Bathroom ceilings can be a problem area. There is a huge amount of moisture, condensation and deflected spray in the room especially if you have a shower. PVC Ceiling Panels are the perfect product for this challenging environment. This article will help explain why.
Traditionally, bathroom ceilings in the UK have had a painted surface. This can be paint on top of plaster or some form of texturing compound. But if any moisture gets behind that paint surface then it can cause problems. The paint will start to peel and will eventually flake off.
Obviously, this is far from satisfactory. And once it starts the whole process will accelerate as the broken surface will let in moisture which leads to more flaking.
So the paint surface has to be rubbed back and re-painted to restore its appearance. There are specialist paints available that are formulated to improve their reliability in bathrooms and shower rooms. These coatings are much better suited to the environment. But any residual moisture in the plaster or Artex will cause problems.
Mould spots are another problem commonly seen on painted ceilings. Mould requires a moist environment to thrive and bathrooms in modern, double-glazed houses provide just the right setting. Again, fresh paint is required to cover up the issue.
Luckily there is a modern product that can totally eradicate these problems.
What Is PVC Ceiling Panelling?
PVC Ceiling Panels are extruded profiles that are used to solve the problems found in many rooms around the home.
The molten plastic is forced through a die to form long planks which are cut to length. The mould creates two distinct edges for each panel. One edge has a tongue and one edge has a groove. This enables the panels to be slotted together along their length.
Most panels are not designed to be joined end on end but there are some on the market where this installation method is possible. Standard panels are run straight across the ceiling in one span with no joins. With this in mind, you might wish to seek out longer panels if you have a larger area to cover.
The panels are hollow in section which provides a number of advantages.
They are very light, which is a great boon when working overhead. It also means they can be held up with some form of adhesive without the need for mechanical fixings.
The fact that they are not solid makes PVC ceiling panels much easier to cut. They can be cut with a hand saw, tenon saw or any saw with fine teeth. Jigsaws and chop saw will also cut them but you have to be careful not to chip the plastic.
The hollow construction also means they use less plastic in their manufacture. This in turn keeps their price down making them a very cost-effective covering.
This type of panel is different to standard suspended ceilings. These use a grid into which individual tiles are slotted. They are great for covering up a huge array of pipes and ductwork but are not really relevant for domestic use.
One or two manufacturers used to make clips to enable ceiling panels to be used with a suspended system but these are not a common option. It is probably easier to create your own grid or joists in timber and attach the panels directly to these.
The advantage of a timber frame is that the panels can be attached to it using a staple gun. This is very quick and very easy. Perfect, when working overhead.
Creating a wooden frame is one way of installing the panels, as previously mentioned. Sticking them directly to the existing ceiling is another. If you proceed down the wooden frame route you will have 3 options for attaching them to the timber:
- you can stick them with a high-grab panel adhesive
- they can be stapled using a staple gun
- you can use screws to screw them into place
We would not recommend nailing them as the slightest mis-hit and you will break the panels.
If you are fixing them directly to the existing ceiling adhesive is usually the easiest method. You can use a few staples as well – this will ensure the panels stay in place while the adhesive is setting.
This is also the best method if you have an Artex ceiling.
You need to be careful when removing texturing compounds like this as some where made with asbestos for a short period of time. If you are confident that your ceiling does not contain asbestos then you can knock off any high spots with a hammer or bolster and then stick the panels in place.
The higher the protuberances the thicker you will have to apply the adhesive. It might be best to fix battens to the ceiling to level things up if the ceiling is too uneven. You can then fix the panels to the battens.
This is one of the reasons that fitters like using these panels – their ease of installation. They will go up over virtually any surface, one way or another.
Let There Be Light
Recessed lighting works really well in all types of room design and bathrooms are no exception.
There are different regulations for the types of light that you use in bathrooms and even different rules for different areas within the room. The area over a shower requires the light fitting to be the most water-tight.
Modern LED lighting is perfect for use with PVC as they do not generate heat. Older, halogen-style downlighters can cause problems as they get very hot in use.
A hole saw on an electric drill is perfect for cutting the apertures for round lights. For square lights use a craft knife or a pad saw to create the right-shaped hole. Be wary that some panels have a deep groove at the front as part of the design. Try to position the lights so that they do not straddle this groove. Site them on the flat part of the panel to eliminate any visible gaps around the light fitting.
Some ceilings will not have any space behind the surface for sunken lighting. A concrete ceiling in an apartment block for example. You can fit battens to the ceiling in this situation to a thickness that will allow enough space behind the panel for the light. This void will also be handy for running the cables in.
Wooden Ceiling Panels
Wooden ceiling panels were once a very popular method of decoration. Usually made from pine or softwood and fixed together with a tongue and grooved joint. They look a little bit dated now but they can still work in some home designs.
They are not, however, the wisest choice for use in areas of high humidity. And bathrooms fall into that category.
Wood absorbs water so any wood used in a bathroom needs to be painted or varnished. This will provide a protective layer that prevents water getting to the wood itself. But wood also expands and contacts a lot. This can lead to the paint or varnish cracking. Once this happens moisture can get behind the protective layer and cause it to flake off. This then needs to be sanded of a new coat applied.
So, rather than having to constantly maintain the wooden surface, why not replicate it with PVC panels. There are, after all, PVC panels that look like wood.
Wood Effect Panels
These are a popular choice for people looking want to emulate the look of a wooden ceiling but without any of the drawbacks listed above. So no flaking, no need to re-paint or re-varnish and no mould spots.
