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15 Best Ways To Make An Old Ceiling Look Better: Easy, Cheap And Pretty Ideas

You really can make an old ceiling look better! Make a ceiling look new with easy & cheap DIY’s or beautiful, unique design ideas that WOW!

How Can I Make An Old Ceiling Look Better

I’ve noticed something strange about ceilings in older homes. Even if the walls in an older home look nice, and freshly painted, the ceiling will usually look pretty bad.

I get that working on or painting a ceiling is more work than a wall. BUT, a beautiful ceiling definitely improves the look of the whole room.

And, a dingy, cracked, and stained ceiling absolutely makes even the best decorated room look worse. So, taking the time to make your ceiling look new can greatly improve the look of your home.

Text on image says 15 ways to make an old ceiling look better, pretty new.

Or, you can install some of the low budget ceiling ideas below. These cheap ceiling ideas will improve the look and value of your home for years and years!

In this post, I’ve got 15 ways to make an old ceiling look better. Some of these are pretty easy. Some of them take time, money, and some DIY skill. BUT, they will look AMAZING!

Let’s get started with the best low budget ceiling ideas.

15 Easy & Cheap Ceiling Ideas

1. Remove Ceiling Stains

Let’s start with a common ceiling stain problem that you’ll see on drywall, plaster, and drop ceilings; the dreaded brown water stain.

Just mix together 70% water with 30% bleach in a spray bottle. Then lightly spray that solution onto the ceiling stains. Let that dry, then repeat until the stains are gone.

Drop the paint brush, guys. There's an easier way to get rig of ugly water stains. Here's How to Remove Water Stain from Ceiling Without Painting! How to Safely Use Bleach to Remove Brown Water Stains or Water Rings on drywall, plaster, or ceiling tiles..
I DO NOT stand under the stain while spraying. I place my ladder as far away as possible. Then reach out to the stain to keep the bleach mixture off of my face and body as much as possible. Don’t forget to wear glasses and a mask too.

I have a full step by step guide and video to Remove Water Stain from Ceiling Without Paint, if you need more detail and tips.

And, don’t forget, bleach lightens most colors. So, this trick really only works on white ceilings. If your ceiling isn’t white, check out this post on how to Paint Over Water Stains On Ceiling: Easy Steps & Video.

2. Repair Any Cracks And Damage

Cracks and damage on a ceiling can make it look older too. If you want to make your ceiling look new, you should start by repairing those.

You can use Spackle on fine cracks. I like this DAP Fast And Final Spackle (see it here on Amazon).

Drop the paint brush, guys. There's an easier way to get rig of ugly water stains. Here's How to Remove Water Stain from Ceiling Without Painting! How to Safely Use Bleach to Remove Brown Water Stains or Water Rings on drywall, plaster, or ceiling tiles..
Hairline cracks like this can be quickly filled with spackle after using bleach to get rid of the water stain.

Larger cracks may need professional repairs. Or, if you’re pretty good with DIY, use drywall mud to patch any damage before carefully sanding it smooth.

Matching a textured ceiling can be more complicated, and tedious, so I have some great ways to cover a popcorn ceiling or textured ceiling below.

Check out this post on When to Use Caulk or Wood Filler on Trim if you need to fix damage on ceiling trim and crown molding.

3. Apply A Fresh Coat Of Paint

The old rule of thumb was to always paint ceilings with a flat sheen. But, I’m a HUGE FAN of painting ceilings with an Eggshell or Satin sheen.

Image of a nicely decorated home office. In a post with 21 best ways to make a home office look better on a budget.
The ceiling in our Home Office looked so boring until I switched to an Eggshell Sheen. The shine on that white paint helps to brighten the room and draw the eye up to that crown molding.

That subtle shine lightens and brightens every room in my house. You can see all of the before and after ceiling sheen changes from my house in my Best Ceiling Paint Finish: Flat vs Eggshell Sheen Results post.

The only time I WOULD use a flat sheen on a ceiling is if it’s a popcorn ceiling, ceiling with bad texture, or a ceiling with imperfections. A flat sheen is the best paint finish for ceilings with imperfections.

4. Paint The Ceiling The Same Color As The Walls

Another great way to make an old ceiling look better is to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls. This ceiling design idea looks beautiful with light and dark colors.

White walls kids bedroom for boys with blue velvet curtains, dark blue space themed bedroom quilts and NASA and cool outer space decor and wall art.
I painted the walls, ceiling, and trim in this room with Behr’s Vermont Cream latex paint, in an Eggshell Sheen. Switching all 3 to the same color really makes this room feel fresh, bigger, and better designed. Check out the before photos in this Space Bedroom Makeover post.

Using a white or light paint color on the walls and ceiling can make a room feel larger, lighter, and more open. White, in particular, is a great background for colorful furniture, décor, and wall art.

