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How to Paint Drop Ceilings You Cannot Remove

Today I’m showing you my trick for how to paint drop ceilings you cannot remove – or maybe don’t want to remove.  I think I am the least glamorous blogger.  Other interior design and DIY bloggers are doing major renovations with fabulous, luxury finishes like marble and hardwood, and I’m over here painting my janky drop ceiling.  In fact, I’m giving my basement the cheapest makeover in history.  Truth be told, I hate these drop ceilings but we do not have the budget to replace them, so I had to figure out how to decorate around our drop ceiling.  I decided to paint the drop ceiling the same colour as the walls, so the ceiling will no longer stand out and the basement will look cozy and warm.  A drop ceiling with paint will just blend in – that’s my logic!  (Plus, I’m not going to lie, I’m too lazy to cut in neatly around that darn drop ceiling).  This basement will never feel tall or spacious so there’s no sense fighting it; I’m going to emphasis its small size and make it feel cozy instead.

How to Paint Drop Ceilings You Cannot Remove:

We tried removing the ceiling tiles, but the way our drop ceiling was installed, ours only move side to side (to access pipes, etc) so taking them down would have required dismantling the entire framework (too much work).  After much cursing, tugging and general wriggling, trying to get the ceiling tiles to slide out, we gave up.  Next idea.  I tried painting them in place, like a regular ceiling, but the paint made the tiles stick to the frame and when they shifted a bit, I had weird cracks and peeling paint.  It looked cheap and awful.  Arrgh.  More swearing.  Next idea.  With Hubby building walls and a nice, not-drop ceiling in the next room, I eyed some of his furring strips and we came up with this solution for how to paint drop ceiling tiles that cannot be removed:

  1. Prop up a few ceiling tiles with furring strips
  2. Using a large paintbrush, paint the edges and the frame holding the tiles
  3. Once paint is dry, drop the tile back
  4. Using a roller, apply paint to the middle of the tile

How to paint drop ceilings

It’s more consuming to paint drop ceilings this way, as opposed to just using a roller and painting it like a normal ceiling, but painting drop ceilings by propping up tiles created a much better finished product – it’s neater looking.

How to paint drop ceiling tiles you cannot remove

You can already see at this point of the project, by painting the drop ceiling it’s blending in so much better with the walls!

Cannot remove ceiling tiles? Here's how to paint them

Here’s a sneak peek at the finished project after I figured out how to paint drop ceilings without removing them – the color changes a lot with the light but it’s more of a cool greige than a warm tan.

Painted Drop Ceiling

Success!  I’m loving the painted drop ceiling because it blends it.  I’m really thrilled with how well my bizarre hack for how to paint a drop ceiling that can’t be removed worked, although I could only do about 6 tiles at a time – unless we were to splurge on some extra furring strips.  Hubby was quickly finishing his work in the laundry room, so I was against the clock painting the drop ceiling at a quick pace before he needed the wood back, haha!

What Paint Do You Use on Drop Ceiling Tiles?

I used a good quality primer and paint in one, so this job is fairly straightforward and only required one coat in most spots.  For this project, you definitely want to speed up the process so I recommend good quality paint – you can use exactly what you’re using on walls, or a ceiling paint for a more flat/matte finish.  But either use a primer or buy paint and primer in one!

So that’s my quick tip for how to paint drop ceilings that you cannot remove!  I hope you find this helpful, and that it makes painting your own drop ceiling tiles easier.

How to Paint Drop Ceilings

The Finished Basement Makeover

Here’s a reminder of the basement before:

And now here’s a look at the finished basement makeover (see more of this space here or find all of the basement makeover progress here)!  This was a very inexpensive makeover, using mostly paint and furniture we already had – but the end result is clean and cozy.  Perfect!  And you can see the painted ceiling tiles look great too.

Painted Ceiling Tiles Painted Drop CeilingCheap Basement Makeover

We carried the same paint color into the laundry room – but painted the concrete floors a fun aqua!  See more of the laundry room makeover here.

