Stainless Steel Ceilings Vs. Traditional Ceilings

January 29, 2021
In this post, you'll read:There are many ways to finish a ceiling, depending on your specific needs and budget. To be fair to the long-lasting and gorgeous stainless steel finish, we aren’t going to compare it with any old option.

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There are many ways to finish a ceiling, depending on your specific needs and budget. To be fair to the long-lasting and gorgeous stainless steel finish, we aren’t going to compare it with any old option. If you’re considering a polystyrene dropped ceiling, this may not be for you. But if you are looking for a way to upgrade your business’ appearance, establish a sense of elegance, or install a ceiling that will be beautiful and low maintenance for decades to come, read on. 

Traditional Ceiling Materials

Some traditional ceiling materials are best in homes, while some are only suited to large office complexes or industrial buildings. Here are some options that give stainless steel a run for its money in versatility and aesthetic value. 


Plaster is applied wet and dries to fit the required space. This makes it easy to use in situations with a lot of detail or small gaps and corners. It is also pliable, which means the person applying the plaster can insert artistry element into the project. This can be done to great effect, and the craftsmanship behind plaster is a crucial selling point for old homes that feature it. Plaster is also very versatile and can blend into almost any existing architectural elements. 

This is an image of plaster ceiling.

Unfortunately, plaster’s strength is also its weakness, since the application of plaster can be easily botched or uneven. It is possible to apply more plaster to correct this, but that can add to the time and budget of a project. 

Plaster can also develop stress cracks if improperly applied or taken care of throughout its life. It can also crack and crumble if the foundation of the building shifts or the weight placed on the floor above. 

Aluminum Sheets

Aluminum is an extremely workable metal. It is able to hold a thin shape and can easily be punched or stamped with a variety of designs. However, true aluminum panels for a ceiling can be quite expensive, as aluminum is more expensive than steel in many cases. 

This is an image of aluminum ceiling.

There are many similarities between aluminum ceilings and stainless steel ceilings, so let’s look at some of the major differences. Aluminum is a much better conductor of heat than stainless steel. In some cases, that may be a positive aspect, but in architecture, that’s a clear downside. When walls and ceilings conduct heat, they are actually spreading it to other parts of the building that may be unused or up towards the roof and the outdoors. With a ceiling that retains heat, instead of losing it, you can even reduce your heating bill for the property. 

Gypsum Board

Gypsum board is the most common building material in the United States. You may have heard it called drywall or plasterboard. It is light, cheap, and pretty easy to install. But is it the best material for a ceiling you want to last? (No.)

Drywall has a couple of significant flaws that limit its use in many settings: it must remain dry. Gypsum board can not handle water, and it will swell, stain, or even crumble if routinely exposed to water from a leak or a generally wet environment. This is why many modern kitchens use stainless steel for all surfaces, and other facilities like indoor pools and gyms avoid gypsum. 

This is an image of gypsum ceiling.

Gypsum board is relatively easy to repair, which is useful since it is so weak. Any kind of significant impact will break or at least crack drywall, leading to repairs and wasted time. For this reason, it is generally not used in spaces that are extremely high traffic, like public buildings, nor is it suitable for working areas with any risk of impact against the wall or ceiling. 

Plasterboard is also not as easy to form into a curved surface, so plaster or metal sheets would be better if you have a barrel vault ceiling you would like to cover. 

Stainless Steel Ceilings

Stainless steel can be finished in a wide variety of styles (just check our latest catalog), and the good news is that almost all of them make great ceiling panels. Two options stand out as the most popular choices for ceilings. One of these options is fashionable and beautiful, and the other is a truly classic workhorse that everyone has seen at some point. 

Water Ripple Stemped Mirror Colored Sheet

The top-rated stainless steel for ceiling use from FTSSS is our mirror or mirror-colored finish, usually stamped in a water ripple pattern. This effect can transform a space into a more elegant, well-lit environment. The water ripples, when paired with a high mirror polish, reflect light around the room in an organic and diffused way. 

This is an image of stainless steel ceiling.
This is an image of stainless steel ceiling.