Using a dark neutral; like grey, brown, blue, and black, on the walls can be great for giving a room a cozy feel. Check out this beautiful all dark blue Bonus Room for a great example of a dark room.

RECOMMENDED: How To Make A Dark Room Feel Brighter: 16 Best Ways To Brighten A Room!

Olde Brick Lighting Milk Glass Vintage Style Pendant lights over an island in a kitchen.
Install shiplap over a boring ceiling. Shiplap can also be used to cover a textured ceiling.

5. Paint The Ceiling A Different Color Than The Walls

You can also create a beautiful look by painting the ceiling a completely different color than the walls.

I LOVE the drama of the blue ceiling in this bathroom with the white walls in this Instagram post from Behr Paint. Looks like they used Eggshell or Satin sheen on the ceiling in that bathroom too.

6. Install A Ceiling Medallion Or Paint One

After you make a ceiling pretty with paint, you can up the WOW factor with a ceiling medallion. They make so many beautiful ceiling medallion designs these days.

You can find the perfect size and style to fit any room and light fixture. I’m a huge fan of this modern looking medallion. The beaded detail works perfectly with the beads on the chandelier.

You can see this medallion on ETSY.

You can find a huge selection of beautiful ceiling medallions on ETSY or on Amazon too.

7. Add Decorative Drop Ceiling Tiles

If you need to improve the look of an old drop ceiling, there are SO MANY great drop ceiling tiles now. I’m not kidding. They are actually SUPER STYLISH.

And, if you don’t have a drop ceiling grid already installed, you can install these tiles directly onto the ceiling.

How AMAZING does this drop ceiling look. These PVC tiles are so much better than the old-fashioned drop ceiling tiles. This style comes in white and black.

That means you can install these pretty ceiling tiles over a popcorn ceiling, cracked ceiling, or just a badly textured ceiling with tons of imperfections.

The ceiling just needs to be structurally sound before installing them. Check out all of the drop ceiling tile options on ETSY here or on Amazon here.

8. Install Beadboard or Plywood Paneling

Another easy way to cover a ceiling is with 4′ x 8′ plywood or beadboard panels. You can hide the seams between the panels with 1×4 or 1×6 trim boards.

It would look pretty similar to my DIY coffered ceiling. But the squares would be much larger. Check out this post on Home Depot’s website to see a tutorial for a beadboard ceiling makeover.

Here’s a look at my coffered ceiling. Imagine it with beadboard instead of drywall and larger squares to hide the seams.

Try this Simple DIY Coffered Ceiling Design I used to give my Dining Room ceiling a beautiful new look. Includes lots of pictures and a how to video. DIY Ceiling Design Ideas. DIY Ceiling Makeover Ideas.
I installed this DIY faux or flat coffered ceiling in my Dining Room.

9. Add Trim Molding, Like A Coffered Ceiling

If your ceiling is in good shape, you can install something like the flat coffered ceiling (in the photo above) or other great ceiling trim designs directly over the drywall.

If your ceiling looks rough; with imperfections, cracks, and damage, you can install beadboard or plywood over the ceiling before installing the trim. It’s a quick way to make an old ceiling look better.

The drywall tape in our Master Bedroom was badly cracked and bubbled when we moved in. I used plywood and trim molding for this DIY Vaulted Ceiling Makeover.

Here's a peek at the rooms I've never really shown you. And, the story behind why I haven't done their room reveals yet. A couple just need a few finishing touches. Like our master bedroom. But, they're all full of Traditional Home Room Makeover Ideas. #AbbottsAtHome #MasterBedroom #BedroomIdeas #FarmhouseStyle #TraditionalHome #MasterBedroomIdeas #VaultedCeiling
The plywood panels and trim on this ceiling hides bubbled, raised, and cracked drywall tape.

10. Wallpaper Over Your Ugly Ceiling

If your ceiling is flat OR you know how to make it flat, installing wallpaper on a ceiling can add so much drama and style to any room. I’m thinking about doing this in our Master Bedroom closets soon.

You can see a beautiful example of wallpaper on a master bathroom ceiling in my post with 36 Great DIY Ceiling Makeover Ideas: Designs From Easy To Just WOW!

11. Drywall Over A Badly Cracked, Damaged, or Textured Ceiling

Another common way to cover a popcorn ceiling, plaster ceilings with cracks, or other big imperfections, is to just install drywall directly over the old ceiling.

Image of someone cutting drywall for Beginner Tips to Cut Drywall and Hang Drywall - Install Drywall for beginners.
Cutting drywall for my recent Before and After 2 Story Foyer Remodel.

You can see my beginner drywalling tips in this post: How to Cut Drywall & Hang Drywall. And, check out this post for more tips about how to hang drywall over existing walls.

12. Cover An Existing Ceiling With Tin Tiles

And, let’s not forget the classic tin tile ceiling. Tin tiles and faux tin tiles are another easy way to cover a ceiling. Tin tiles can be installed with just a little construction adhesive over even the ugliest ceiling.