Cheap Laundry Room Makeover



  1. Dharma
    April 2, 2012 / 3:09 pm

    This is a DIY I can get behind. I too am dealing with a plethora of "sow's ears". Brilliant job, it looks so much better. Have another pint 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 2, 2012 / 6:34 pm

      Happy to hear I'm not the only one with sow's ears! Thanks for your kind words. Is 2pm too early to crack a beer?

  2. Christine
    April 2, 2012 / 3:28 pm

    Good idea. Looks a lot better painted and hopefully it will all just blend together and we can focus on the fabulous art you put down there- I know it's coming.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 2, 2012 / 6:35 pm

      You should buy a lotto ticket because you must be psychic! Art is my cure for every space and I am planning some cool DIY art projects and accessories for the basement.

  3. Carol@TheDesignPages
    April 2, 2012 / 5:13 pm

    It's the not so glamorous part of the renovation process but it needs to be done so all the pretty things can shine!!

  4. Martina
    April 2, 2012 / 5:32 pm

    Quick, easy and affordable solutions are the best kind in my book. That's your DIY'ers ingenuity at work there with the furring strips. :)As for feeling un-glamorous, you're not alone. I feel like lately all I have to blog about is "ooh I raked some leaves" while everyone else is being decidedly exciting with furniture refurbs and extensive renovations.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 2, 2012 / 6:36 pm

      Thanks! Hey, those leaves won't rake themselves, right? I've given up on gardening because the condo's lawn mowers just demolish any of my half-baked efforts so I'll be blogging about sodding soon. Oooo, fancy-pants. Tanya will be getting a few new strips of lawn.

  5. Rosa @ FlutterFlutter
    April 2, 2012 / 8:51 pm

    Yes! That totally works. Blends in nicely!! We had a drop ceiling on our MAIN level!!! Seriously, who in their right mind thinks that a drop ceiling for the powder room, that EVERY GUEST coming into our home uses, is okay?!! Can you tell I feel strongly about it. Basements, totally normal, main level, not so much. 😉

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 2, 2012 / 9:31 pm

      What an interesting choice for a main floor! Do you ever just scratch your head and wonder what previous owners were thinking? Someone who lived here once installed paneling, then filled, primed and wallpapered it!! Simple drywall would have been cheaper, prettier and more durable. What were they thinking?!?Oh yes, I can get a little lathered up, too, when it comes to home stuff.

  6. Dora
    April 2, 2012 / 10:37 pm

    The turquoise is definetely a nice contrast with the neutral wall color. You did such an awesome job 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 3, 2012 / 4:18 am

      I'm glad you think it looks nice! How nutty will I look walking into a paint store with a scrap of this mold resistant wood to match too???

  7. InteriorGroupie
    April 2, 2012 / 10:37 pm

    Great technique! Love how you came up with this…from the sounds of it this project would have driven me bonkers. Well done!

  8. Leslie
    June 7, 2012 / 11:37 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I was doing a google search of painted drop ceilings and found your blog. I have an ugly drop ceiling in my living room that is driving me nuts! I thnik that I am gonna go for it- as soon as my husband goes on day shift. Have a great weekend!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      June 8, 2012 / 4:24 am

      Ooo, fabulous! Well, I can say my ceiling took the paint really well. I used a primer + paint in one and my quirky method worked pretty well. Good luck with your ceiling. I'd love to see photos when you're done!

  9. Jon Scialabba
    February 28, 2013 / 8:59 pm

    isn't it just as easy to take out all the tiles and paint them rather than the prop all of them up with ferring strips

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      February 28, 2013 / 11:15 pm

      Ha! I wish! In the post I mention that the way they were installed by the former owners, they didn't come out. There was only room to move them up or over a teeny bit, not enough to slide to them out. It's a tight, tight fit. The only way to take them down would have been to dismantle the whole thing. I am betting $20 these were installed strangely like everything else the former owners did. But, this little trick was fabulous for us and got the job done. And we had bought the wood for another project anyway!

