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Most—but not all—ceilings are essentially horizontal walls, built using the same materials and methods as their vertical counterparts.

Other than its vertical or horizontal orientation, the main difference between a ceiling and a wall is the size of wood framing members behind the surface. Whereas walls are framed with 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 wall studs, ceilings are framed with joists or rafters that are typically 2 by 8s or larger.

wood framing in house construction©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Ceilings are usually framed with heavier material than walls. This shot shows the 2-by-8 framing of a cathedral ceiling.

As with walls, by far the most common surface material for ceilings is drywall (also known by its tradename, Sheetrock®). A less common, older and more expensive choice is plaster.

drywall ceilingAuremar / Shutterstock.com

Drywall pro uses drywall tape and compound to hide fasteners and the seams between drywall panels.

In most homes, ceilings are flat and 8 feet high. That said, departing from the common 8-foot ceiling during construction produces interesting rooms t visual interest and a sense of volume.

Cathedral, beamed, tray, and coffered ceilings are just some of the possibilities, as shown below.

master bedroom with custom ceilingSantiago Cornejo / Shutterstock.com

Tray ceiling frames the space below. In this case, the lower perimeter level offers space for recessed lighting.


dining room buffet skylightIriana Shiyan / Shutterstock.com

Angled beam cathedral ceiling includes a skylight for natural light. The result is both interesting and dramatic.


kitchen with commercial rangeIriana Shiyan / Shutterstock.com

Coffered ceiling in this bright kitchen adds Old World charm.


bedroom remodel skylightsFoamfoto / Shutterstock.com

In this attic bedroom, the ceiling follows the roofline. Dual skylights offer nighttime views of the stars. This type of skylight placement calls for shades or blinds unless you want to wake up at first morning light!


Ceiling Materials Buying Guide

How to Repair a Ceiling

How to Install a Suspended Ceiling

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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