Covering Up a Very Ugly Ceiling With Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

There is nothing I love more then making something new and usable again that someone else would h...

Intro: Covering Up a Very Ugly Ceiling With Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

After you got past the horrific glare of the very pink foam insulation covered walls (and that EVERY THING was covered in spray foam) the next worst was probably the ceiling in the main room. This old place at one point was sheetrocked and professionally taped and mudded – the problem is they did not sheet rock the ceiling. Nope, that’s not sheet rock, its some kind of very old particle wood. After it was taped and mudded then acoustic ceiling tiles were stapled to the ceiling. I will never forget my sister-in-law telling me the story of how they went to the basement one night (to go to bed when they lived here over a decade ago) when a tremendous crash and insanity happened above them. Was it a break in? Did a tornado come through? What on earth could have made so much noise?!

Well they crept up stairs to find that acoustic ceiling tiles cannot be held up with staples (into particle board) for many years before they all come crashing down. Half of the ceiling was laying in their living room. They took down the rest of ceiling tiles (because they were going to come down eventually anyway) leaving the lovely ceiling that you see today. So I went back and forth in my head on what to do with it. I honestly was not sure how it would react to tape and mud, would that fall down eventually too?

This particle board is more like thick cardboard then anything else, it is not good at all and I was in a conundrum. Feeding my problem was the fact that I did NOT want to tape and mud another ceiling again in my life. I could have just trimmed over the seems with wood but that would have looked like crap and again, how would I attach it and not expect the trim to fall down too?! So, I went online for alternatives and I found the most lovely solution: Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles. I was still concerned about their weight and if ANYTHING would be light enough to be glued to that ceiling and stay in place. I just crossed my fingers. When the giant box full of them showed up at my house and I picked it up and it literally weighed nothing I knew I had a win on my hands.

Step 1: Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles...

This stuff really is styrofoam (think white styrofoam coffee cup) it is so light and delicate it is amazing. And it comes in about a hundred different looks! My cousin helped me put up all 300 square feet of ceiling in literally an afternoon and, my goodness, this was very easy however I was really glad to have her there. Otherwise I would have had to have caulked a tile, went up the ladder, stuck it to the ceiling, got down off the ladder, moved the ladder, caulked another tile etc. etc. Having a second person cut my time by 1/4. One of us put them up and one of us put caulk on the back of them and handed it to the person on the ladder. We took turns because even though these weigh absolutely nothing the person on the ladder still got quite the neck strain

(Why are all of my pics of partial and not full tiles? Well that’s a very good question! I had assumed I would have at least ONE extra tile to take pictures of for this post and then we finished and BOOM we literally did not have a single extra tile left over *facepalm*)

If you check out the videos on how to put these tiles up you’ll see that they recommend putting chalk lines on the ceiling to find your center point and working out from there. (The same thing you’re supposed to do with floor tile etc.) This was another reason it was so great for me to have another person with me! We ran the chalk line across the room from corner to corner – creating a big X to find the exact center. As soon as we reached the edges it was obvious that nothing about this 60 year old home is square and I was very glad we took the extra step to run the chalk line or we would have ended up with a very crooked ceiling..

Step 2: Finished Ceiling and Tips...

A couple of notes that I learned along the way:My goodness do I wish we had painted the ceiling white first! You can see between the tiles and that bugs me.

According to the manufacturer you are supposed to go back and caulk between each of the tiles and I am simply not good enough with a caulk gun to do it. Nope. No way. It is absolutely guaranteed that I will have more caulk on the tiles and on myself (and on the floor) then anywhere near where it is supposed to be. However, it would look awesome so I would strongly urge you to consider it if you do plan on using these tiles for your own space.

Nothing is ever perfectly square and though it certainly SEEMS like you shouldn’t be able to see between the tiles because they SHOULD be perfectly square – that’s just not the case.

You don’t have to put a ton of caulk on these but WHERE you put the caulk is important. Lots of dots of caulk along all of the outside edges and the corners is important, as well as a big dollop right in the middle. Really there’s no reason to be shy with the caulk gun but caulk is expensive and we learned our lesson when we had to run to the store for more

.These things are so funny and light that if you set them on the floor static electricity will cover them with dust and debris.If you have finger nails you need to be careful because they are easy to dent. Or, ya know, if you hit the ceiling with a trim board on your way through to the bedroom you will make a major dent in one of them (ask me how I know that).

These tiles are paintable but we’re happy with them just being white, you can also order them in multiple different colors that make them look like real old tin ceiling tile – copper, gray patina, etc. Very cool. They are SO easy to install and I feel really confident that they will be there until someone wants them to come down. They aren’t what I would call “cheap” but what would have been 20+ hours taping and mudding that ceiling and then priming and painting it to one afternoon of work – well its hard to put a price on time and to me the total cost was absolutely worth it.
$465 – Ceiling tiles

$70 – Caulk

$535 – TOTAL



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    8 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Looks terriffic! But I would guess that the local fire marshal would see "Styrofoam ceilings" as only slightly better than "suspended bags of gasoline" in case of a fire.

    I dunno if those things are "rated" for resistance, but personally (former Fire Fighter, current Expat Safety Consultant) I would strongly recommend RUNNING AWAY if there is ever any kind of fire in that room.

    5 replies

    lol well they're sold for this purpose exactly so I really can't say whether or not they're "rated" they were a lovely and easy solution to one very ugly problem for us. Thanks for commenting!


    Reply 1 year ago

    If they are modern tiles, they will have a fire retardant to prevent them becoming such a hazard. It's the old 1970's styrofoam (polystyrene) tiles that are the nightmare: Flammable, toxic black smoke, dripping melting sticky plastic. Even worse when coated with a layer of oil-based paints!

    If you have any offcuts of the tiles left, take one OUTSIDE and try and set fire to it. If it refuses to catch on fire, and just crinkles up and self-extinguishes, that's good. Try the same trick with a piece of scrap polystyrene from some non-critical non-firesafe packaging application, and see how horrible it is.


    Reply 1 year ago

    The horrible fire at Grenfell tower is an example of how manufacturers will sell ANYTHING. You have to read the labels. Really. I pray you got the good ones...


    Reply 1 year ago

    Valid point -- but "read the labels" is bad advice if you believe that manufacturers "will sell anything". Do as I said and TEST a piece of the insulation and see if you can set fire to it. Outdoors.


    Yes, and I am 95% sure I am taking counsel of my fears because I was a firefighter back when all kinds of stuff was used in (both to build & furnish) that was incredibly dangerous. It looks great. The old timey ones are just evil.


    1 year ago

    I voted for you. Great job and tenacity to pull it off.

    1 reply