The Little House: Covering up a very ugly ceiling with Styrofoam ceiling tiles

May 22 2017
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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?!

A remodel checklist and timeline, getting organized and getting everything before I start the work.

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?

(To get up to speed on this old place you can check out my two last posts all about it! The Little House: A remodel plan and timeline, getting organized and The Little House: When a remodel timeline meets with reality)

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to

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.

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to

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.

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to

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.

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to
(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.

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to

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).

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to

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 affiliate link
$70 – Caulk affiliate link
$535 – TOTAL

Easy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how toEasy to install Styrofoam do it yourself ceiling tiles over an ugly ceiling, how to


  1. May 22, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Well worth spending the money and saving a huge amount of labor including a really sore neck, back, shoulders, arms etc. Great save.

  2. May 23, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this at Project Inspire{d}. My dining room ceiling was ruined by a contractor (GRRR) and I had no idea what we were going to do with it but now I finally have an option! I’m going to save this for when I have the money to redo my room. Thanks again and have an awesome week.

    • May 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Oh I’m so sorry to hear that someone wrecked your ceiling Mary! What a nightmare! Maybe these will be an option for you ๐Ÿ™‚ They have TONs of different styles to choose from etc.

  3. May 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Looks good! These are much nicer than those large rectangular tiles of older days. Visiting from Happy Now party.

    • May 23, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Victoria! I think it was definitely a good option for us!

  4. May 23, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    I couldn’t believe you weren’t going to rip down that ugly ceiling – there was no way you could save something that bad (the expression “polishing a turd” comes to mind). But these ceiling tiles SAVED your ceiling. They look great! xx

    • May 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you so much Kate! Polishing a turd is definitely an expression I used a few times working on this little place! I also said (more then once) that we were putting lipstick on a pig lol But, in the end, those ceilings sure did turn out pretty I think ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. May 24, 2017 at 2:25 am

    It looks clean, bright and uniform, it must make everything look so much lighter and brighter. What an incredible difference I would say its worth every nickle you spent on it.

    • May 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks Leanna! It definitely beat the amount of time it would have taken to try and tape and mud the whole thing!

  6. JaneEllen
    May 24, 2017 at 5:39 am

    Since we have a single wide with popcorn ceilings we’d need an awful lot of tiles. Would have to do from one end of living room into mudroom or would look funny. Wonder if those tiles would stick on popcorn ceiling? Know hubs not going to scrape it. Would have to secure them some other more sturdy way in case. Hate popcorn ceilings, UGH!
    If we want to build something will refer to your posts and experiences. For instance how to turn a buffet into a bathroom vanity. Have buffet,just have to get hubs to make vanity.
    Well one can hope.
    Have great rest of week Tarah

    • May 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Hey there! If you go to the manufacturers website of those Styrofoam ceiling tiles they talk specifically on how great they are for covering up pop corn ceilings! I do wonder though, if you don’t scrape them first, if they would stick as well though? That price of under $600 covered 300 square feet ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for coming by and good luck on your project!

  7. May 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    You did a fantastic job! Looks great! #happynowlinkup

  8. May 25, 2017 at 1:40 am

    The ceiling looks great… I’ve never heard of styrofoam tiles, but can see that it would be a good option sometimes.

  9. Jann Olson
    May 25, 2017 at 2:36 am

    Who knew there was even such a thing? What a great way to fix that ceiling! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • May 25, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      Thanks Jann, they were a little pricey but I am definitely going to keep this product in mind for the future!

  10. May 25, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Wow, this looks amazing. I have a room that I’ve been wondering what I was going to do with it, and now I know! Pinned and Shared. Thank you for sharing at Grandma’s House DIY link party.

    • May 25, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks Amy, I was so totally impressed with these tiles I’m definitely going to remember for future projects!

  11. May 25, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Wow, never heard of such a thing. We bead-boarded a ceiling in the kitchen last year, for the same reason. Beams, wall moves, electrical issues, removing a soffit, there was just too much mess to work over, and doing sheet rock by 69 year olds, was out of the question. And yes, we did paint it before. Grins, great job—I think this product might be a nice fix for wet areas, like laundry or bathrooms. Sandi

    • May 25, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Sandi! We bead boarded all of the ceilings in our own house and I never regretted it for a minute – I just never ever want to have to sheet rock another ceiling in my life lol! These tiles were a little pricey but so cool and easy, I’m definitely going to keep them in mind for the future!

