This might qualify as the most boring home renovation post ever in the history of the universe, but, hey, it actually has historical precedent — in my house. Yes: Plain white fiber ceiling tiles. That’s what was originally installed — and still is on the ceiling of our basement bedroom, which now serves as my husband’s office. white-ceiling-panel

When we moved in, the same tiles were also in our basement TV room. There, we replaced them with a drywall ceiling when we removed spot lighting and updated the electric. Aesthetically, I prefered the smooth look of drywall in that space. But in the bedroom, we left the tiles as is, and they look just fine.

We did repaint both ceilings Sherwin William beige, which reads “white” but much softer. Our basement is comfy cozy homey, with cherry paneling and gold carpet. Brite white would be so wrong down there.

I am guessing that tile ceilings like this were popular in mid-century America, in basements, in particular, because of the Do-It-Yourself culture and relatedly, the concern for frugality. While drywall installation requires expertise, a handy homeowner could (and can) install these tiles relatively easily, with adhesive, or attached to furring strips. I think that tile ceilings like these also were much more popular in renovations of existing houses from pre-war days. You could use them to cover right over plaster walls that were in bad shape… or just to “modernize.”

Note, the plain white tile ceilings in our bedroom (and before that, the TV room) were not “drop ceilings.”  They were not “temporarily” covering plumbing or electric that might need to be accessed. They were hugging the ceiling (attached to furring strips) and meant to be fixed solutions. Nor do I think they are properly called “acoustical tiles” — that wasn’t their principal purpose.

Do I “recommend” this look? I think the decision is purely a personal one.

I found the simple white ceiling tiles featured here at Armstrong.

  1. Amy Hill says:

    I have these in my hallway. My mother had a craftsman style house built in the 20’s with plaster walls and ceilings. I remember she had these tiles installed in the whole house in the 60’srather than repainting the ceilings. once installed, they are maintenance free, She lived in the house until 2000, when she moved to assisted living. The tiles still looked good at that time.
    Are they still available, furring strips and all?

    1. Trouble aka Shane says:

      Oh yeah, they are, in what seems all the original patterns. Armstrong makes them and maybe others. Lowe’s carries them and the furring strips are nothing more than 1 x 2s nailed to the ceiling or bare joists.

  2. Lynne says:

    My 1955 ranch is FULL of these tiles. Bedrooms, hallway, basement, livingroom-EVERYWHERE. Only, mine aren’t a subtle plain smooth white-and I wish they were. Some are perforated. They look like a white Lite-Brite peg board. Others have a heavy random linen-like texture.

    They are just stapled up onto thin furring strips right to the ceiling-GOOD ceilings. These weren’t put up to hide anything, but were the choice of the homeowner at the time.

    We needed to replace two ceilings because of electrical changes, damage and stains. In order to keep with the “original” look, we considered replacing the tiles. We found the same sort of thing at Menards, though, of course, not the same pattern/texture. The cost of putting up the stapled on tiles, and still using the existing furring strips was more than TRIPLE the cost of doing the job in drywall. I really preferred the drywall look anyway, but we did want to give the old original look a chance. But, this time a change of material, and letting the “old” go, was for the better.

    1. Lynne says:

      Ooops, I should have mentioned that we used the old furring strips to attach the new drywall. The strips were in good condition, solid and level. The only really time consuming and tedious part was that after the tiles are pulled down (yes, we used masks!) you have to go along and pull everyone of those danged staples out of the furring strips. We all had our pliers and a paper cup in hand. We plucked each staple and plunked them into our respective cup. With 3 of us working, it didn’t take too long.

      1. Laura says:

        We have the exact same tiles in our basement – the lite brite ones. And when we moved in, badly smoke stained from a long time smoker in the house. My husband just painted them and they look great. I was worried the holes would fill in with paint, but no problems!

        1. Jean says:

          These tiles are in our upstairs and I think they are h****** [edited]. However, we don’t have the budget to remove them and have drywall installed; so I hope that fresh paint will make them less offensive to me. How did you clean yours before painting? Ours were installed sometime in the early 1950s I’m guessing, and have some water stains from a leak somewhere along the line, in addition to 60 some odd years of collected dust and whatever.