I found this beautiful distressed ceiling tile on ETSY. I’m loving that vintage look on this one.

You can find more great options in 20 Cheap Ceiling Ideas That Look Beautiful – From Amazon. The black ceiling panels in that post are very popular!

13. Cover It With Wood Planks Or Tongue And Groove

Here’s another one of my favorite ways to make an old ceiling look better. You can use Tongue and Groove planks or shiplap to cover a ceiling too.

People usually use 3/4″ thick, 5 to 6″ wide wood planks on a ceiling, especially inside. But, you can also find light-weight thinner tongue and groove planks at stores like Home Depot and Lowes.

These wood planks and T&G are SO GREAT. They can be stained or painted to design your own custom look. You can usually find them in Pine or Cedar too.

Modern Farmhouse DIY Pine Tongue and Groove Ceiling Tutorial that will turn your porch into that beautiful, charming spot you've always wanted. For most porches, you can have these wood planks installed in a weekend, guys! #AbbottsAtHome #PlankCeiling #PorchCeiling #TongueAndGroove
This thinner Pine tongue and groove plank. You can see the before and after and DIY steps in this DIY Tongue and Groove Porch Ceiling post.

I used the lighter, thinner version of planks to cover the uneven ceiling on my back porch. These wood planks look so much better than the poorly installed, cheap plywood that was up before.

You can see how I made faux shiplap plywood planks for my bathroom ceiling in a previous post.

14. Add Wood Beams Or Faux Wood Beams

Wood beams and faux wood beams look fantastic in any style home. They can be painted or stained, made with rustic or high-end types of wood, and installed in so many layouts and designs.

I LOVE a wood beam on high ceilings. But, you can still install them on lower ceilings if you go for a more shallow wood beam design.

If you need a lighter option, that’s easier to install, you can find beautiful faux wood beams that look like real wood. But, they’re so much easier for DIYers to lift and hold in place during install.

Check out the beautiful wood beam options on ETSY or the faux wood beams on Amazon.

Image shows a kids bedroom with double crown molding installed.
This 2-piece crown molding looks perfect above this Super Easy DIY Outer Space Bedroom Wall.

15. Add Crown Molding

Adding crown molding is another great ceiling design idea that I’ve used a lot in my home. My hallway and a few rooms in my house have the normal 1-piece crown molding. And, it looks fantastic!

But, sometimes I want a chunkier crown molding look. In my kids bedroom I installed a Beautiful Two Piece Crown Molding. I went for an even bigger and better Three Piece Crown Molding in our office.

Image shows beautiful wood built ins in a home office with three piece crown molding.
This home office makeover turned out SO GOOD and a big part of that is this beautiful crown molding.

You can find the DIY steps and a quick video for those crown molding looks on the blog posts about them. Crown molding is always a great way to make a ceiling pretty, guys.

It’s like icing on a cake!

Need more ceiling design ideas? Check out 36 Great DIY Ceiling Makeover Ideas to see some of my favorite ceiling makeover ideas from other bloggers.

What Is The Cheapest Way To Cover A Ceiling?

The cheapest ways to cover a ceiling are with foam ceiling tiles, PVC drop ceiling tiles, 4′ x 8′ beadboard or plywood planks, wallpaper, and tin ceiling tiles.

If you can DIY the install on these, it will be even cheaper. And, of course, the absolute cheapest way to update a ceiling is with just paint.

But, of course, the ceiling has to be smooth and undamaged to get the best result with paint.

If your ceiling has imperfections or damage, check out the tips at the beginning of this post for repairing damaged ceilings.

What Is The Cheapest Way To Cover A Popcorn Ceiling?

The cheapest ways to cover a popcorn ceiling are with foam ceiling tiles, PVC drop ceiling tiles, 4′ x 8′ beadboard or plywood planks, and tin ceiling tiles.

Some people even cover a popcorn ceiling with new drywall. But, honestly, I would just scrape the popcorn texture off of a ceiling instead of installing drywall.

They’re both messy jobs. The popcorn texture will cover the floor beneath it. But, drywall mud dust will also make a giant mess during install. Scraping a popcorn ceiling is less work overall.

What Can I Put On My Ceiling Besides Drywall?

Besides drywall, you can install beadboard, plywood sheets, tongue and groove wood planks, shiplap and cedar boards on drywall.

You could also install a drop ceiling instead of drywall. You can see a beautiful example of the PVC drop ceiling inserts that are available in the list above.

Drop ceilings are SO MUCH BETTER today than they were when I was a kid.

4 examples of low budget ceiling ideas to make an old ceiling look new.
Don’t forget to save this list of 15 low budget ceiling ideas.

That’s it for how to make an old ceiling look better. Now, here’s a few more posts to help you improve the look of your home.

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Feeling inspired? Now that you know how to make an old ceiling look better, what are you waiting for? Get started and good luck with your DIY!