how to remove polystyrene ceiling tiles

How To Remove Polystyrene Ceiling Tiles in 5 Easy Steps (DIY Guide)

The 1970s have a lot to answer for in the interior design stakes. You only have to think of avocado bathroom suites and Artex to realise that. However, one of the worst decorating trends of the era has to be the compulsion to install polystyrene ceiling tiles.

These unsightly tiles have long since fallen out of favour and are considered a fire risk! Furthermore, they’re not the easiest feature to remove.

Fortunately, this guide shows you how to remove polystyrene ceiling tiles step-by-step, bringing your home up to date and improving fire safety.

Tools & Materials


  • Tarpaulin/dustsheets
  • Protective gear (gloves, goggles, face mask etc.)
  • Stepladder
  • Wide scraper
  • Hammer
  • Heat gun (you can choose to use a wallpaper steamer instead. A steamer is often heavier, though, whereas a heat gun gives you greater freedom of movement.)


  • Polyfilla
  • Sandpaper
  • Sugar soap
  • Elbow grease
  • Time

How To Remove Polystyrene Ceiling Tiles — Step-by-Step Instructions

You might have noticed that we’ve listed ‘elbow grease’ amongst the materials you’ll need to remove polystyrene ceiling tiles. This is a time-consuming, tiring and messy job, so ensure you plan enough time to complete it in one go!

1. Prepare the Room

Before getting down to it, you must prepare the room for a messy job. Remove as much of the furniture and other contents of the room as you can.

Cover what remains, including the floor, with a tarpaulin or a dustsheet. For more help protecting your room, check out this guide on preparing a room for a huge mess.

Wear long sleeves, gloves, goggles and a mask to protect yourself. If you want to know more about protecting yourself, the guys at DIY Tips have put together a handy guide.

2. Removing the Tiles

Set up a sturdy stepladder in one corner of the room. Slide your wide scraper between the ceiling and the tiles. Use your hammer to tap it as far under the tile as possible. Aim to break the bond between the tiles and the glue or adhesive holding them up.

To help the process, you can jiggle the scraper up and down to prise the tiles away. Always keep the scraper at a shallow angle to the ceiling. You don’t want to scratch or damage the ceiling more than you have to.

Pro Tip: How difficult this part of the process becomes will depend on how the tiles were put up in the first place. Some are glued all over, while others only have dabs of adhesive in the corners or edges.

Either way, you’re better served by moving your ladder more often rather than overreaching and harming yourself.

3. Getting Rid of the Remaining Adhesive

You might not want to hear it, but once you’ve removed all the tiles, your job is only half done. Your ceiling will still be spotted with (sometimes fairly significant) blobs of glue or adhesive. You now have to work your way back across the ceiling, removing these devils.

Gently warm up each blob with your heat gun so that you can more easily scrape it off. Deal with small areas at a time, and then wipe your scraper with a rag to remove excess glue before moving on.

Pro Tip: Never place your heat gun closer than about 12–15cm from the ceiling. You don’t want to risk scorching the actual ceiling surface. For the same reason, move the heat gun gently from side to side as you use it, as this will ensure the heat doesn’t concentrate on one spot for too long.

4. Assessing and Repairing the Ceiling

Now you can see exactly what you’re working on with those horrible tiles out of the way.

Chances are, there will be some ceiling damage to deal with. Even if you were careful, removing the glue has probably taken off some of the old plaster. Note: polystyrene tiles were often used to mask an already damaged ceiling.

The best-case scenario is that you only have to dab some Polyfilla into small gaps or cracks. If your ceiling is in worse shape, check out our guide to patching plaster.

If removing the tiles has revealed a complete train wreck, check out our guide to plastering a ceiling.

5. Finishing Up 

With the tiles out of sight and out of mind, it’s time to get the ceiling looking spick and span. If you’ve filled some small cracks and holes with Polyfilla, sand those areas to get them nice and smooth.

Clean the ceiling with sugar soap or something similar when it’s repaired and sanded. You’re then ready to finish the ceiling as you see fit. 

Final Thoughts

That’s how to remove polystyrene ceiling tiles and banish those unsightly reminders of the 70s from your home.

It’s not a complicated process, but it takes time, patience and a bit of skill.

If you don’t fancy doing this job yourself, find top-rated handymen in your area on Rated People.