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.
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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!
Table of contents
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 24 Great Ways To Repurpose an Unused Dining Room
- 16 Great Ways to Repurpose an Open Formal Living Room
- 14 Best Ways to Renovate A Living Room on a Budget!
- 18 Beautiful DIY Trim And Molding Ideas For Your Home (With Steps)
- 50 Best Outdoor Door Mats For A Beautiful Front Door
- 50 Best BUY OR DIY Outdoor Planter Ideas for your Front Porch
- Best Way To Paint Vinyl Shutters – Easy Steps and Video!
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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!
Stephanie Abbott has been remodeling homes, updating & building furniture, and working on DIY home maintenance and cleaning tips for over 20 years. Her remodeling has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. And, her DIY YouTube channel has had more than 8 million views.
Most of the DIY tutorials and videos on this site focus on beginner to intermediate level DIY Projects that can be done in an affordable way without high-end, expensive tools. All of the cleaning tips on this website have been tested in her home.