Suspended Ceiling Installation

The roll of installing a suspended ceiling is to cover a lot of flaws and obstructions, as pipes, wiring and duct work. Of course, it works only where you can afford to lose from ceiling height. It is a very good alternative to hanging drywall for ceiling.

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Areas like basement, where pipes, cables, duct work and water lines run between floor joists are perfectly for suspended ceilings first to cover them and second to maintain access to those lines.

They make a lot of sense in basements and in the first floor rooms with bathroom overhead. If a leak appears, a suspended ceiling will make the difference.

Plus you have a sound barrier created which is better than drywall ceiling.

If you install yourself the suspended ceiling will be cheaper than hiring a professional. The installation is easy and requires only simple household tools. Suspended ceiling panels are sold in 2×2 foot and 2×4 foot sizes.

What you need for a suspended ceiling is sufficient head clearance. In the new constructions basic requirement is 7 ½ ft. ceiling height. Typically, you need a minimum 4 inches, between the old and new ceiling and 2 inches if you intend to install drop-in, full panel fluorescent ceiling lights.

Tools required: measuring tape, 4’ straight edge, 2’-4’ carpenters level, chalk line, utility knife, string line, pliers, ladder, drill, hammer, tin snips, pencil, level or laser level.

Materials required: metal wall angle, main Ts, 4’ Ts, 2’Ts, hanger wire, hanger eye hooks, ceiling tiles.

Let’s see the process step by step:

First measure the ceiling perimeter and draw the exact dimensions to a scale on graph paper. Mark the exact location of all windows and doors. You can choose from 2×2 patterns or 2×4 patterns, but for small rooms are preferable 2×2 patterns. If the ceiling will be recessed and built-in lighting will be installed, decide where to locate the panels of light and identify them on the drawing.

Step # 2 is to determine exact height at which the suspended ceiling will be installed. Measure down from the joists at several locations on 3 walls and connect them through a chalk line. For accuracy don’t assume the old ceiling is level. Use a level, or better a laser-level to draw the line. Make sure the lines meet exactly at the corners of the room.

After the perimeter is established, locate the wall studs and nail the perimeter molding in place so that the top of the molding aligns with the perimeter lines. Nail them firmly to studs, or use screw anchors or other masonry fasteners on brick or masonry walls. Overlap the wall angle on inside corners (install the first length of molding tight against the corner and butt the second length against the first). Miter the wall angle on outside corners   (Using your tin snips, cut both moldings at a 45 degree angle and secure them in place with nails).

If you will use recessed lights, install the wiring before putting the suspension wires in place. For recessed lights you can use 2×2 or 2×4, in fact, with the same size as your suspension ceiling patterns. Use string to lay out where the main runners are to go. Main runners should always run perpendicular to the joists in the room and should be 4 ft. apart (the long panels of the ceiling grid are supposed to set parallel to the ceiling joists). Locate the position of each main tee. Stretch a tight line from the top edge of the wall angle on all sides of the room at each position where the main Tee will be. The trick here is to lay out the panel grid so that the ceiling appears balanced from side to side. Most rooms will accommodate a number of full-size panels plus an edge gap that will require partial panels. Measure across the room parallel to the joists and divide by the panel length to get the number of full panels that will fit in the space.

Cut the suspension wires. They should be 12” longer than the distance between the old ceiling and the guideline string for the main Tee. Install screw eyes following the ceiling layout diagram. Fasten the wire securely through the screw eye. Extend the wire down to the stretched runner string, and fasten the runner. Using a smaller level every 4 ft. across the runners as you hang with wires will keep your runners level all the way across the room.

Continue hanging the runners in this fashion until each is supported every 4 ft. However if your room is longer than runners, join them end to end, using the slots and tabs built into the ends of each.

With the runners in place, tie them together with the cross Tees spaced 2 ft. apart. The cross Tees have a hook on each end that fits into a slot in the runners. You need to check if the grid is going up square. For that, you can measure the diagonals of a square and if they are equals the grid is square.

With the ceiling grid all in place you can start installing ties. No doubt you may need to trim a few tiles. When cutting ceiling tiles it is recommended that you cut from the finished side to the unfinished side. Use a utility knife, a straight edge, and a saw. After all the light and heat register tiles are installed fill the rest.

Drop the ceiling tiles into position by tilting them slightly, lifting them above the framework and letting them fall into place.


  • If you plan to install drop-in fluorescent light fixtures, you will need to provide protection for the wiring. These wires will be encased in flexible metal conduct.
  • For duct work and diffusers, measure carefully from two sides of the grid and position the diffuser on the panel accordingly. Trace around the diffuser with a pencil and cut along this line to make the opening.

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