This article introduces the role that ceilings play and offers ideas for interesting ceilings and information about ceiling materials.

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

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

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


dining room buffet skylight
Angled beam cathedral ceiling includes a skylight for natural light. The result is both interesting and dramatic. Iriana Shiyan /


kitchen with commercial range
Coffered ceiling in this bright kitchen adds Old World charm. Iriana Shiyan /


bedroom remodel skylights
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! Foamfoto /


Ceiling Materials Buying Guide

How to Repair a Ceiling

How to Install a Suspended Ceiling

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, 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. Read more about Don Vandervort