How to paint Styrofoam ceiling tiles

Styrofoam is a trademarked material that consists of 98% air by volume, making it lightweight. It comes in many forms, including cups (EPS Expanded Polystyrene), plates (XPS Expanded PolyStyrene), insulation, and other building materials. There are various ways this product can be manufactured; therefore, different kinds of paint could potentially harm or destroy this material: heat guns/hairdryers, high-temperature paints, and spray paint that contains petroleum.

Styrofoam ceilings are often used in house construction due to their insulating properties and lightweight nature. They’re commonly found above false ceilings, where they are laid out much like regular drywall panels are installed for use with standard plasters.

How to paint Styrofoam ceiling tiles, Zazzy Home

Styrofoam ceiling tiles are generally made of polystyrene foam which is porous and not suitable for use with water-based paints. This is because the material might swell or even dissolve if it comes into contact with water. Additionally, since these products are usually treated to make them resistant to moisture, they likely will not accept any paint in the first place.

However, certain types of spray paint seem to provide a temporary solution for painting over Styrofoam ceilings until the old paint begins to chip away. At this time, you’ll need to strip the paint in order to obtain a fresh, clean surface. The key here is to apply several thin coats of spray paint in quick succession so that the material doesn’t have time to soak up all the liquid.

The EPS kind of Styrofoam is not supposed to be painted directly; however, you can apply latex wall paint with a foam roller if the surface has been previously prepared correctly. If the EPS cup is “hot wire” cut (wire is fed through an electric current), then ordinary acrylic or oil-based paints could melt it, so you should use an exterior grade paint. Also, make sure the coating is not too viscous because this could cause problems with adhesion due to its weight and low surface energy.

For XPS (extruded polystyrene) styrofoam, using spray paint (low odor or water-based) might work as long as it does not contain petroleum products. It is recommended to use a primer with any type of paint for this material.

As for other kinds of Styrofoam, it is best to contact the manufacturer because they are the experts in handling their own materials. If you come across unknown or unidentified types of Styrofoam, then it is safe to say that using heat-resistant/temperature paints is your safest bet!

How to paint Styrofoam ceiling tiles, Zazzy Home

Painting Styrofoam ceiling tiles

1. Preparation

-Cover the floor and work surface below (paint will drip)

-Wear old clothes and shoes (and be prepared for a mess)

-Place drop cloth or newspapers below the work area

-Make sure the room is well ventilated; consider opening windows and turning on fans to get rid of fumes (if possible, paint outdoors)

2. Equipment needed:

-Paint tray

-Paint roller with an extension pole

-Medium nap paint roller cover

-Painter’s tape or plastic sheeting

-Knee pad (optional but recommended!)

3. Painting process:

1. Mix paint in your tray/container & use it to spread two thin coats on the ceiling tiles.

2. Mask off areas where you don’t want the paint to land with painter’s tape or plastic sheeting.

4. Cleanup:

-Discard used rags in a sealed trash bag, so dry paint doesn’t spread through your house! Then wash hands and any other parts of your body that got paint on them, and change clothes before continuing with the rest of your day.

-Clean tools by following manufacturer instructions; most likely, rinse brushes/rollers until water runs clear, then set aside in a bucket of water to soak overnight (and whatever chemicals/cleaner they recommend).

-Place drop cloths and newspapers inside garbage bags and discard them in trash cans.

-If using spray paint, clear the room of children and pets until dry, so they don’t accidentally inhale particles.

-Make sure all windows are closed before you turn on any fans or air conditioning

-Wash face/hands with soap and water to remove any paint residue.

5. Tips

-Wait 24 hours after painting before hanging anything back up on ceiling tile, as it may interfere with paint adhesion to surfaces.

How to paint Styrofoam ceiling tiles, Zazzy Home

-Store leftover paint in its original container (or one that’s made to store or dispose of latex) and place the lid back on tightly.

-Do not take shortcuts when it comes to cleanup, safety, or ventilation!

-Do not leave paint cans open for longer than the time needed

-Do not use this process if you are pregnant or may become pregnant soon, have allergies, asthma, other lung problems (like emphysema), currently taking medication that is inhaled orally), or recently had surgery on your nose/mouth

6. More tips:

-If the tiles are foam board and you want to keep them for later use, be sure to cover them with a drop cloth before painting because they might absorb paint and oil based products. If the tiles aren’t reused after they’ve been painted, then don’t bother covering them up unless there is something else in the room that’s more important than paint efficiency

-If the tiles are not foam board, then it is recommended to save the old coatings for analysis because they might be poisonous! If you don’t want to keep them for any reason, then just discard them in the trash after the painting process has finished

-As with ordinary paints, read and follow all included instructions on the product label before use. Be aware of potential risks involved when using this product type (e.g., it can cause cancer in animals; may harm fertility or unborn children).

-Keep away from open flame and food.

Good luck with your painting. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.


Meet Jeff. For the last 10 years, he's been repairing and fixing problem homes - from leaky roofs to faulty wiring. He started blogging about his experiences as a way to help others who might be struggling with home repairs, and he's become something of an expert in the field. Jeff is always up for a challenge, and he loves sharing his tips and advice with others. When it comes to home repairs, Jeff knows what he's talking about. So if you're looking for some help and guidance, be sure to check out his latest guide!

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