Stamped stainless steel makes a great ceiling since it adds a new design element to a part of the room that is usually left bare. Stainless steel ceiling panels have become more and more popular over the years, with many companies opting for a stylish alternative to a flat white ceiling. And homeowners have discovered the transformative addition of the mirror finish for light diffusion as a way to brighten up their homes and make their space more unique. 

No.4 Finish 

The classic No.4 stainless steel finish is sometimes called “brushed finish.” It is one of the most frequently used finishes for stainless steel because of its incredible versatility and durability. The brushed surface comes from a light, even sanding before the steel’s surface is coated. This reduces the places that corrosive particles can gather and wear down the metal. No.4 is simple and easy to clean, and it hides scratches and the signs of general use well. 

This is an image of stainless steel ceiling.

The reduced reflectiveness of No.4 compared to the mirror finish helps places with very bright lighting like a kitchen or doctor’s office. This is why you typically see No.4 finished stainless steel in public spaces. The long lifespan of stainless steel is another reason you will spot No.4 in high-traffic zones like airports and elevators. 

More Options for Stainless Steel Ceilings

Some of the other types of stainless steel that maybe aren’t as popular include both embossed and etched sheets. These have the same benefits as different types of stainless steel and can use a pattern to match or complement the rest of a building’s interior design. A bead-blasted finish can also make an interesting ceiling choice, although on high ceilings, it might be indistinguishable from the No.4 finish. 

This is an image of stainless steel ceiling.
This is an image of stainless steel ceiling.

The Positive Impact of Stainless Steel Ceilings

Stainless steel ceilings are cost-effective when you take into account their extremely long lifespan. It also makes for a very easy to clean surface; which is great because who enjoys cleaning a ceiling? The smooth, nonporous surface resists the buildup of particles and quickly wipes clean. FTSSS can even surface coat many of our finishes to make the surface scratch-resistant and smudge-resistant. This is especially useful if you want to add matching walls to your new ceiling in high-traffic locations. 

Putting up stainless steel ceilings is a short and straightforward process. Many sheets can simply be nailed directly into furring strips that are attached to the ceiling joists. Using decorative nails is a traditional method of adding to the appeal. Stamped stainless steel also looks wonderful when painted; just be sure to use an oil-based paint for a smooth application. Water-based paints rust plain steel ceilings over time, but stainless steel resists this effect. 

This is an image of installing stainless steel ceiling.

A second primary installation type for metal ceilings exists, too. A drop-in setup for ceilings allows for easier access to what is inside the ceiling, like pipes or electrical wires. This ceiling type usually has to be lower than the joists, which cuts into the room size a bit but can hide more utilities. Drop-in ceiling tiles are a solid choice for rooms that require more functionality or flexibility. 

This is an image of installation.
This is an image of installation.

You can cut sheets with heavy tin snips to make sure they fit in various locations. You can simply work the edges of multiple sheets together with a hammer or apply caulk where the edges meet. 

The Limited Downside of Stainless Steel Ceilings

If an architectural project is low-budget, stainless steel might not be the best choice. Stainless steel is cost-effective when you factor in the durability and lasting appeal; you won’t have to update it or replace it for a long time. If the building is in a sweltering climate, the temperature regulation of steel might trap heat in some situations. However, with a ceiling, there is rarely a risk of direct sunlight hitting the surface and warming it up. 

The lead time for acquiring premium stainless steel used to be a concern when factories had to ship it from overseas and communication with suppliers was difficult. But now, through the internet and innovations in steel production, you can get something to your specifications in a short time. 


The projects that need a high level of class or quality are served well by choosing stainless steel. Standard housing projects may not need to go for a ceiling beyond the gypsum board option, but for anyone wanting to make an impression or streamline their cleaning, stainless steel can be excellent in a home. 

This is an image of stainless steel sheet.

So, while stainless steel may not be right for absolutely everyone, the versatility and added value to a building make it a fantastic choice for many ceilings. Your imagination is the only limit regarding the possibilities that stainless steel can bring to your project. Contact us at, and our team will help you find the best way to upgrade your ceiling, whether you want it to be luxurious, durable and functional, or both. 

Hi, I am Linda, FTSSS blog writer . I have been working on stainless steel  since I graduated from university. How time flies!  13 years have slipped away from me. ‘Stay hungry, Stay foolish.’ I am walking steadily on the road of seeking knowledge every day.

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