. They can also double as showpieces in your room.
Most people use this type of ceiling material in commercial buildings for drop ceilings. Some people choose to have them in their homes, and a fiberglass ceiling can be very cost-effective and easy to install when you value function over design. You’ll get pressed glass fibers and polymers used to form your ceiling tiles. You can also get fiberglass tiles that are pressed into patterns or shapes to help your drop ceiling look much less institutional while saving you money in materials.
A glass ceiling can make any room feel much more expensive and it brings nature inside in a way that even houseplants struggle with. If you want constant views of the outdoors, you may enjoy this type of ceiling material. Enclosed porches, sunrooms, and small rooms are best for glass ceilings, but you can get it to work virtually anywhere. However, you should note that glass will make the room much more expensive to cool and heat because you lose any insulation that you’d have put into a more standard ceiling.
Gypsum is one of the most popular types of ceiling materials you can get, for both traditional and false ceilings. Since it’s more lightweight, you won’t have to worry about having an extremely heavy ceiling when you use it. It comes in prefabricated boards in different thickness levels, and the boards get mounted on a metal frame that they then hide in your ceiling. You can finish them with laminates, wallpaper, or a coat or two of paint in your preferred color.
Along with being very durable and lightweight, this material is also resistant to fire, and it gives you heat and sound insulation. You can easily use this ceiling material to conceal any ducts, wiring, or services. Along with being relatively easy to install, the panels also generate much less dust, and it’s a much cleaner process to install it. The material comes with advantages, and the biggest drawback is that if it’s impacted by moisture, it can lead to fungal or mold growth. So, you should be very careful where you choose to install it in your home. Also, the repairs can be very expensive.
You can also get a variant of this type of ceiling material, and they come in Gyptone panels or plasterboards with perforation. These panels are very popular in commercial spaces or offices because they offer great sound-absorption qualities. Along with helping you get better acoustics in your room, they can also make your central air more efficient.
Ceiling planks and tiles made out of metal are a very stylish choice. Most types of ceiling materials in this category are tin, but you can easily cover your whole ceiling in copper, steel, aluminum, or brass. You will need to get a very flat surface to install the metal tiles or planks on though to get a neat finished look.
Metal types of ceiling materials tend to be very lightweight and thin, and they give you a very high-impact appearance. In the 19th century, tin ceilings were a much less expensive way to get the look of a crafted plaster ceiling. A lot of these ceilings were very highly ornamental, and they doubled as a fire barrier in the room. Most ceiling materials in this category come with very ornate designs, and they can range from hand-painted to a single shade.
9. Mineral Fiber
Tiles that have mineral wood and recycled newspapers or wood pulp in their makeup give you a very high-end look. If you leave them white, they’ll mimic the look of plaster of Paris. You can paint them any color too, or you can easily make them look like stamped metal tiles. Mineral fiber ceilings are excellent at absorbing sound better than any metal, and they come in a huge range of styles and shapes. You should easily be able to find a style that matches your decor. Mineral fiber panels, just like fiberglass, are popular for use in office building ceilings. Tiles in residential properties are usually much more ornate and designed to function as decor instead of just a ceiling.
10. Plaster of Paris
Plaster of Paris is a very wet mixture that has limestone or other minerals mixed with gypsum that you apply with a trowel and let dry. This compound is originally a dry powder that you mix with water when you’re ready to apply it to your ceiling. The plaster will need several coats and specialized application techniques to look nice. It will dry very hard and give you a sturdy ceiling that you can then paint. A lot of homes feature plaster of Paris on their walls or ceilings. In fact, a lot of the plaster elements in older homes like decorative moldings are plaster of Paris. It’s one of the most durable ceiling materials you can get as long as you don’t let it get wet. It won’t work well in humid or moist areas in your home.
It was very common in older homes to have ceilings and wells made from this material layered over narrow strips of wood or lath. In more modern homes, this type of ceiling material gets troweled directly onto drywall. Any false ceilings that get finished with this material feature a metal frame with wire mesh for the plaster of Paris to adhere to. It’s one of the few ceiling materials that works exceptionally well to create designs in your ceilings because you can easily spread it over angles or curves.
Plastic ceilings cost a lot less than other materials, they’re easy to install on a flat surface, and they’re very lightweight. You can find PVC tiles that mimic the look or more ornate brass with a nice patina or like sculpted plaster of Paris. PVC tiles also feature sleek designs that don’t try to hide the fact that it’s plastic. You can pick interlocking panels instead of a more decorative tile if you want to get a more modern look and feel. You will lose any sound-absorbing properties when you use this type of ceiling material.
But, if your room features a lot of fabric or wood, these materials will help make up the difference. PVC is a nice choice for damp rooms because the plastic has great moisture resistance, and it also resists mildew and mold. So, you can easily pop them into a bathroom ceiling and not worry about anything.
12. Stenciled Plaster
If you’re trying to get a more elegant look for your ceiling, you can ask the builder to add plaster before your drywall or tile. This is commonly called stucco, and it’s purely used for decorating purposes. It’s a plaster that you use to add texture to your ceilings or walls, and it’s made up of water, construction aggregates, and a binding agent. If you want to get a plain white ceiling, you can add more flair to the finished look by using plaster and stenciling a design.
Ceiling tins are tiles that use plates of tin to form them, were the most-used materials during the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States before mineral fiber tiles took off. One of the most interesting aspects of this type of ceiling material is that they were very commonly decorated with debossed or embossed patterns. In turn, this allowed the ceiling to stand out in a hallway or room. They were also popularly used as a decorative alternative to wooden panels, and they were much less expensive.
