12 Best Drop Ceiling Alternatives

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Whether it is a change in aesthetic or necessary repairs, ceilings often are the hardest to remodel. Even more so when they are drop ceilings that need to be refurbished. These ceilings are a secondary illusion ceiling, made from metal grids and acoustic tiles.

Drop ceilings, otherwise known as suspended ceilings, are characteristic of old architecture. These ceilings are used to cover up the pipes, electrical wires and other nitpicks that run across the top of the space. While any residential complex built in the previous decade or so may not have these structures, you can still find them based on utility.

The main function of a drop ceiling is to provide easy and instant access to the maintenance framework of a building. For places that require regular upkeep, these ceilings are often preferred for their convenience.

Drop ceilings come with their advantages and praises. However, they are not without their flaws. These ceilings are often unsteady and deteriorate after a few years of usage.

Suspended ceilings can reduce the vertical height of your space, making it appear more cramped than it really is.  If you deem the time for the shift has come, pick up any of the following ideas for your new ceiling.


Before considering a complete makeover of your ceiling, keep these few factors in mind:

Drop ceilings are used to cover up the utility paraphilia behind them. The main purpose of this is to have easy access to these systems whenever they require an upgrade or for maintenance. These routine check-ups come once in a while for residential places, but when considering commercial spaces, they are the bread and butter of functioning.

Drop ceilings are usually installed one foot below the actual ceiling. The metal grids are places according to the structure that is present in that particular room. If you’re aiming to increase vertical height by doing away with drop ceilings, scope out a preliminary look. There might not be enough space to salvage up there.

Before removing the grid system, evaluate the health of the structure above it. After years of usage, they may be holding on to the grids for support. By removing the grid, ensure that you are putting the other residents in more unseen danger.

The last thing to consider is the ceiling itself. Many a time the initial contractors leave the ceiling in its bare state, without any paint or finishing. Completely removing the grid system would mean that you would invest a little extra in renovating the ceiling as well.

With these precautions in mind, here is the list of possible alternatives you could look into for replacing your drop ceilings. Traditional ceilings are hard to replace, but the grid system here gives you ample opportunities to try something new. While some of them will require a professional to step in, we’ve thrown in some DIY options as well.

1. Ceiling Tiles

Also known as ceiling panels, these can be mounted on any aluminum grid. They provide some thermal insulation but are mainly used to improve the aesthetics and acoustics of the place. Lightweight in nature, they are made from a variety of materials. Ranging from mineral fiber to fiberglass, a lot of options are present in the market.

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An eye-catching alternative, the appeal of tiles lies in their customizability. There are a plethora of options already present in the market, with swirls, stripes, and motifs of all kinds. If you still cannot get the perfect match, many companies offer to customize tiles for your needs.

Another advantage of choosing tiles is their non-porosity. Whether there be leakages from above or accidents below, these tiles do not pick up stains easily. If you are working with glazed tiles, they are easier to clean than most other options on the list. With proper care, ceiling tiles can retain their shine for years on end.

2. Drywall

More commonly referred to as plasterboard, drywall is made from primary gypsum with a few elements added in.

One of the more popular choices for ceilings and walls in any construction, drywall has earned its name in the market for its versatility and ease of handling. The end result is a smooth surface that can be further modified to fit a number of needs. They can be painted to change aesthetics with time or can be drilled into for attachment of light fixtures on the ceiling.

Drywalls are easily available with most contractors and can be DIYed with a bit of expertise. They can be aligned with most surfaces, which makes them a good option when working with concave surfaces. This makes them an excellent choice while dealing with any dents or holes preexisting.

Drywall can provide excellent sound insulation. Between the different levels in a building, they are preferred to mask over any sounds traveling between the floors. Everything considered drywall provides a clean finish to your ceiling that can be customized within reason.

3. Beadboard

A more farmhouse oriented alternative, the beadboard style has wood elements that interlock at regular intervals. The interest is maintained by having the tongues and grooves mesh together at repeated sequences. Initially used for their superior insulation properties, today they are preferred for their decorative appeal. Which is why these are even available as wallpapers or premade sheets.

As the varieties of the wood present, so are the number of options for beadboard present. From light wood to more polished darker colors, the options are near endless. Each one can be tweaked to match your vision.

Depending on your installation process, beadboard can be incredibly cost-effective. There are some DIY kits available in the market to smoothen the process as well. They don’t require complete removal of the drop ceiling as well; you can simply attach them over it. Shortening the time and effort required, while still giving an incredible payoff.

4. Wooden Planks

Matching the ceilings to the furniture has never been easier. With wooden planks, you can achieve just that and more. Wood is available in a variety of stains and textures and can be manipulated to your exact requirements without any waste. Depending on your choice of wood and the amount of modification you make to it, the project can be completed within a reasonable budget.

In addition, using long planks without any break can give the illusion of a longer room. On the other, smaller planks are easier to install and can be taken up as a one-man project.

