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What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?

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Bathroom remodeling is a great way to add value to your home and while it’s common to swap the vanity, tub, and wall tiles, many homeowners overlook the ceiling.

Since the ceiling is usually overlooked, you want to invest in a material that is long-lasting considering it will be exposed to humid conditions that can reduce its lifespan.

But a question you may have is what do you put on the ceiling of a shower?

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Bert and May

First, you have to note that the shower area is undoubtedly a wet area within the bathroom. Therefore, it exposes the ceiling above the shower to moisture, therefore, susceptible to mold growth.

If mold growth is not controlled by ventilating the shower area properly, exposure to damp and moldy environments may deteriorate your shower ceiling and also cause a variety of health effects.

Before you go for ceiling paint, panels, wood, cement board, drywall, or any other ceiling material, you must be careful to ensure it not only adds a beautiful aesthetic to your bathroom. It must be functional as well.

In this article, we help inform your judgment so you can choose the right material to put on the ceiling of your shower.

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Does The Ceiling of a Shower Need To Be Waterproof?

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Sturm Official

Generally, the majority of waterproofing that needs to take place in the shower is on the shower wall hosting the plumbing fixtures including the showerhead, and approximately a meter from the shower floor. Outside this zone, it wouldn’t be needful, only for longevity reasons.

Therefore, you do not have to waterproof all shower ceilings. However, you can still waterproof shower ceilings because, as mentioned above, they are susceptible to water damage, making them a costly maintenance issue if you don’t take steps to avoid it.

While it’s not necessary for all types of installation, waterproofing your shower ceiling makes it withstand humidity, moisture damage as well as severe water damage and accumulation.

If you don’t provide for this, it might lead to a significant mold and mildew infestation that could spread to your bathroom’s walls, ceilings, and other areas if you’re not careful.

How Do You Protect A Ceiling Above A Shower?

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Latitude 37

During construction, your bathroom ceiling is usually made waterproof from above by covering the entire area with a waterproof membrane before installing your new ceiling material.

But to avoid water stains on your shower ceilings, paint peeling down from the ceiling and mold issues, consider protecting your ceiling above the shower. This also prevents the need for extensive and expensive repairs down the line.

You want to:

  • Choose a waterproof and moisture-resistant material for the shower ceiling that is designed to prevent mold and moisture.
  • Install cement board or an equivalent moisture-resistant backing material such as fiber-cement, fiber-reinforced gypsum, glass mat gypsum, or fiber mat-reinforced cementitious backer panels on walls (consider your ceiling too) behind (tub and) shower enclosures composed of tile or panel assemblies with caulked joints. 

Here’s what the EERE says…

The United States Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE); ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, Version 3/3.1 (Rev. 09)

Water Management System Builder Requirements

4. Water-Managed Building Materials.

4.2 Cement board or equivalent moisture-resistant backing material installed on all walls behind tub and shower enclosures composed of tile or panel assemblies with caulked joints. Paper-faced backerboard shall not be used.16

Footnote 16) In addition to cement board, materials that have been evaluated by ICC-ES per AC 115 may also be used to meet this requirement.

Monolithic tub and shower enclosures (e.g., fiberglass with no seams) are exempt from this backing material requirement unless required by the manufacturer.

Paper-faced backer board may only be used behind monolithic enclosures or waterproof membranes that have been evaluated by ICC-ES per AC 115, and then only if it meets ASTM mold-resistant standards ASTM D3273 or ASTM D6329.

  • Also, be sure to seal your ceiling corners to prevent seepages into the ceiling backing boards.
What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: That Organized Home
  • If painting the ceiling, select waterproof paint and install a vent fan to usher moist air out of the bathroom. Run the fan during and after each shower or bath until the air returns to a normal humidity level.

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?

Choosing the right materials and applying additional techniques to your project may just give you the right waterproof bathroom ceiling that is aesthetically pleasing yet so functional.

Below are some of the best materials to put on the ceiling of a shower, and the best tips for installation and maintenance to ensure they last longer:

1. Plaster & Paint (Most Popular)

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Wholesale Domestic Bathrooms
What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: The Bromley Bathroom Company

Painting the shower ceiling is the easiest way to keep it looking fresh. Most showers use this technique which is also affordable and convenient.

However, the paint may be susceptible to peeling off a few months later, especially if your household takes daily showers.

But to ensure the longevity of the paint, new plaster must first be sealed with a mist coat, which is simply emulsion paint diluted with water.

To make the mist coat, three parts emulsion mixed with one part water is enough although you should always check the paint tin for the manufacturer’s instructions as ratios can vary.

