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How to Install a Drop Ceiling

How to Install a Drop Ceiling

Interior renovationsHow to Install a Drop Ceiling

Although installing a drop ceiling is the perfect project for any and all DIY enthusiasts, it’s still important to know the proper installation guidelines to follow when proceeding with this project. So here's everything you need to know about installing a drop ceiling. 

What You Need to Know About Installing a Drop Ceiling

drop ceiling light fixture_How to Install a Drop Ceiling

Both inexpensive and relatively easy to install, drop (or suspended) ceilings allow for easy access to plumbing or pipes without causing damage to the ceiling surface. Also, note that due to the thickness of the ceiling tiles, they've soundproofing and heat insulating properties, which is also a valuable asset.

Two Main Types of Drop Ceiling Tiles

Expanded polystyrene tiles

The first option you have is expanded polystyrene tiles. This type of tile is super light and, as an added bonus, can be painted with acrylic paint, which will make your ceiling fit perfectly with the room’s chosen colour scheme. 

Polyurethane tiles

As for polyurethane tiles, these have relatively similar properties to the previously mentioned tile, aside from the fact that its finish is proof of greater craftsmanship and the patterns embedded are more detailed. Therefore, it’s the ideal choice when wanting something with a little more aesthetic appeal. Moreover, these tiles are available with mouldings, which give off a certain allure once the ceiling installation is complete. 

Importance of having a plan

To avoid a size discrepancy between the tiles lining the walls and the others, make sure you draw your plan according to the lines running down the centre of the ceiling as a starting point. By doing so, you’ll be able to create a ceiling with symmetrical lining tiles. Furthermore, you’ll be able to know the exact number of tiles necessary to complete the ceiling installation. 

Cost of a Drop Ceiling

Your new drop ceiling is available for roughly $3.50 to $6 per square foot, excluding costs related to installation.

Steps to Installing a Drop Ceiling

apartment drop ceiling_How to Install a Dropped Ceiling

The first step consists of installing the L-shaped mouldings all around the room, starting with the narrowest wall. Note that you should leave a 4-inch gap between the joists and the supporting ceiling tile grid. Should you want to install soundproofing insulation, leave a 5 to 6-inch gap instead. With a level, mark down the height around the room. 

Next, place the steel angle bar under the line and secure it with nails while respecting the proper spacing, which should be 16 or 24 inches. Note that, normally, the main tracks should be inverted to the joists so that the weight of the ceiling is evenly distributed over the joists.

In order to adequately suspend the ceiling tracks, use suspended ceiling attachment spindles. Rest assured, these are sufficiently strong to support the tracks. Note that the wire in question will have to be hung on one-and-a-quarter-inch nails hammered into the side of the joists and then inserted into the track holes. Alter the length of the wire so that it’s level with the L-shaped mouldings. 

To proceed matter of factly, install two main tracks and then the ones located perpendicularly to those. Repeat the process by fixing an additional main track as well as the crossed tracks that correspond to it, all the way until your new drop ceiling grid is in place.

On the subject, it’s always useful to know that the first track installed will need to split the room into two equal parts to ensure that the main tiles are centred compared to the whole ceiling. Once completed, you’ll be able to go ahead and install the tiles. 

Installing Drop Ceiling Light Fixtures

Regarding a light fixture installation on a drop ceiling, make sure to choose tiles devoid of patterns so that one can work on an even, regular surface. 

By preference, opt for light fixtures embedded with a suspension system to avoid resting the entire weight of the fixture on the tile, as this could damage the ceiling. 

Few precautionary measures

To avoid staining your tiles, check that your hands are clean after having handled the tracks. Indeed, after handling these, your hands tend to be stained with a blackish substance, which risks smearing your tiles. 

Should it be just a little too late to make use of this wise tip, it’s still possible to rectify the situation by trying out this little trick: Remove the first layer of paper from another tile and rub it against the stain, it should then quickly dissipate. 

Since to err is only human and a tile might be rendered useless due to an inaccurate trim or cut, avoid being stuck and plan for at least three additional tiles when purchasing the lot. This precautionary measure will save you in case of unforeseen damage.  

If you plan on installing your drop ceiling in the bathroom or the kitchen, the tiles will need to be treated against excess humidity beforehand to avoid premature wear. 

Drop Ceiling Features

Key Facts

1) Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy to install
  • Offers easy access to the plumbing system
  • Has soundproofing and insulation properties

2) Types of tiles

  • Expanded polystyrene tile: light and can be painted with acrylic paint
  • Polyurethane tile: nicer finish, offers more detailed patterns and the possibility of mouldings

3) Plan

  • Start the plan using the centre lines as your base

4) Price 

  • Between $3.50 and $6 per square foot

5) Light fixture installation

  • Consider selecting plain tiles in the event of a light fixture installation
  • Ideally, opt for recessed lights with a suspended system

6) Few precautionary measures

  • Make sure your hands aren’t dirty before touching the tiles
  • In case of stains: remove the first layer of paper from another tile and rub it against the stain
  • Plan for 3 extra tiles in case of an error
  • To install drop ceiling tiles in a bathroom or kitchen, the tiles will need to be treated to withstand high humidity levels

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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