Styrofoam Ceiling Planks vs Real Wood Planks

Written by Milan Jara on 20th Jun 2022

Styrofoam Ceiling Planks vs Real Wood Planks

What are the benefits of using real wood over Styrofoam ceiling planks? Some champion real wood, but Styrofoam has definite advantages.

There are those who, if given the option, would prefer real wood planks over Styrofoam ceiling planks. They appreciate the appearance of real wood, the glossiness, and the warm charm that it provides. However, Styrofoam does have some hidden benefits that you may not be aware of.

Styrofoam Ceiling Planks

This type of ceiling tile is polystyrene/styrene specifically molded to generate high-density decorative ceiling tiles. In almost all instances, you directly mount them onto the ceiling surface. Over the years, they have grown in popularity and are available in different styles, patterns, colors, architectural styles, and metallics.

These foam ceiling tiles feel significantly different from wood. Styrofoam feels exactly like an egg carton. They can be installed without painting them. If you decide to paint them, you will need to use water-based paint before or after the installation. You can repaint pre-painted Styrofoam ceiling tile panels to match your home décor if you desire.

The Benefits

These decorative ceiling tiles offer noise and thermal insulation. They will melt if exposed to extreme heat. They are also:

  • Waterproof and can be placed in spaces where there is high humidity
  • Inexpensive to purchase
  • Installed over popcorn/rough ceiling textures
  • Easy to install
  • A great design element

The Disadvantages

While Styrofoam ceiling planks seem like a great idea as they are lightweight and cost-effective, there are downsides to this type of material. These include:

  • The material is soft, allowing the planks to scratch and dent easily
  • Unpainted planks may show stains
  • Need to be directly mounted to the ceiling
  • Seams can show and may require caulking
  • While they are safe for daily use, if there is a fire, they will melt and release toxic VOC gas


Styrofoam tiles are easy to clean. All Styrofoam ceiling tiles require is to be vacuumed with a brush attachment or dusted with a soft brush. Ensure the brushes do not have hard bristles as they will scratch the material. They need to be as soft as possible.

If the planks are dirty or soiled, place a tiny amount of regular dish soap onto a damp cloth and wipe the planks.


These planks are easy to install by yourself. They can go over a rough or popcorn ceiling without scraping it off, providing an easy fix to a dated look. All you need for an install is a stable, dry surface.

Homeowners will need to fill in large holes or cracks first. Since they are waterproof, you can install them on bathroom ceilings. The best type of glue to use is an instant-grab adhesive, which will not melt the foam.

If you are concerned that your ceiling lights will melt the foam, there is no need to be. All you need to do is install it over the electrical opening. Cut a hole into your planking to accommodate the fixture. Additionally, you can also install them on barrel or vaulted ceilings as they are flexible enough to accommodate them.

Real Wood Planks

Real Wood Planks

Real wood planks enhance a room’s appeal and make it appear more luxurious. The color brings a certain richness to the space. They install easily over most existing ceilings, hiding imperfections and saving you time because you don’t have to strip and patch the ceiling.

Real wood planks cover stained tiles, outdated popcorn ceilings, and drop ceilings. All these blemishes to the ceiling detract from a room’s overall visual appeal due to the ceiling being the largest expanse found in any room. It is a “fifth wall” that frames your entire space. So why not make it beautiful?

The Benefits

Natural wood provides a warm, inviting atmosphere. It takes an area from boring to spectacular. Metal accompanied by wood veneers and wood finishes can beautifully transform a space. Other benefits include:

  • Reflect and absorb sound
  • For maximum noise control, add a backer or acoustical blanket
  • They can be used either tongue and groove or placed on their side for a 3D look
  • Timeless design
  • Biodegradable and recyclable

The Disadvantages

While they may look beautiful and add appeal to any room, there are things that homeowners should be aware of as well.

  • Wood may be a bit more expensive initially and in maintenance costs
  • More suitable for colder climates due to the potential for warping
  • Susceptible to insects


Maintenance is a bit more involved as well. The wood planks will need to be dusted using a vacuum cleaner brush or soft cloth. You need to quickly wipe up any moisture to protect your wood from the damage of excess liquid. Keep humidity levels between 35-55% for anything made of wood.

If the wood is stained, you can use a mild cleaner and wash the wood ceiling. Do this only in sections, and make sure that it is properly and thoroughly dried.


Installing these planks is better than replacing damaged drywall. Cutting out the damaged piece alone and replacing it takes time and money. Plus, the sheets often average 50 lbs each, making them very heavy.

Then, there is the finishing work: taping, sanding, covering screw heads, priming, and painting.

If you are covering a popcorn ceiling, you have to scrape it first, which is slow and messy. Furthermore, if the installation was before 1979, there may be lead or asbestos in it, creating a health hazard if it becomes airborne.

Wood planks are easily installed over any ugly ceiling surface and can also hide drop ceilings. All homeowners need to do is install the tracks to the ceiling perpendicular to the joists. The clips snap onto the track. Then, the tongue and groove planks fit snugly into each other and slide into place.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of ceilings. If you want something that is low maintenance and that will do well in areas with high humidity, then a Styrofoam ceiling plank is the way to go. However, aesthetically, there is something to be said for the simple beauty of a real wood plank ceiling.

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