As the additional moisture provides the wall with something to absorb, this mist coat serves as a primer, ensuring that your topcoat will adhere. An alternative is to use a waterproof primer that is water-based and made for bathrooms.

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Yana’s Decor
What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Rainstick Shower

Although you don’t have to use the exact same paint for the final topcoat, you should select a color that is similar to get an even finish.

Once your primer is completely dry, move on to the paint working from the corners in then leave it to dry. Glossier paints are more water-resistant so choose semi-gloss or glossy paints for shower ceilings.

NOTE: Even if you have a window in your bathroom, you still need an extractor fan because going without one is begging for damp conditions to start.

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2. Tile

If you’re tiling the ceiling in your shower, start with cementboard or another type of tile-backing material rated for wet areas as they do not break down when exposed to moisture.

This is unlike regular or even water-resistant drywall which tends to get mushy when wet. Therefore, avoid their use behind tiles in wet areas.

While tile is vapor and water-resistant, the grout in between those tiles is not. Grout is porous and as it deteriorates, it becomes even more water-permeable.

If a ceiling is not waterproofed, deterioration of the substrate over time will start loosening the tiles and the water permeation can lead to overall structural damage.

Also, note that it’s not always recommended to install tiles on ceilings because the tiles if not well adhered to a substrate, could fall and cause injury.

To avoid potential harm, make sure the ceiling substrate is secure before installing tile on your shower’s ceiling. A cement backer board or another tile-backing substrate is much more reliable than a waterproof drywall ceiling.

While the upfront cost of the entire project will be a bit more, tile is more durable, lasts longer and is better at repelling vapor, moisture and mold.

Additionally, tiles don’t trap dust or dirt, making cleaning easy with tile-cleaning products every few weeks or so to ensure they remain in the best shape.

Note…

FAQ 1: Can You Use Cement Board For The Shower Ceiling?

If you wish to cover your shower ceiling with tiles, cement board is the perfect bathroom ceiling material for this wet area.

Cement boards are sheets made of cement and cellulose-containing fibers and are typically 4 ft by 8 ft in dimension and vary between ¼ and ½ inch in thickness.

Their primary purpose is to serve as tile backing and it is superior to paper-faced gypsum at this task because it is resistant to water.

Because tile is typically used in areas prone to water exposure, such as in bathrooms, it is important to have a backing that will not develop mold and mildew or disintegrate after prolonged exposure to moisture. That’s where cement board comes in!

Cement boards work well as a backer material because they are resistant to moisture damage. As an additional step, you can use plastic sheeting to cover the framing behind the board with a moisture barrier.

Additionally, because they are heavy, they must be properly secured during installation.

Cement board should only be used in areas that will be tiled or plastered. A board that is exposed cannot be disguised with paint.

3. Stone

Natural stones like marble, granite, limestone, and travertine, add unparalleled beauty to the shower room thanks to their unique natural variation.

On shower ceilings, natural stone can bring visual interest to the space, especially if installed from the walls to the ceiling in a seamless transition. Such a bathroom gives off a sophisticated jewel-box effect!

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: KLInteriors
  • When selecting marble for the ceiling (and walls) of your shower, select the higher-grade marble with minimal veining and inclusions.

This will make the stone more resistant to damage since the vein composition can be vulnerable in a wet environment.

  • Granite tile is another popular material used in master bathroom ceilings, shower enclosures as well as steam showers. 

Known to be highly durable, more resistant to damage, and easier to maintain, granite can also be installed on the ceiling and expertly sealed in order to protect its natural beauty and make it look good as new for years to come.

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Cocoon Bathroom
  • Dressing a bathroom in limestone on the walls, floor and ceiling give a clean and sober impression. Not a common choice but you can get an expert to ensure a proper installation.

4. Wood

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: ABProperty Bali

Given the constant humidity in bathrooms, most people certainly wouldn’t choose wood as their first option for the ceiling of a shower, especially given the great variety of colors and pricing available for ceramic tiles and other non-porous surfaces.

However, wood has become a more popular option in bathrooms because of its organic, natural appearance and warmth to the touch as opposed to the frigid feel of tile.

If you like the idea of chic wood paneling and you’re feeling adventurous, try skinny slats on your ceiling for a modern farmhouse bathroom finish.

If a bathroom has a ceiling finish made of wood, especially one with a bathtub or shower, you should make sure a fan is fitted for optimum ventilation. This will also prevent the wood from warping and lessen the possibility of mold or mildew developing.

Another good idea is to make sure that the wood is coated in some kind of sealant, perhaps boiled linseed oil and/or urethane, to protect it further—and make sure you get all the end grains covered too, even if they won’t ultimately be exposed.

