Covering up a Very Ugly Ceiling With Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

2 Materials
4 Hours

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 affiliate link

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.

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.

We used multiple kinds of caulk: everything from pure silicone to white kitchen and bath caulk and this is what we learned: the pure silicone was a little wet and slippery (not to mention stinky – pew!) the colored caulk did a better job because it was stickier and thicker. I have no doubt the manufacturer recommends a specific product but really, all of the different kinds of silicone and caulk I had leftover from my house renovation worked just fine. When we ran out of caulk (we used 15 bottles) and had to run into town to get more I literally just purchased the least expensive white caulk that Ace hardware sold.

(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.

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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3 of 8 questions
  • Dl.5660408 Dl.5660408 on May 11, 2018

    What a great improvement! My question is, if the tiles are static(y) do they also collect a lot of dust on the ceiling?

  • Rosieflynn Rosieflynn on May 11, 2018

    Do you know if these can be applied over a popcorn ceiling?

  • Joanie Joanie on May 12, 2018

    What happens when your ceiling starts to yellow? Can it be painted or scrubbed? A lot of detail in those tiles of styrafoam. Hummmmmmmm, just wondering.

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  • Vicky Corey Vicky Corey on May 13, 2018

    Im not sure if you are still on here, but I've read a lot of your posts. I get a laugh out of them every time! You're a great writer and these look great on your ceiling!!

  • Jenny Jenny on Jul 03, 2020

    I live in Britain. Polystyrene (Styrofoam in US ) is illegal to put on ceilings over here. They were very popular back in the 1960s but were found to be a bad fire hazard. They don't just catch fire very easily they drip burning fragments down.

    • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Jul 09, 2020

      Hi Jenny, I can't imagine brand new products being made right now not being up to fire code here in the states but, of course, fire codes are different in different countries. Thanks for checking it out!