Due to World War II in the 1930s and 1940s, tin became very hard to come by because almost every piece of tin people could get were used to make military equipment. Since there was a tin shortage, this ceiling’s popularity plummeted and it was replaced by the mineral fiber material. However, ceiling tins have made a huge comeback in recent years for more modern homes, and you’ll commonly see them in museums or larger commercial buildings. It’s rare to see it in residential homes due to the high price tag.
Wood remains one of the types of ceiling materials that are very easy to install and a nice choice to bring a rustic and warm feel to a room. You can pick from various shades and wood patterns or go for acoustic panels made from wood that are specially designed to absorb sound while enhancing the room’s acoustics. Wooden planks or wood panels are a classic type of ceiling material in residential homes, and they’re a solid choice if you don’t want a painted surface of sculpted ceilings. You can purchase wood to fit angles, curves, edges, and design elements too, but this is more expensive.
Generally speaking, wooden materials work best on flat ceilings or a drop or false ceiling framework. Wood ceilings aren’t meant to be a statement piece on their own, and you can whitewash or paint them to enhance your room’s decor. You don’t have to have a ceiling that mimics the look of your hardwood floor either. Slats or panels can get arranged with cross beams to create eye-catching patterns. Tongue-and-groove wooden panels have a very easy installation process, but you can use virtually any wood material you want to get a charming look.
Ceiling Designs You Use These Ceiling Materials On
To help get that flat white, boring surface out of your mind when you picture ceilings, we’re going to include several ceiling designs that you can consider using these types of ceiling materials on.
Brick & Stone
Earthy, natural elements can take a minimalist, modern room and add a huge amount of warmth. Bricks are the perfect thing to add to any curved or arched ceilings in a space that offers a lot of natural light. Pick brick colors to compliment your furnishings to get a cohesive design, and consider using wood throughout to add more warmth to the stone surfaces. Herringbone patterns work very well with stone and brick to give you a more unique design, and things like brick or stone size and the amount of visible mortar you want will come into play to give you more texture.
One of the most recent trends for ceilings is to get a reflective, ultra-glossy space that shines. This surface is great for helping trick your eye to make the room feel bigger, especially if you use lighter furniture and colors. However, you’ll have to polish the surface smooth so you have no bumps if you use paint. If it’s not possible to get a smooth surface, a stretch ceiling may be your best bet. Stretch ceilings work to cover your current ceiling and they come in dozens of finishes and colors, including a high gloss. The shiny and smooth surface can make the space feel very glamorous. You can also apply high gloss to materials like wood to get a glam and planking combination.
The industrial decor style has been around for a long time. However, instead of allowing your building structure to dictate how open your ceiling plan is, you can make it intentional and purposeful. White, gray, or black ductwork may do the trick in some designs, but switching it up with a brighter paint color can help unify and focus your space. Change the ductwork so it matches one wall or coat everything in a non-standard but complementary color that joins elegant and industrial. Keep your ceiling a different color with standard black finishes on the beams, pipes, and ductwork.
White may be considered the safest neutral color you can get, but you don’t have to put it in every room. Bright, bold colors can easily become a focal point and draw your eye up to your ceiling. Bring in non-traditional colors down on the walls to help visually expand how large your room feels. A darker ceiling can pull elements in a way that bold walls normally would. A darker and lighter color pulled from your room’s decor scheme can easily brighten up your space with little effort.
Photos & Art
Covering up textured types of ceiling materials and getting rid of traditional while is easier than ever. Big prints can be installed, you can print stretch ceilings with illustrations and graphics, and stunning wallpapers with huge designs can span your whole ceiling. Depending on the art or photo, your ceiling can become the focal point in the room or continue a design up from the walls. Consider whether your art prints or patterns can go well with a modern look, or you can get a more vintage feel with a map trimmed with stained wood.
Adding a few live plants as your type of ceiling material can make your whole room feel fresh and bright. Suspending hanging plants from your ceiling is one way to scatter in a few more green elements. Building and hanging full frames with overflowing vines or ferns can elevate your room’s look to a new level. You can cover the whole ceiling, suspend plants from open beams, or make a pattern with hanging boxes.
Sculptural / Architectural
If you want a much more integrated look than just three-dimensional elements or layered levels attached to suspended from your ceiling, you can take the ceiling itself and make something new. This could be anything from gentle waves, organic cut outs, or big architectural or sculptural ceilings that allow for shadow and light play. This choice can make your room feel less intimidating or more intimidating, depending on the colors and execution.
You can take a traditional light fixture and expand this concept across your whole ceiling. One light will turn into dozens with reimagined elements that create a piece of art that suspends right from your ceiling. Complex light fixtures draw the eye while you look around the space. You can add contrast with diamond patterns in black contrasted with a white ceiling to add interest.
Finally, it’s possible to finish your type of ceiling material with wallpaper. It goes well over a large range of materials, and you can introduce dizzying patterns or colors that would be difficult to mimic with paint or stain. Wallpaper patterns can easily range from simple to geometric that give the space a very elegant and understated punch.
We’ve highlighted the most popular types of ceiling materials that you should consider when you’re redoing your ceiling. A few of them can be universally used, but certain materials should be explored based on the site, project, and preferences. You can even use a combination of materials to give you a very unique look.
The materials will also depend on the longevity of your ceiling. Maybe you’re someone who routinely changes up your decor style and you only want a type of ceiling material that will last a few years, or you’re someone who doesn’t like change. Whatever your design goals are, you’ll be able to find a type of ceiling material that brings your dream to life.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.