  10. biskers22
    June 9, 2013 / 10:30 pm

    OK, I'll try to just post this one time and not delete it. I just wanted to thank you for posting about this and providing pictures because I would have never envisioned what you were talking about with the ferring pieces:). I have a similar situation in my kitchen (gasp) which makes it look like an old office building. It's horrendous, and with the musty dirty age color, I cringe when I have to look at it. I've tried to move them, and like you, can't figure out how they put them in as they don't just slide out. After countless hours spent searching online and talking with people at the big box stores on options for this nasty eyesore, I felt defeated. I didn't want to spend a fortune dealing with this thing, and every other site goes on and on about how you have to take them out individually and paint them. Well, I am here to say, you are a genius and I can't thank you enough for posting about this!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      June 10, 2013 / 1:45 pm

      I'm so happy to help!! I had the same experience: everyone said just pop them out, but only one or two have room to slide out. They are installed so close to the ceiling, there's no wiggle room (and that's an official term, lol). Ours were built so they are permanent. They can slide over for repairs and whatnot, but not out! Happy painting! They will look a million times better with a coat of paint.

  11. Deena
    March 30, 2015 / 10:40 pm

    Thanks so much for this post! There is some really great advice here. I can't wait to get started with my painting project tomorrow!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 31, 2015 / 3:27 pm

      I'm happy it was helpful! Good luck with your painting!

  12. lyone fein
    November 2, 2015 / 12:12 am

    Just want you to know that people are STILL finding this post helpful. Here I am wanting to paint the drop ceiling in my kitchen, and I am pretty sure that your method is going to be the way I do it. Thank you so much for posting this. Coming to you from November, 2015!!!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      November 2, 2015 / 3:34 pm

      Oh, I'm so happy to hear that! Oddly enough, this is one of my most popular posts to date – so I think a lot of people have had troublesome ceiling tiles to paint. I hope painting your kitchen ceiling tiles goes smoothly! Happy painting 🙂

  13. rochelle
    May 20, 2018 / 10:23 pm

    5-20-2018 still helping..

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      May 22, 2018 / 1:27 pm

      So happy to hear that!

  14. June 25, 2019 / 3:24 pm

    Hi. I would love to link to this article when talking about a DIY basement makeover! Thanks for the info.

  15. MicheleN
    October 5, 2020 / 12:03 pm

    Wouldn’t a paint sprayer have been a better way to go for this type job?

    • October 5, 2020 / 3:30 pm

      For me, no. I personally don’t like to use a paint sprayer for interior applications unless a space is empty/being fully renovated. It’s a lot of work to tape off and protect other surfaces/objects from the over spray. I recently spray painted inside my chicken coop (basically a small shed) and it was awful to spray overhead – I don’t enjoy spraying paint overhead, so I like to avoid it if I can. Using a paint sprayer for exterior applications, like when I painted my garage, is my personal preference for that tool. As well, although I have two now, at the time it was not in my budget to purchase a paint sprayer (this post is many years old but I am sure many home DIYers are in a similar position of a small budget). However, if you’d like to spray your ceiling, go for it! Just make sure to wear appropriate protective eye wear, face mask etc.

  16. Nance’
    February 8, 2022 / 9:14 am

    Hey 👋..! “2022” ! How bout THAT? STILL a fabulous idea 💡., and the ONLY one I’ve seen so far that I believe will ACTUALLY work for me! Whew! I’ve been all over the internet and WAHOO..! A DIY idea I can live with… lol. GREAT JOB! Brilliant Mind!
    Thank you! You’ve just saved me a ton of money! Thanks for sharing.. 😊

    • February 8, 2022 / 12:51 pm

      Yay! I’m so happy this is still helpful information and that it helps you solve a problem. Thanks so much for your comment – and happy painting!

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