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Can You Use Plywood for a Ceiling? (How To)

Plywood is a versatile, good looking wood. A ceiling for a home needs to be finished with a material, but there are a range of options to choose from. Today, I will explain if you can use plywood for a ceiling.

In general, plywood can be used for a ceiling. But, drywall is the best option because it’s fireproof. Like plywood, it’s also easy to paint and finish. In earthquake prone areas, drywall is far more likely to crack, for this reason OSB or plywood are installed underneath it.

Man working on the OSB

Doing so, provides much more strength to the drywall. Below, I will cover if it’s a good idea to use plywood for a ceiling and when it makes sense, as well as, what preparation you need to do to plywood, and how to use it for a ceiling.

Should You Use Plywood for a Ceiling?

Man working on the OSB

Plywood is fairly easy to work worth, is durable, and is easy to finish. Ceilings are generally not load bearing, but it’s best if they look as good as possible, and last as long as possible. So, below is if you should use plywood for a ceiling, if it’s the best option, and why.

Overall, you should not use plywood for a ceiling. Drywall is the best option and there is generally no difference in price. Drywall has the advantages of plywood but is also fireproof. Plywood is typically only used to add extra strength underneath drywall.

Plywood is an OK option. But, it is not the best for the final layer that is facing the room. Due to the fact that it’s not fireproof.

In some jurisdictions plywood may also not meet the building codes. It’s best to only use it underneath drywall, to add additional strength to the ceiling. But, the truth is: OSB is used far more for underneath siding and ceilings than plywood.

The reason is OSB is cheaper and lighter. Some people argue that plywood is better than drywall. Due to the fact that if you need to access the area underneath to fix the plumbing or electrical wiring it’s easier to patch up the hole afterwards.

But, this is in fact not the case. It’s about the same difficulty to patch a hole in drywall or plywood.

There are also other options that look just as good, such as vinyl siding. It is incredibly lightweight, and easy to cut. Most of all when there’s an issue with your ceiling, you only need to replace one of the vinyl siding boards, or at the most two.

Which is as easy as clicking the new vinyl siding panel in place, and screwing it in. Whereas, with plywood or drywall it’s a bit more involved because you need to cut a piece of plywood to fit. Or, you need to apply builders mud, and let it dry.

As well as, sand it down, and finish it afterwards. How you want your roof to look is also a deciding factor. As vinyl siding and a finished drywall or plywood ceiling look quite different.

However, chances are you won’t have any major issues behind your ceiling for some time. Therefore, all options are, all things considered, as good as each other. With vinyl siding being by far the easiest to work with, and repair, do maintenance on.

What Preparations Do You Need to Use Plywood for a Ceiling?

Man working on the OSB

Before using plywood for a ceiling there is one major preparation step you need to do that is unique to using plywood over other materials you can use for a ceiling. Below is what this is.

In general, you need to let the wood sit in the room you are installing it into for 48 hours to acclimatize. Sand the surface of the plywood sheets that will be facing the room with 100 grit sandpaper. Doing so will provide a significantly better appearance after it has been finished.

It will also provide better adhesion of the primer, paint, or stain to the surface of the plywood. It’s recommended by all wood manufacturers to acclimatize wood. The one thing to watch out for is to not let the plywood get wet while it’s acclimatizing.

It is possible to install a plywood ceiling on your own. But, before doing so, you need to install a 2×4 on one edge of the wall.

Doing that will allow you to keep one side in position, while you attach the other side. This adds a few extra steps, and overall, experienced builders strongly state installing a plywood ceiling is a 2 person job.

How to Use Plywood for a Ceiling

Man working on the OSB

In some cases, using plywood for a ceiling is a good option. Below is exactly how to use plywood for a ceiling.

In general, it goes over insulation and is screwed into the framing of your ceiling. Insulation is optional but dramatically increases comfort in a room. In some jurisdictions it can be mandatory to include a vapor barrier on top of the insulation before installing the plywood panels.

1. Plan out the layout of the plywood boards

Plywood words are 4 x 8 foot sheets, and 5 x 5 foot sheets (1.22 meters by 2.44 meters, and 1.52 meters by 1.52 meters). It’s a good idea to measure out the dimensions of your ceiling, and then plan out how many sheets you will need, and what way you want to orient them.

You also want the panels to meet on the studs of your ceiling.

That way you have a place to screw both panels in. This requires a little bit of planning.

You can start with a center piece that is the full size of a plywood panel. And cut the piece for the end or ends to fit.

2. Install insulation and a plastic vapor barrier if required

Insulation is thoroughly recommended because it makes a room much more comfortable. In some jurisdictions it is mandatory. And it should be a certain thickness, and type.

A vapor barrier may also be mandatory. This is a plastic sheet that is placed over the insulation, and stapled to the studs. Doing so, stops moisture from getting into the insulation and growing mold.

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In order, to know if these are mandatory and what types should/need to be used contact the building codes compliance office for your jurisdiction. This can be statewide or more local.

3. Cut any required holes for fixtures (optional can be done after)

Once you’re ready to attach your first plywood panel in place, you can mark out and cut areas out of it for fixtures such as lights. It can also be done after the fact. But, it does make it a bit trickier because you need to be careful not to damage any wiring underneath.

In some cases, you will need to do this first so that the plywood panel can be attached. Due to the fact that the fixture is sticking out below the studs.

3. Place the panels one by one and screw them in place

This is the tricky part. And requires two people. One to hold a panel in place, and the other to screw in each screw.

4. Finish them using primer and paint or wood stain

After all of the plywood panels are in place, finish them using primer and paint or wood stain. Alternatively, a clear finish can be applied on to them to keep the woodgrain look. It’s important to waterproof your ceiling.

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This can be achieved by the primer, paint, stain if they are waterproof. Typically, those made for wood contain a waterproof epoxy.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 17, 2023.

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