5 Best Woods for Ceilings (Transform Any Room)

Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Web Operator

If you plan on installing a wood ceiling, then it makes a lot of sense to have a firm understanding of the best kinds of wood to use for that project.

Wood such as black walnut, maple, beech, cherry and cedar are the real standouts when it comes to wood ceiling project. However, they aren’t the only ones that can work.

But it probably comes as no surprise that not every type of wood is indeed suitable for this project. So, that’s what I’m going to help you out with over the course of the next few minutes.

best woods for a ceiling

I have five different kinds of wood that I see as being perfect for the project. But I won’t simply tell you the wood and leave you to make your own decision. Instead, I will also offer some tips and advice as to why a particular wood is such a good choice.

By the end, I know you will be in a better position to go ahead and actually get started with your project. So, let me take you through the five different kinds of wood I recommend. Do note that this is not a complete list of all the woods you could perhaps use for this project, but it will give you some indication of the potential variety of options that are out there.

Also, I’m not going to take you through how to install a wood ceiling. That’s for another day. However, simply knowing more about the materials you could use to get a desired end look is a great starting point. 

Is a Wood Ceiling Still a Thing?

a wood ceiling finish

We are so used to plaster or board being used to create a ceiling that is, in all honesty, lacking in character. However, it need not be that way.

Instead, installing a wood ceiling can lead to a spectacular statement feature in any room, and the good news is that it does not have to take as much time as you would have thought. 

Whether you go ahead and install it in a porch area, hallway, or anywhere else, a wood ceiling completely changes the entire feel of a room. Suddenly, when you look upward, there is something of interest, and the ceiling looks as if it’s alive.

I do accept that this is not going to be something that everyone loves. However, if you are interested in breaking up the effective boredom with most ceilings, then this is undoubtedly one method I think you need to apply. 

One of the good things is that the wood you could then end up using may also operate via a tongue and groove method. That means it will all click into place and will be held there without any gaps between the boards.

I see that as the best approach to take with this project. However, there’s still the problem of needing to know more about the correct materials you want to use.

At first people may initially think of only pine as a wood ceiling. Yet, if I’m being honest with you, pine is not something I would go for. I know it works and is inexpensive, but it just does not look as good as the other woods I will introduce to you. 

So, let me take you through my five key choices for woods that you can use in order to create your very own wood ceiling. 

1. Cedar

example of cedar wood blocks

The first wood species I want to recommend is cedar wood, and I had to include this because it not only looks fantastic but it’s also very easy to work with. I’ve used cedar for a multitude of projects, but I do feel that it’s a fantastic option for a wood ceiling. 

People sometimes overlook cedar because it’s a softwood rather than hardwood. But in this instance, that doesn’t make any difference. Instead, a cedar ceiling gives a natural rustic feel to things, and it really does come across as a thing of beauty.

Also, you may find that you can get your hands on cedar planks that use a tongue and groove method to allow you to effectively clip the boards together. I admit that it does give more of a uniform look to the ceiling, but it’s still something that can work well, and it still gives that sort of rustic feel. 

But I do see cedar ceilings as having a number of pros and cons associated with them. Yet, the pros certainly outnumber everything else. 

First, there’s the appearance aspect that I keep mentioning. Red cedar has such a warm coloring to it that you cannot help but love it. Also, cedar is very durable. Your ceiling is not going to start looking past its best for a long time, and that’s even with minimal maintenance.

Finally, cedar does work well as an insulator. That does mean it will help keep your heating bills down, and in the current climate with costs, that’s a great thing.

But cedar can prove to be quite expensive at times. I would certainly work out how much wood you need in advance to ensure you don’t over purchase. Also, some people would only use cedar for a porch or small area due to the expense. 

What’s it Best for?

I see cedar wood as being best if you want to go for a rich rustic look. I know it’s expensive, and that’s why I suggested keeping it for a small porch, unless you have the budget available. 

However, on the downside is the sense that you do get quite a plain look from cedar wood at times, and this may be something that puts you off the idea of installing it. But if it’s depth of color, then cedar does tend to look amazing.

  • It works well for more of a rustic look
  • It’s best if you want something of a plain appearance as well
  • It has a real depth of color to it
  • It does work well as an insulator

2. Maple

maple wood grain example

Another fantastic option is maple, and this wood is certainly highly versatile. Also, it has a tremendous grain and color to it, so this does add a great deal of character to your ceiling. 