For an additional layer of ventilation and protection, experts advise applying a coating of tar paper (often used under roof tiles) before installing the wood.

Tip…

Shiplap wood (a long, narrow board with grooves rabbeted (or cut) into the top and bottom of its long sides) can sometimes be installed on the ceiling of the shower as an alternative to drywall ceilings.

Shiplap adds drama and a touch of intrigue to your bathroom ceiling. If wood seems too plain, consider shiplap.

5. Acrylic Sheets

For such a popular choice for homeowners today, acrylic sheets are made up of plastic resin. With such a resemblance to glass although lightweight, acrylic is more affordable and easier to maintain.

Acrylic sheets are great for shower ceilings because they are waterproof, and hence can be used in areas with high moisture content. Install them and have little to worry about water damage.

Depending on your bathroom design needs, you can install either transparent or opaque sheets.

6. A Skylight

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?
Courtesy: Reece Bathrooms

Often, bathrooms are located in small spaces, making them feel even smaller when there is very little natural light.

To open up such a bathroom, install a skylight in your bathroom ceiling as an investment that will also save on energy bills for heat and artificial light in the long run. 

Considering the many benefits of natural light i.e it can make people happier, calmer, and more productive, a skylight would be necessary.

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7. Ceiling Cladding

Ceiling cladding is an increasingly popular decorating solution for ceilings, even in bathrooms.

To protect the ceiling of your shower from moisture build-up, you simply need to install these stylish panels made of material that is waterproof and resistant to mold and mildew, and they are also perfect for covering up any imperfections on your ceiling.

The installation is easy because of the tongue and groove interlocking panels, which also make it a low-maintenance alternative and an easy-to-fit alternative to painted ceilings.

Being extremely affordable and in variety i.e. Plaster of Paris panels, PVC panels, and gypsum false ceilings, these stylish ceiling finishes also provide an easy-to-clean surface.

TIP: Go for ceiling panels that are less porous than natural tile, are suitable for all wet areas and no grouting is required.

FAQ 2: Can You Use Drywall In A Shower Ceiling?

Yes, you can use regular drywall in ceilings above the dry areas of your bathroom such as the non-shower or tub areas of your bathroom. However, for the ceiling above the shower, it is recommended to pick moisture-and-mold-resistant drywall.

While some may use drywall and adhesive and then stick tile to the ceiling, others would just use water-resistant drywall in their showers. This, however, would only last you a few years longer.

If drywall is your best option especially when remodeling on a budget, go for a moisture-resistant and mold-resistant drywall.

Unlike conventional or standard or regular drywall, moisture-resistant drywall (also known as green board) has face paper that’s treated for extra resistance to mold and moisture.  Some manufacturers even treat its gypsum core.

It usually has a mold inhibitor and even if the ceiling fails, it will give you another 20-30 years before the mold can grow through. Right there, you’ve got a 20-year shower ceiling!

After installing drywall, seal out the joints. Instead of adding drywall compound and taping the joints, use an adhesive sealant like the LocTile Polyseamseal All-Purpose Adhesive Caulk (LePage 2 in 1) or the Gorilla White 100 Percent Silicone Sealant Caulk.

According to the building code, you should be compliant by this point i.e. sealing joints of your water-resistant drywall.

But to seal your ceiling corners the more, apply a waterproofing membrane such as the RedGard 1 Gal. Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane that produces a moisture barrier.

You’re also welcome to apply the membrane around the whole shower ceiling, and even to your walls if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to waterproof your shower.

FAQ 3: Can Gypsum Ceilings Be Used In A Shower?

Although regular drywall or regular gypsum board can soak up moisture, mold, and mildew, green board/green drywall/ water-resistant gypsum board, is a better choice for your shower ceiling.

Green drywall is a form of drywall that resists mold and is frequently used in bathrooms and other places where moisture might be a problem. Use mold-resistant joint compound, often known as drywall mud, to increase the resistance to mold.

It also has face paper, that’s treated to withstand extra moisture hence one of the easiest options for installing a shower ceiling, but you should read the manufacturer’s directions on how to install it carefully.

Tip…

While water-resistant fiberglass is a lightweight material that can be used on shower ceilings, studies are now considering it a health hazard so avoid it while you can.

Summary

What Do You Put On The Ceiling Of A Shower?

If remodeling your bathroom, use our guide to determine the right materials for the ceiling of your shower.

While waterproofing is not necessary but recommended for shower ceilings, it is required for steam environments. 

Remember, though, that portions of the shower that will be exposed to water more frequently than the shower ceiling should be covered with heavier materials like cement backer board.

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