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You may want to consider the care that wood requires in the longer run. While most can be polished to make them water-resistant, they are still not immune to pools of water. Some of them require certain cleaning products taking into mind the requirements of the wood. With proper care, however, wood can last for years to come.

5. Plywood

Desire a finish closer to wood but still remain in the budget? Plywood is an affordable option that gives just that with more to add. Plywood is quite versatile and can be colored in different stains to match the theme of your house.

They are good supports for light fixtures and can support heavy weights depending upon the quality of the plywood. Easy to install and set up, they can be deconstructed with the same ease as well. This trick comes in handy when you want to revamp the ceilings, but still, keep the access to the pipes and circuits open.

6. Stained glass

Changing the entire ceiling can be too big of a task. You can achieve the same effect by only changing a part of the ceiling with stained glass. Stained glass can come in a variety of patterns and colors, and is a beautiful addition to any place. They can liven up the atmosphere without a lot of investment in both, money and time.

Although these are usually preferred for recreational areas, you can combine stained glass with sunlight ceilings to achieve the perfect ethereal aura.

7. Corrugated metal

Before you shake your head, metal can actually be the best choice for your new ceiling. While most residential areas shy away from using metal sheets, they are one of the most durable and lasting options present out there in the market. Moreover, corrugated sheets are on the rave for their green nature.

Aesthetic wise, they suit the industrial theme, with their laid bare kind of approach towards homemaking. For ceilings, a lighter and thinner panel is recommended above others.

These panels can be either galvanized to provide extra life or colored in different hues to match the shades already present in the apartment. For the more adventures of the lot, try using reclaimed panels, which will provide a unique design with their patinas.

8. Tin Ceiling

Another metal-based alternative, tin ceiling made it big in the 80s. they were mostly preferred for their fire-resistant qualities, but today can be used for a variety of other purposes too. Tin has a longer lifespan than most other alternatives, as it can battle rust and molds.

They can also be patterned with a plethora of stamps so that you don’t have to skimp out on the design for the utility.

Even though the heydays of tin are over, you can still find this old gem in the form of attaching it yourself ceilings. Moving ahead from the traditional, they also come n a variety of colors and patterns.

9. Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

You might think that Styrofoam belongs solely for takeout dinners and party cups, but these ceilings will make you reconsider your choices. They can be manipulated to form the most intricate of designs, even going for custom orders.

They are built from higher quality sheets and can stand through tests of time. To add on to the benefits, they won’t burn through your pocket while providing fire safety, indoor air quality and a wide selection to choose from.

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10. Fabric

For a more Disney princess vibe, try using fabric to drape around the ceiling. You can complement the look with a chandelier at the center, turning the room into something straight out of a Victorian castle. The installation is pretty simple and can be completed in less than a day.

The drawbacks of this are that the draperies can get soiled quite often, as they do not provide any real protection against leaks, mold or fire. The price for them can quickly rake up, so keep in mind the price per yard of the material you’ll be using.

11. Exposed ceiling

At the heart of this alternative is to strip away the excess and let the basics take over. The exposed ceiling leaves the structural and mechanical elements out in the open.

The pros of this method seem pretty clear, instant access for repairs and almost no cost of maintenance. With a bit of initial prep and color, exposed ceilings are making quite the splash in interior decoration.

These kinds of ceiling open up the space like none other. If executed properly, they may very well become the center of attention in the grand scheme of things. Make sure that there are no hazardous or delicate systems that may require protection before doing away with a suspended ceiling.

12. Wallpaper

A simple, but oh so effective alternative. Nothing beats the traditional stick on wallpapers when it comes to renovation that is quick, easy and efficient.

With the amount of variety present, there is something for everyone in the wallpaper market. Better yet, they can be changed frequently without any real loss to the structure or your bank account.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is a drop ceiling cheaper than drywall?

If you are building your house from scratch, a drywall ceiling is around the same price or even cheaper than a drop ceiling. The major cost involved in drywalling a ceiling comes from affixing the ceiling to the joists present in an already existing structure.

2. Is beadboard cheaper than drywall?

Beadboards, although more time-intensive, can actually be the cheaper of the options depending upon your method of installation. Because drywall is heavy and requires more manpower, the costs can rake up in the installation procedure itself.

3. Can you drywall a basement ceiling?

You can drywall almost any surface, and basement ceilings are no exception. The entire process may take the weekend or more, depending upon the area you are covering. An additional pair of hands will be required considering the weight of the drywall.

4. Do I need insulation in my basement ceiling?

Although not a stringent rule, it is always better to insulate your basement ceilings. This will help to save up on the heating bill in the long term. By insulating your basement ceilings, you are trapping the heat upstairs, therefore requiring lesser energy long term to keep the upstairs cozy.

Armed with this information, you can quickly survey what your space requires in terms of a ceiling. From economical options to eco-friendly options, the fifth wall in your space should not be left bare without any care.

Written by bros

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