A Homeowners Guide To Drop Ceilings
Homeowners should look into drop ceiling options for their finished basement projects. Drop or
suspended ceilings make a lot of sense for basement rooms that have to accommodate pipes
and ductwork. With a drop ceiling, there is no need to move pipes and no concern about having
to remove parts of the ceiling for access to pipes and wires in an emergency. Drop ceiling
panels are easier to install than traditional drywall ceilings, but individual panels are also easier
to remove and replace when necessary. A dry wall basement ceiling requires additional hassle
to access pipes, ducts and wires and may become irrevocably damaged if pipes are leaky. They
also help with sound insulation. This can be especially useful for music rooms, game rooms and
Before choosing a drop ceiling, make sure the overhead clearance is enough to accommodate.
Most building codes require a certain height of at least seven and a half feet, although many
local ordinances make special allowance for home improvement. The average drop ceiling
requires six to eight inches in order to maneuver the tiles. Make sure that it will still allowit to
have enough height for comfort and legal codes.
Homeowners have a wide choice of drop ceiling tiles, including finishes such as faux tin and
wood. Acoustical tile is not always institutional white, but can come in a variety of soft shades.
Real wood, metal and PVC tiles are all usable options. PVC tiles are often molded into textured
shapes to help create more interest in the design. The ceiling grids also have a large range of
choices. Grids can match or contrast almost any material. Institutional white foam tiles and
simple metal grids are no longer the only option. The right drop ceiling can make it warm and
inviting rather than cold and clinical.
Different building materials have different properties that lend certain qualities to the finished
ceiling as well. Insulating tiles are best for damping acoustics and are generally the cheapest
option. PVC tiles are resistant to mold and mildew. They also provide some fire resistance and
will not sag when they become damp. Wood tiles are very prone to mold and mildew and should
be avoided in basements that may have problems with dampness.
It is not even necessary to use a traditional, preformed set of tiles. Drop ceiling ideas range from
the traditional to the creative. Fabric ceilings are always an option. This type allows puffs of
fabric to billow down from the grid. Fabric ceilings have an animated look in air currents from
central heating and cooling, but they will not work with recessed or other ceiling light fixtures.
Make sure that fabric ceilings are hung away from exposed wiring and that these ceilings are
made of fire retardant materials. Brown craft paper can be torn and applied to simple white
ceiling tiles then stained and sealed with polyurethane for a soft, almost leather look. Some of
the cheaper foam tiles themselves can be painted with a number of techniques and faux
finishes. Consider a mural broken into separate tiles or a continuous pattern such as clouds or
vines. Check the faux finishing kits at local craft stores for guidance. A stone finish drop ceiling
is even a possibility with some of the kits and tip sheets available.
Interestingly, tiles are not the only idea. The very first step in design is to decide on the size of
the grid. Ceilings are laid out in a 2′x2′ or 2′ x 4′ pattern. In the design phase, it is helpful to
layout the ceiling on graph paper using exact dimensions. 2′x4′ panels offer the choice of a
standard or reverse pattern. For added texture, it can even mimic more complicated patterns,
but be prepared for a lot more cutting. Any layout can have an interesting effect. During this
design phase, decide where any light fixtures will fit and make allowance for them.
Use a level to draw a line all the way around the room for the wall angle brackets. If any
measuring is done, it should be from the floor up, because the original basement ceiling may not
be level. Wall angles may be fastened with nails or screws and screw anchors depending on the
material of the walls. Cut them to fit with a handsaw. Before adding the suspension wires for the
ceiling, wire the light fixtures. Drop in recessed lighting fixtures fit neatly within the grid brackets,
but other styles of light may be centered within the proposed grid. Measure to determine
Add in the suspension wires. This is the first visual indication of the grid. Use eye hooks to
secure them to the ceiling and stretch them to straighten them. Main and cross tee brackets can
be added. The main brackets should be the length of the room. They fit into the angle brackets
at the head and foot of the room. Place them at intervals according to the 2′x2′ or 2′x4′ layout.
Cross tees are cut to fit the grid pattern in either 2′ or 4′ lengths. They fit into catches on the
main tee brackets. Attach the brackets to the ceiling wires for additional support.
When the grid is finished, add the decorative tiles and place any additional lighting. Make sure
to modify any ceiling tiles as needed to accommodate the lighting.
With the right materials and grid design, a drop ceiling can add interest to any finished
institutional ceiling tiles. Many preformed decorating options exist today. Creative homeowners
can even choose to apply faux finish techniques or tile with alternative materials for a unique