Drop Ceiling Tiles

drop tile ceiling, acoustic ceiling, suspended ceiling

Modern drop ceiling tiles look nothing like they used to. Today's tiles are contemporary or antique, they can be painted or faux finished. Some are even made to look like tin or other materials. The tiles of today are lighter weight, easier to install, and more attractive.

The Benefits of Suspended Ceilings

A major benefit in using suspended ceiling tiles is found in finishing a basement. When doing a basement remodel, you can have a finished look in the basement, and still have full access to ductwork, pipes, and wiring under the tiles.

Other benefits are:

  • Sound barrier
  • Easy to add ceiling lights
  • Many types are washable
  • Energy savings
  • Choose the height of the ceiling

Ceiling tiles rest on a grid put up below the original ceiling. The grid is very sturdy because it suspends from the ceiling joists. After grid attachment, it is a simple matter to put the tiles in place.

Drop ceiling tiles are great for covering up unsightly ceilings. Water stains, old patches, acoustic popcorn; all of these disappear beneath the tiles. If a ceiling is not level, the grid installation can cover that up as well.

How to Install Drop Ceiling Tiles

Installing suspended ceilings is easy to do. When purchasing materials, plan on adding 10 percent to the total square footage to cover waste and mistakes. You will also need some special tools:

  1. Aviation snips that cut the lightweight gauge metal that supports the ceiling easily for custom fit.
  2. To get the most accurate level in the ceiling, you really do need an old-fashioned water level.

Now, follow these steps to a perfect ceiling:

  1. Get the exact measurement of the room. Pay careful attention to nooks and coves.
  2. Draw to scale on graph paper
  3. Sketch your layout on the paper. The main T's will be four feet apart. Plan the pattern to position the T's to keep the border design as balanced as possible.
  4. If you are planning on installing lighting make note on your graph paper of the location
  5. Locate the ceiling at least 3 to 6 inches below the lowest object.
  6. Draw a level line around the room at the height the ceiling should be
  7. Drive eyebolts into the joists to support the main runners
  8. Wrap suspension wire through the eyebolts
  9. Attach the T supports
  10. Attach the cross supports
  11. Check to make sure it is square
  12. Install the perimeter tiles first and then the rest of the tiles

For more detailed information Popular Mechanics has both information and diagrams.

Estimate Your Cost

Here is a table to help you estimate your total cost from your graph.

Cost Estimate for Drop Ceiling Tiles
Part Amount Cost Total Cost
12' Main Beam
Main Beam Splicers
4' Cross T
2' Cross T
12' Wall Mold
Ceiling Tiles
Ceiling Support Wire Ties
Support Wire Tie Anchors
Total Cost


There are some things to watch about dropped ceilings. The ceiling can occasionally reduce the headroom to the point that it throws off the balance of the room. In historic homes, a dropped ceiling is usually not a selling point. Many people who like historic homes want them with the high, original ceilings -- stains and all. If you are in the market for a house, be aware that the owner could have installed suspended ceiling tiles to hide staining, damage, and even structural problems in the home. Take the time to move a tile away and look beneath it to inspect what the original ceiling looks like.

Overall, putting up tiles is not much harder than learning how to paint a textured ceiling. Do research and talk to the sales people. View pictures to be certain that you are getting the look you want. Check with the dealer to see if the tiles you have chosen can be painted, and whether it will affect how the tiles work.

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