  12. May 25, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Oh my goodness, I love this sweet little house already! Those tiles are AWESOME!! I’m looking forward to seeing what else you have in store for this place.


  13. May 25, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Looks great, but I think it’s good to have a washable ceiling in the kitchen. Without paint you can’t scrub it. I re-painted my kitchen a while back, and scrubbed my ceilings. Some cheap paint might be a good idea to seal them?

    • May 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Nancy that is a good idea! I’ll definitely keep that in mind though, because they’re stryrofoam I think they would wipe off all right as they are – but good idea! I’ll have to think about doing that in the future.

  14. May 26, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    What a project! It looks so much better,though! Thanks for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  15. May 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    That looks great! I used those tiles for a small half bath and we found them so easy to deal with and easy to put up. As you say, they are not perfectly square, but we touched up with some caulk.

  16. May 26, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Good job Tarah! I am impressed with anything anyone does with a ceiling. Just thinking about having to bend over backward to do this is giving me a crook in my neck. It looks tons better than before.

    • May 26, 2017 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks so much Mary! I definitely had a pretty serious neck ache by the end of the day but it was totally worth it!

  17. May 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    One thing I would like to add… maybe someone mentioned it already. I did this in my bathroom and have had so many compliments on it. Do not use a colored adhesive. These tiles are thin and the different color WILL show through. I noticed it in your photos and I only did it with one tile on my ceiling and I can see the colored dots. LOL

    • May 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Hey Lori, yup I noticed it too lol! It didn’t seem to be the white caulk that caused it though because we used that almost entirely throughout instead it must have been the plain 100% clear silicone caulk that caused the discoloring, I wonder if it didn’t even eat into the back of the tile a little bit?

  18. Judy
    May 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I surely did get excited when I first saw this post .. I have 2 rooms with those ugly ceilings .. but while your solution is lovely, it’s way more than I want to spend .. so, my solution is stencils .. I have found 2 I really like and can get in the exact same size as the ceiling squares .. I’m going to try it anyway .. if it’s no good, it’s just a paintover fix ~

    • May 30, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Hey Judy, I also heard someone say they used wallpaper to get the same effect at a lower cost on their ceilings. Stencils are a great idea! The ceiling I was covering up here needed something a lot thicker then paint and wallpaper or I would have definitely considered a less expensive option. Good luck on your ceiling!

  19. May 30, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Your posts always teach us so much, Tarah!! Thanks for linking up with Vintage Charm ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Geralyn Devereaux
    June 2, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I believe a schmear of drywall paste or put some in a piping container would also fill/camouflage those cracks. Looks so nice, a total room saver!

  21. June 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    I have never seen these. They look great! Thank you for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  22. June 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Wow,what a difference. Great job! Thanks for sharing at the #InspirationSpotlight party @DearCreatives Sharing

  23. July 14, 2017 at 1:06 am

    This is an amazing product. Considering the alternative it seems like it was well worth the money. The ceiling looks very nice.

  24. July 14, 2017 at 5:03 am

    I love this idea and could use it in our apartment at the moment. I wonder if they sell them in Australia? Thanks for sharing with us at #BloggersPitStop. I’ve shared on social media. Have a great day!

    • July 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Sue, I purchased them on Amazon so I would think they would be available for you! Thanks so much for coming by, have a great week!

  25. July 15, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Really a fabulous post. You done an awesome task with so much money saved. My ceiling is also not in gud condition coz of water problm. But your post inspired me a lot and now i have a plan too to make it something better.

    • July 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      That’s great! Thanks for coming by, have a great week ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Judi
    September 30, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Hey Tara, me AGAIN! lol.

    I don’t want to worry you, but here in the UK it is ALWAYS recommended when you buy a home that if you have styrofoam tiles you rip them out A.S.A.P. as they’re a known fire hazard! However, obviously I don’t know what the rules and regs are where you live, but to put my mind at rest for your safety, can you tell me if those that you’ve used are treated in any way to make them fire resistant/proof? Sorry if I’ve caused you any concern, but I got really worried when I read this post, even though your tiles do look fabulous!


    Judi in the UK

    • October 2, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Judi! Yup I hear ya about the old styrofoam tiles, these news ones are built and fire-rated ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for letting me know though!

  27. March 3, 2018 at 12:33 am

    Ceilings can be such a challenge when it comes to decorating. I love this idea! Your ceiling looks beautiful. Sharing on the H&S Facebook page! Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party!

    • March 5, 2018 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks April! Have a great week!

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