          1. Jean says:

            Or does anyone have any ideas of an inexpensive way to cover them without significantly lowering an already low ceiling that slopes with the roofline?

          2. Vic says:

            OUr bid for drywall was not too expensive – they suggested drywall over the existing 50’s no demo costs.
            Not flat finish – that is expensive –
            If your not fussy on finish should be a few hundred ,
            Good luck

  3. Kristen says:

    My 1947 home also has these tiles in the bedrooms, hallway, bathroom, kitchen and basement stairway. Thanks, Pam, for posting this as I have been wondering about them since we moved in!

  4. atomgrrl says:

    Our 1941 3 bedroom home has these in the middle bedroom along with painted, paneled walls. I’ve wondered about this, but have come to the conclusion that this room was used more as a “den” than a bedroom.

  5. pam kueber says:

    Thanks, Lynne, for the update that doing it today in drywall can be cheaper than in tiles.

    Also, folks, remember my Precautionary Pam persona: Before you pull anything out — have it tested. Nasty asbestos and lead and lordy knows what else can be anywhere in these old houses.

    1. Good warning on the asbestos issue, Pam. Our last house, a 1913 foursquare had tiles added to the entry in the 50s (probably). We determined they had asbestos in them, so we opted to cover them with drywall and seal the problem in, rather than disturb the fibers by trying to remove them.

  6. Caryn Sobel says:

    This is funny–I have actually been thinking about this exact subject, since my husband just signed the lease on his new office, and the ceilings of all rooms, including exam rooms, are similar tiles…I’ll be reading to see everyone’s input on these ceilings.

  7. Erin says:

    We have these in our 1964 ranch. They are original to the house and in every room. I like them because the house is quiet! We have an open floor plan, but the acoustical tile keeps it silent.

  8. John Warner says:

    I have a 1950’s ranch and also have ceiling tiles in the original bedrooms, the master closet, hallway and original dining area. My wife wanted to get rid of them when we moved in but I was against that plan. I actually really like the look of the tiles (mine have a random texture). My guess was this was added in the 60’s. Something about it just says 60’s to me

  9. Ericka says:

    When we bought our 1950 brick house we had to remove these tiles from the (finished and large) basement ceiling to have the house rewired. After lots of research and contemplation about drywall, we’ve decided to replace them with the same thing, just the new version.

    Our original tiles were connected directly to the joists with brackets though, rather than furring strips. The joists are 12 inches apart and the tiles are 12″x12″. I’m not sure whether to try to reuse the old brackets, or take them all out (there must be hundreds) and install furring strips.

  10. airshipgeorge says:

    This past summer I took down my basement fiber, interlocking ceiling tiles which were original or close to my house’s construction date (1966). I decided on the exposed rafters. I will either paint the exposed area or leave it natural. There isn’t much electrical/plumbing exposed so it doesn’t look too bad. I’m 6’2” so it just feels more open this way. Some type of track lighting may follow.
    I did have the tiles tested for asbestos and they came back negative. However, on a side note, I also had three linoleum samples tested at the same time. Each tile had the original glue on the back. Usually, I’m in “paralysys of analysis” mode because I read too much about something. This time, I did a 180. My four samples turned out to be seven and was charged accordingly. In the fine print on the agreement contract, the glue on the back of the tiles had to be tested as well. Lesson: Always read the fine print.
    And don’t be surprised by what you may fine above those tiles…like 3 partial girlie magazines circa 1967 (my discovery). Pam, perhaps, a topic here?!? Things found/left behind by previous owners!

    1. Tina says:

      We found lots of funny stuff in the rafters of the house we bought in 1988 (it was only 10 years old). The only things I can remember are the oversized teak fork and spoon for hanging in the rec room. I think we threw them out, but now I wish I had them!

    2. Ericka says:

      When we tore out our ceiling tiles we found two rubber balls (one petrified), a small key, a wax paper Butterfinger wrapper, and several small slips of paper with monetary amounts under a dollar written on them. I would love to know what the key went to.

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