Which Ceiling Covering Is Best?

white panels fitted to bathroom ceiling


There is no single correct answer to which ceiling covering is best. Too many factors are at play. Which is the cheapest? What material is easiest to fit? How long will the covering last before it needs maintenance? Which is the most environmentally friendly? In what room will it be used?

As you can see there are a lot of questions. So choosing the best ceiling covering will depend on which of these questions is the most relevant to you.

We will have a look at the various options and try and answer some of these questions at the same time.




The coverings that we will look at are the most common ones found in UK homes. Other materials are available, especially in the commercial sector but we will limit this article to those that are the most relevant for home use.

In general, the majority of houses will use one of these finishes:

  • Ceiling Tiles
  • Texturing Compound
  • Wallpaper
  • Painted Plaster or Plasterboard
  • Wooden Cladding
  • Ceiling Panels

We will look at these in turn and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each system.


Ceiling Tiles

These were a staple design back in the ’70s. Ceiling tiles were cheap, easy to fit and easy to cut. They could be painted with water-based emulsion paint and gave a bit of visual interest to the ceiling rather than leaving it plain. The tiles were mainly available in a plain finish with bevelled edges but there was also the ubiquitous “Cracked Ice” design that adorned many a 70’s ceiling.

But they had one great drawback – they were not fire-resistant. This, together with a change in design tastes led to them falling out of fashion. As their sales declined textured ceilings seemed to be the next cab off the rank.

Stipple Or Swirls?

Two of the more popular designs when it came to texturing compound on ceilings. And quite a lot more too. But, as with many things, this type of ceiling fell out of fashion.

Texturing compund was a great way to make a bit of a feature of your ceiling. You applied the compound to the ceiling and then used various tools and techniques to create a range of different looks. Some were very regimented while others looked a bit more rustic.

It worked well in living rooms, dining rooms, hallways and bedrooms. But it was not ideal for use in kitchens and bathrooms. Any painted surface can suffer under the moist conditions and develop mould spots. And the pattern in the surface made painting harder than would be the case with a smooth surface.

The uneven surface also makes it a little bit harder to fit recessed lighting although it is always possible to knock off the high spots where the backplate meets the ceiling surface.

Many people are now removing these types of ceilings and opting for a more minimalist finish. But one word of warning. You need to check when your ceiling was installed as some texturing compounds contained asbestos.

Wallpaper On The Ceiling

This is another finish that has diminished in popularity over the years.

Wallpaper was another method for adding a bit of visual interest to the ceiling rather than having a plain, flush finish. There were papers designed with embossed finishes that enabled quite elaborate patterns to be achieved with minimum skills.

If you didn’t fancy testing your papering skills you could always opt for the ever-popular woodchip wallpaper. This was a cheap and cheerful design that gave a little bit of relief to the surface but was not overly fussy in its appearance.

Painted Plaster Ceilings

Minimalism is now firmly established as the favourite look when it comes to modern interior design. One of the results of the move to minimalism is to tuck things away to reduce protuberances into the room. Lighting is one area where this is most notable. While pendant lights and track systems are still in use, recessed lighting has grown massively and is high on the “wants” list when redesigning a home or embarking on a makeover.

Painted plaster ceilings are the most obvious choice if you are looking to combine a minimalist design that can handle recessed lighting.

The continuous, flat, white space created with this technique will make a room feel more open. Dark or patterned ceilings tend to distract the eye and make the room feel slightly smaller. This is something to keep in mind in smaller spaces such as bathrooms or cloakrooms. For more tips on making the most of small bathrooms see this article on our blog

You need to ensure that you choose your paint wisely if using plaster in a bathroom or shower room. The moist, warm conditions are the perfect environment for mould spots to appear. Paint can also flake off if moisture gets behind it. There are specific paints for this purpose. They have been formulated to prevent flaking and from mould spots appearing.

Wooden Ceiling Cladding

Another popular choice in the days of yore. Pine tongue and grooved planks were secret fixed to the ceiling and then varnished or stained. This involved accurate nailing on the tongue and groove which was then hidden by the next panel when it was put in place, hiding the fixing.

Knotty pine was the look that everyone wanted but people soon discovered that these ceilings could be a pain. Resin could gather under the varnish and even drip down through the knots.

Wooden ceiling cladding was another product that was not well suited to bathrooms and kitchens and suffered the same fate as the other materials listed previously.

PVC Ceiling Panels

This type of ceiling covering is a relative newcomer compared with the materials listed previously. But it has been around long enough to be tried and tested. And it has proved to be very popular with homeowners. There are many reasons for this.

Firstly, it requires no maintenance. Ever. No painting, no varnishing. You just put it up and that’s it.

Secondly, it is very easy to install. The panels are a hollow construction so they cut very easily. They are light to handle and can be fitted using a variety of techniques depending on the surface to which they are fitted. See our article  How To Fit Ceiling Panels for more information

Thirdly, they are impervious to moisture. So steam, condensation and even shower spray leave them totally unaffected. In fact, they are actually completely waterproof and could be used on the walls of showers.

Next, they are relatively cheap. A standard UK bathroom ceiling is around 2 metres square. At the time of writing this could be covered for well under £100. And when you consider this will never incur any more costs for the whole of its lifespan it starts to look incredibly attractive.

And talking of attractive – it looks rather nice too!

Find out more here.


gallery labo shower ceiling


So, as you can see, trying to work out which ceiling covering is best is a tricky proposition.

Certain materials lend themselves much more to some rooms than others. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most problematic rooms when it comes to coverings. Walls, floors and ceilings all have to be suitable for use in the conditions found in these rooms.PVC ceiling panels seem to be the clear winner in these rooms but around the rest of the home, things are a lot less clear-cut.