The new-old house (last Friday) is lovely, sound in many ways, but has fiber board ceilings and walls throughout. It is old, and has become spongy. The attached photo is of one panel that I removed to see what was going on underneath. It pretty much tore apart with my gloved hands. This particular panel was compromised because there was a gravity vent up to the upstairs bathroom which generated moisture over the years and had caused the panel to sag notably. At the very least, that one panel was going to need to be replaced.

But, I would dearly like to do something nicer than fiber board, and something more up to date.

Many years ago, at a house I grew up in, my father had installed gypsum panels in between the floor joists using trim as tiny casements. The bottom of the joists were exposed. The panels floated. It looked quite nice, and allowed one easy access to any of the wiring/plumbing that traveled in the floor cavity, as the panels were not attached, and sat in place, kinda like a dropped ceiling.

My ceilings are lower that I want, so if I can gain any extra head room, that'd be a benefit.

Is the idea of pulling down all of the fiber board and trim, then installing recessed panels in between the floor joists problematic? Maine building code issues? Fire retardant paint on the floor joists? Just a numb-skull Oh-hell-no DIY mistake?

If that isn't a possibility, is there anything I can do besides hang drywall on the strapping? (It would look marginally better than what is there currently, but wouldn't give me any more head room.)

This is pretty much the entire first floor, so I need to have a clear idea on a ceiling solution. What is currently installed was sufficient 75 years ago, but needs to be replaced.

Thanks in advance.

Ceiling with fiber board panel removed


  • You'd have to reroute those cables if you want to go with your "dropped ceiling" idea between the joists.
    – brhans
    Jul 17, 2023 at 2:46
  • Noted. May also redo some plumbing that's old as well. PEX would be welcomed as opposed to the copper (feeds to the bathroom sink). I'm expecting to find things elsewhere that will require rerouting. There's at least one bit if ductwork that goes up to the second floor which may need attention as well. Jul 17, 2023 at 2:57
  • Is there anything wrong with simply removing the fiberboard and putting up gypsum board?
    – Huesmann
    Jul 17, 2023 at 12:14
  • Yes, I could just use sheetrock, but it doesn't give me any more head room. The ceilings are very low on the first floor, as one can see in the photo, above the door casing. I'm tall. It's a bit claustrophobic, though not so short as to be out of the ordinary. If I could have panels in between the floor joists, I would gain several conceptual inches, and think that the room would feel more open. Jul 17, 2023 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


You could remove the fiber board, tidy up the wiring and paint the joist space black. I have seen this done in restaurants and can look pretty nice if you are OK with the slightly industrial look.

Edit: as the other answers mention, you would have to check local building codes.

Exposed joist ceiling painted black

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