As a wood, maple is strong and durable, so it does make for a solid ceiling. However, it’s still not as heavy as you may expect, so it won’t put too much stress on the foundation of the ceiling if you intend to simply tack maple planks onto a base to complete the look you are aiming for.

But I have a suggestion that you may want to know about.

While you can go ahead and purchase wood tiles for ceilings that have a maple veneer, they are not going to work if you plan to also install some recessed LED lights. The tiles are too weak to cope with this, and it’s a perfect example of why you need to be aware of your entire project before you start ordering materials.

But I feel that it’s the appearance of maple that makes it stand out and also makes it such a fantastic option for a wood ceiling. It has a light tone to it that does mean the ceiling will not come across as too dark. It’s perfect for smaller spaces where you want the room to feel bigger and more spacious, and it’s those sorts of rooms where I would give maple some real consideration.

Yet I do have one other final advantage of maple to discuss, and it’s the natural properties contained within the wood.

Maple is resistant to both mold and moisture. It can last a long time and still look as fresh as the day the ceiling was installed. That’s a huge deal, and it does make you feel you can leave the ceiling alone with minimal fuss.

What’s it Best for?

I feel the best thing about maple is the fact it does tend to come with that light tone. This helps when light in an area is an issue as darker wood is only going to make that feeling even worse. 

That is undoubtedly the main appeal here, and it’s a good reason why you need to think carefully about where you are installing the wood ceiling and how you will light the area. If you have few windows, or small windows, and there’s little natural light, then a dark wood will make the ceiling feel as if it’s lower down.

Overall, I see these points as the key for maple.

  • It’s light, so works well in dark areas
  • It’s very easy to work with
  • It’s resistant to mold

3. Black Walnut

example of black walnut wood

I’m going to throw in a wood species you may not have thought about for a ceiling: black walnut. People find themselves put off using this wood because they believe it will be too dark and make rooms feel smaller.

While that may be the case in some instances, I do see it as a wood species you need to consider.

Black walnut has such a fantastic color and grain to it that it almost looks like a piece of art for a wood ceiling rather than anything else. Honestly, I feel that a black walnut ceiling will have the ability to add a significant amount of warmth to a room, and it’s all through the power of the natural coloring of the walnut.

People have previously used black walnut as an accent. Yet, while that’s still cool in my book, I think there’s no reason why you cannot go one additional step and use it for an entire ceiling.

It’s dramatic, and there are times when that just adds so much to a room. I struggle to think of any other kind of wood that could have the same impact as this, but I accept it’s also a difficult choice or option for some people.

Again, you can get ceiling planks that operate via the tongue and groove approach, and it does mean they sit tight together, giving you a seamless appearance. When you add in the natural swirls of the grain, I do feel most people that dared to venture to a walnut ceiling will be glad they did so.

What’s it Best for?

I see black walnut as being the perfect solution for anybody looking to add a sense of drama to their ceiling. Now, that may sound like a strange thing to suggest, but there’s some reasoning behind it.

The natural grain and color of black walnut is often very different to anything else you will experience. It has a sense of fluidity to it all, and a black walnut ceiling can pretty much look like a piece of art.

I know this type of wood means you need to have a very particular taste, but if you are bored of the same old appearance from wood, then black walnut will blow your mind with how different it will come across.

The key points to remember regarding black walnut are as follows.

  • The grain and color is unique
  • It adds a touch of drama to a room
  • It gives a sense of warmth to the room

4. Cherry

example of cherry wood

Cherry is a gorgeous hardwood, and it’s something that can add a sense of the depth of color to your ceiling. Cherry is quite a dense wood, and it does have insulation properties. Also, people may install a cherry wood ceiling if they wish to work on the acoustics of a room.

But what I do love about cherry is the way it absorbs stain and color. You can really change the depth of color in an instant here, and then there’s the fact cherry is not going to tarnish or fade in an instant. 

As with the other options, you can use a tongue and groove approach when it comes to cherry wood, and that makes it easy to install. Also, the wood itself is not too heavy, so attaching it should be a straightforward thing to do. 

But I’ve included cherry because of the depth of color it can give, although I do recommend adding even a transparent stain to the wood to help bring that color to the fore. It manages to provide a vibrancy to a room, and while it’s not as dark as the likes of black walnut, I do feel it strikes a balance in the color range, making it suitable for a wider number of homes.

