6 Ways to Make a Dropped Ceiling Look Good

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While a dropped ceiling reduces noise and improves acoustics, it doesn’t always contribute to a nice, homey atmosphere, especially if it’s old and dingy. Fortunately, you can easily update your dropped ceiling and brighten your space with just a few hours of work. We did the research and curated a list of the best ways to renew and upgrade an old dropped ceiling.

#1 Change ceiling tiles for an instant update

The easiest way to renew a dropped ceiling is to change the tiles. We recommend opting for something simple and basic, especially if you want the space to brighten up a bit.

You could also get creative and mix/match different drop ceiling tiles, but it would probably require a bit of knowledge and understanding of colors and patterns to do so. For this purpose, we recommend searching Pinterest for ideas and inspiration.

Installing new ceiling tiles is an easy task, so long as you remember to get the right tiles for the frame.

Pros

  • Lots of options. You can personalize your new dropped ceiling by choosing the tiles you like.
  • Some ceiling tiles are actually quite functional. They can reduce noise and improve acoustics in a room.
  • Saves you time and effort. Ceiling tiles are very easy to install, and you’ll be done in a few hours.

Cons

  • Expensive. You’ll have to buy a complete set of ceiling tiles, and if you can’t bring them home yourself you’ll have to pay for delivery as well.
  • You may have trouble finding ceiling tiles in a proper size, especially if your dropped ceiling is very old.
  • It’s messy. Each ceiling tile could hold a lot of dust, and you’ll have to get rid of the old tiles after replacing them. Expect your car to get dirty and dusty, if you transport the old ceiling tiles yourself.

#2 Paint your old tiles

Another way to renew an old, dingy dropped ceiling, is by painting it. Depending on the materials your tiles are made of, you should be able to use regular ceiling paint for these. You could also use spray paint for a quick and easy update of the space. 

If you want to paint your old ceiling tiles, you need the right equipment for the job. You’ll also need to remove each tile and have a space available for the drying process, which could be everything from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

Painting the suspended metal frame is optional, but for a complete update you may want to consider this.

As a last resort, you could also hire a professional for this particular job. They’ll be in and out in a day, and all you have to do is pay the contractor.

Pros

  • You can choose between any color, and add a personal touch to your house. Ever wanted a pink ceiling? This is your chance!
  • Affordable. All you need to buy is a bucket of paint, and a few paint brushes. Or even better: A can of spray paint that you simply apply to the tiles.
  • Doesn’t create as much waste, which is great for the environment.

Cons

  • Paint doesn’t fix cracks, tears, and holes in your ceiling tiles. You may have to fill out any holes first, or buy a few new tiles to replace the damaged ones.
  • It’s a laborious task. Not only do you have to paint each ceiling tile individually, but you’ll also have to wait for them to dry before reinstalling them.
  • Not suitable for all types of ceiling tiles. For example, if the tiles have a special surface, the paint may not stick properly.

#3 Wrap each tile in a thin fabric

If you live in a rented apartment or house, your options may be limited. A cheap way to renew a dropped ceiling, would be to wrap the tiles individually in a wrapping paper of your choice.

You could also wrap the tiles in a thin fabric for a more exclusive look, just keep in mind that it has to be a thin material. Otherwise the tiles may not fit in the metal frame.

If you want a canopy- og yurt-like effect, you could also attach large pieces of fabric flush against the dropped ceiling. This could be a perfect fit for a bedroom or a living room, where a cozy atmosphere is desired.

Pros

  • Great, inexpensive way to update any type of dropped ceiling. Works in a rented apartment as well.
  • No permanent installation required. Simply remove the fabric or wrapping paper, if you don’t like the result.
  • You can get creative by hanging the fabric in different ways, or mix different colors together for a more dramatic appearance.

Cons

  • May require a bit of work. Especially if you choose to wrap each tile individually, as it would require you to cut a piece of fabric for each tile.
  • Depending on the type and quality of fabric you use, it may not turn out as expected.
  • You may need special tools for cutting and wrapping the fabric or paper around the tiles.

#4 Wallpaper

Wallpaper can be applied to each ceiling tile, or it could cover the entire ceiling with a bit of prep work. It all comes down to your desires, and what type of look you want for your ceiling.

As you may know, wallpaper is available in lots of different colors and patterns. Choose one that you like, and stick it to your ceiling. It’s an easy solution, and a quick fix for a tired-looking dropped ceiling.

One downside is that your ceiling needs to have a smooth surface for the adhesive to stick properly. Otherwise you may have to fill the crevices or holes in with a bit of spackle.

Pros

  • A beautiful solution for a smooth-surface dropped ceiling.
  • Adding wallpaper to your ceiling allows you to get creative with the colors and patterns.
  • Wallpaper is relatively cheap, and widely available in most hardware stores.

Cons

  • May require a good amount of work, if you want to cover the entire dropped ceiling.
  • Doesn’t work with a textured surface, as the adhesive may not stick properly.

#5 Light-diffusing ceiling panels

A great way of updating AND upgrading a dropped ceiling, is by installing light-diffusing ceiling panels. That way you can remove old light fixtures, while at the same time adding pleasant light to the space. This is especially useful for a home office, as proper lighting is necessary to create a productive work environment.

The only two downsides of light panels are the price and installation. A single panel will easily set you back more than 50 dollars, and you may have to hire a professional for the electrical work.

Pros

  • A beautiful and stylish way to brighten up any space.
  • Works especially well for a work environment, where proper lighting is a must.
  • Out with the old fixtures. Light-diffusing ceiling panels have an LED light hidden behind the surface, and most of them are dimmable as well.

Cons

  • Relatively expensive. Not only do LED ceiling panels cost a good amount of money, they also require installation and – in some cases – additional wiring.
  • Doesn’t suit all room types. For a living room, bright LED lights are not always a desirable solution.

#6 Cover with wood

As mentioned by Apartment Therapy, replacing the tiles with wood can result in a more rustic, cozy vibe (source). This is a great idea if you want to cover a dropped ceiling, while at the same time adding a cottage-like feel to your house.

We came across Armstrong Ceilings, a company based in Pennsylvania with manufacturing plants scattered across the US and Canada, that sells “Wood Look Ceilings”. With a sophisticated system of clips and planks, your old ceiling will look as good as new in just a few simple steps.

Another option, which may be cheaper, is going to your local hardware store and buying veneer sheets. You can easily cut them into tiles and install them like regular ceiling tiles.

Pros

  • For a rustic, wooden cottage-vibe, opt for wooden ceiling tiles.
  • Available in many shapes and sizes.
  • Affordable. Veneer sheets are not expensive, and they’re very easy to work with.

Cons

  • Not all types of wood coverings are affordable. If you opt for the Wood Look Ceilings from Armstrong Ceilings, the price is much higher than regular ceiling tiles.
  • May require a good amount of work. Cutting the wood into sheets is a laborious task, and for a large ceiling you could easily end up spending hours measuring and cutting each tile.
Categories DIY