The actual design of the wood effect itself can vary from make to make. Some utilise a relief to the panel, meaning that the wood grain is physically present on the surface. But these are not that common. It is much more likely that the pattern will be a printed finish. This has the downside of being slightly less realistic but he major advantage of making them much easier to clean. The smooth surface will just require wiping over with a damp cloth with a little detergent a few times during their lifetime.
Some wood effect panels will have a v-groove join while other will utilise a flush joint. The choice will depend on your personal taste. The v-groove design makes more of a feature of the ceiling while the flush design are easier to use with recessed lighting for the reasons stated above.
Some More About Plank Effects
The plank effect refers to the fact that the panels resemble planks of wood. But one panel might be made to resemble more than one plank. Quite often a design will have a v-groove on the edge of the panel plus a v-groove in the middle. In this case it would be a two plank effect panel i.e. each panel looks like two planks. You can also get three or even four plank effect panels but these are less common.
The chamfer on the edge of the panel causes the joint to display the v-groove effect. The one in the middle of the panel is moulded into the design and made to look the same as the one on the edge.
Both v-groove panels and flush effect panels still have a tongue and groove joint behind this surface detail.
Make A Feature Of Your Ceiling
You might want your ceiling to stand out from the crowd. If this is the case then you should consider using a panel with a chrome strip as part of the design. These really catch the eye when you walk into a room – you can’t help but look up.
There are a few different methods that are used by various manufacturers to achieve this.
One method is to have a separate chrome strip that slots in between two panels. These are usually made with a chrome effect but gold and various other colours have been available at various times. Ideally, the infill strip should either be self-adhesive or should clip in place. This is because they make installation more difficult if they keep falling off when you are in the middle of fixings the panels in place.
Some manufacturers took to moulding the panel with a chrome strip built-in to the design because the separate strips can be tricky when working overhead. These give the same effect but are less fiddly when it comes to fitting them. The only real downside is that there are not usually any colour options, just chrome.
Don’t Make A Feature Of Your Ceiling
Yes, this is the polar opposite of what was just discussed.
Usually, when you walk into most rooms, you do not look at the ceiling. That’s because quite often it is just plain white. It does not jump out at you, so you forget it’s there.
Well, this same effect can be achieved with panelling. To make your ceiling as bland as possible you should choose a matt white panel with flush joints. You could use gloss white but that is more reflective so there is more chance of it catching your eye.
Make sure the joints are pushed together tightly when installing them (they can sometimes creep apart while the adhesive is setting). This will ensure that the joint line is almost invisible.
Follow these steps and your ceiling will resemble painted plaster. But it will never flake and never need painting.
Any Colour – As Long As It’s White
This seems to be the general rule although this is not carved in stone anywhere.
The main reason that people opt for white ceilings is to give a sense of space. Dark ceilings make the room feel much more enclosed. And most bathrooms in the UK are simply not big enough to be able to cope with being made to feel even smaller.
White ceilings also help to keep the whole room feeling light and airy. And white will tie-in with absolutely any other colour you choose for your wall decoration.
You could opt for a very light colour on your ceiling – we have seen light grey marble used. But it was not a great success in my opinion. Marble on a domestic bathroom ceiling just looks out of place. But if you want something quirky then go for it.
Sparkle effect panels have been used on ceilings quite successfully and are another option for those looking to make a feature overhead. There are black sparkle panels on the market but these are best keep to lining walls.
Most of the wood effect panels described previously are white or almost white but do offer a little bit of a variation from a plain colour.
Ceiling Panel Sizes
Standard length panels are usually 2.6m or 2.7m long. For larger ceilings 4.0m panels are relatively common. 6m panels are also available although these are now harder to find as they are much more difficult to transport.
The most common width is 250mm wide. But other sizes are used regularly. 100mm, 200mm, 333mm, 375mm and even 500mm panels are available. Metre wide panels are also made but these are too heavy and too unwieldy to recommend their use on ceilings. They are more expensive and would offer no real advantage, just disadvantages.
Finishing Off The Edges
Installing ceiling panels can be undertaken as a stand-alone job or be part of a complete bathroom makeover. This can affect the way the panels are installed.
If you are fitting the panels into an existing bathroom you will need to be accurate with your cuts to fit snugly against the walls. You might be fitting them as part of a complete makeover. So you could fit the ceiling panels first and then run wall panels or tiles up to the ceiling panels. This will give you a little bit more leeway with your cutting.
There are also ceiling panel trims that you can use to cover up the edges. These are purely decorative and are not part of the fixing system. But they do make life easier. Coving trims are a common option.
These can be a single piece or sometimes made in two sections. The two-piece trims have a backplate that is installed first. You then fit the panels and finally clip the front part of the trim into the backplate. These will need to be mitred to form the corners. Take your time doing this as it is notoriously easy to get it wrong. Order a couple of extra trims to be on the safe side.
A neater, flatter finish can be achieved using a capping trim. Yet another option would be to use a quadrant profile. Or you could just seal around the edges with a good quality silicone (providing the cuts that you made were pretty accurate).
As you will have seen, PVC ceiling panels are a versatile and attractive option for your bathroom.
Because they are made from plastic they will last for years and continue to look good for the whole of their lifetime. Longevity is a problem for single use plastics but for building products it is a big advantage. The panels will not require any paint, varnish or strong cleaning agents to be used during their lifetime.
The panels are 100% recyclable but can also be removed and re-used elsewhere which makes them quite unique.