How to Choose a Finish for Your Patio Ceiling

April 20, 2012 Patio Design

Your patio is the ideal place to spend leisurely hours with family and friends — and a patio cover allows you to enjoy this outdoor room even more.  Usually the exterior of the patio cover is designed to match your home, but the underside offers a chance to get creative.    A decorative, finished patio ceiling is an aesthetic undertaking rather than a structural necessity, but this extra step adds visual appeal, creates a focal point for outdoor entertaining, and can enhance resale values.

There are several options and styles for finishing your patio ceiling, including fiber cement, tongue and groove, T1-11 panels, vinyl panels, and tin tile.  Depending on your budget and time constraints, the options are limited only by your imagination.

Fiber Cement

Hardiepanel ceiling

The most common finish for an exterior ceiling is a fiber cement product such as HardiePanel.  This finish comes in 4×8 sheets and is generally installed with H-mould at the seams. It can then be painted to match or complement the home.  Fiber cement can be used on flat or vaulted ceilings.  With a 50-year warranty for materials, fiber cement products provide years of low-maintenance use.

Tongue and Groove

“Tongue and groove” means that each piece has a tongue side and a groove side:  one tongue fits snugly into the groove of the adjoining board. This option is ideal for visible spaces that need tight, solid seams between separate pieces, with no room for imperfections. One advantage of using tongue and groove is that it lies flat across the ceiling, which helps defend against the elements.

Tongue and Groove Ceiling Finish

Tongue and groove is available in two different grades. Knotty grades provide a unique casual look, while clear grades produce a more formal look. Tongue and groove boards come in a variety of materials and a variety of widths, so you can customize your look. Common materials are cedar and pine, along with paintable composites that resist moisture.

If you choose wood boards (like cedar or pine), finishing them will help prevent darkening, damage from smoke and grease, and stains from moisture in the air. A finish also makes the ceiling easier to clean.

Exposed Rafters with T1-11 Panels

Exposed Rafters with T1-11 Panels

For another casual or rustic look, leave the rafters revealed, and add a layer of T1-11 panels under the roof decking for a more decorative finish.  Exposed rafters need a more decorative grade of framing materials:  try rough-cut pine if you’re staining the rafters, or #1 grade if you’re painting them.  The T1-11 sheets give the appearance of tongue & groove under the rafters because the seams are hidden by the rafters.

Vinyl / PVC Panels

Vinyl and PVC are popular materials for their durability and ease of care: they won’t decay and don’t attract bugs. They resist weatherization and experience little expansion.

Vinyl and PVC ceiling panels are available in a variety of colors and typically sport reversible edges to customize your ceiling with a bead or v-groove design. The panels install directly onto ceiling joists or onto plywood backboards with paneling nails.

Tin Tiles

Tin ceiling tiles are a charming, yet simple, solution for your patio ceiling. They install without special tools or equipment, either directly onto the ceiling joists or onto a sheet of substrate plywood.

Most home improvement stores have a variety of tile styles, including copper, brass, bronze, and paint-able white. Today, most ceiling tiles are faux tin that fend off moisture and cost a fraction of the price of the antique tin tiles of yesteryear. You can leave them “natural” with a simple protective top coat of exterior polyurethane, or paint them to accentuate your outdoor living space.

Final Touches

To personalize your outdoor room even further, add decorative touches to the ceiling. Add a simple splash of personality with a coat of paint — or stencil on a design with either store-bought or personally created stencil patterns. Apply decals (like giant stickers) that can either be used once or reapplied/rearranged as your mood changes. Hang clusters of decorative paper lanterns, using lighted lanterns or arranged around an overhead light to provide a soft glow.

Have a project in mind? We work throughout the Houston and Dallas - Fort Worth areas.

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