The only real downside with cherry is that it can end up a bit on the expensive side. It certainly costs more than the likes of maple, so be aware of this before buying the material, especially if you intend to cover a larger space with cherry planks on your ceiling. 

What’s it Best for?

I love the color with cherry, and that’s the main selling point for this kind of wood. It has a richness to it, but it doesn’t then come with the same dark color as you will get with black walnut. As I said, that then opens it up as the perfect solution for more people.

But thanks to the price, I would also limit this to a small area. If you don’t, then try not to be shocked when you see the cost of the raw material. 

The key points regarding cherry wood for ceilings are as follows.

  • It has a richness to the wood
  • It comes with a real depth of color
  • It has insulation properties

5. Beech

beech wood for ceilings

The final wood I want to mention is beech, and it’s one of the most widely used woods out there for this type of project. It’s usually relatively light in color with a yellow/brown tinge to it that does help to effectively lighten a room. Also, it’s a common wood which does reduce the potential cost of buying tongue and groove planks to put your ceiling together.

But don’t buy beech if you want a more dramatic ceiling. It’s often pretty uniform in its appearance, and some may find that a little bit dull, at least compared to other wood options out there. 

The lightness of beech, both in its coloring and also its feel, does tend to push you toward a particular design or a certain type of room. I do feel that it may limit the areas where you believe you can use beech because it has a tendency to work with only specific types of decor.

My own personal opinion is that beech is fantastic when you already have a room that has a lot of natural light. It makes the space feel even bigger than it already is, and you feel that it opens it up even more.

Overall, I do love beech. The fact it’s one of the cheaper options out there is just another added bonus.

What’s it Best for?

Like I said, beech works well when you have ample natural light. The airy feel of the wood works in those situations, and the fact it’s relatively inexpensive makes it the perfect solution for people on a budget. 

I also feel that beech is one of the easier woods to work with. For that reason, it’s also a wonderful option for people with limited experience of woodworking. I know that installing a wood ceiling is a big ask, so it makes sense to use a wood that is not going to then make your life significantly harder. 

The best points regarding beech include:

  • It’s relatively inexpensive
  • It’s very light and will brighten up a room
  • It’s one of the easiest woods you can work with

Any Others?

pile of wood

The five different kinds of wood listed above are not the only ones that you can use for this type of project. However, I do see them as being the best.

But even with that, there are several others that deserve a mention, even though they would not appear in my own personal top five when it comes to choosing a wood.

Woods such as white oak, white birch, sycamore, and even bamboo formed into planks can all work well. As with the five options above, each kind of wood has its own character and color that could make it the best choice for you with your own ceiling.

Personally, I would look at as many options as I could and carefully study the color and grain to see how it coincides with my own ideas for whichever room I plan to work on.

Also, how easy the wood is to work with also plays a role. It’s just the case that some woods require you to use better tools thanks to how hard the wood is to cut and shape, and as I said when talking about beech, you don’t want to make your life any harder than it needs to be. 

Which Wood is Best?

black walnut wood

The five different kinds of wood I’ve mentioned above are all fantastic options, but which one is best? Honestly, it all depends on what you hope to achieve from your ceiling and the overall look you are hoping for that will determine which one is best.

You see, from the different options, it’s clear that some species are more dramatic than others. Look at black walnut as an example. That’s not the wood for someone who wants to go ahead and have light bouncing around their room. The ceiling is too dark for that.

However, there are a number of other situations where black walnut will add so much to a room.

That is why I ensured I added different woods that effectively covered the color spectrum. In doing so, you should be aware of a wood species that would be perfect for your own individual taste or to fit in with the rest of your decor.

And that’s the most important thing of all when it comes to wood for a ceiling. You need to know what you want it to look like before you even begin to then ensure you have the correct material. It’s not for me to say that one is better than the other, as they are all equal in their own way.

Overall Conclusion

So those are five of the best woods for a ceiling project, and any one of them will be good enough no matter the size of the project you have in mind. 

A wood ceiling can look amazing, but how it looks does all come down to the style of wood you then use. It’s incredible how different it can appear depending on the color and grain, so that is why I would want you to put some careful thought into this part before you go ahead and start ordering up the materials.

But you need to know more about the tools that will make the project easier to complete. So, these articles may prove useful for you.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.