How to Install a Drop Ceiling With Exposed Pipes
While many traditional ceiling materials, such as drywall and ceiling tiles, install directly against the joists or flat ceiling surface, a drop ceiling installs several inches beneath ceiling joists or the ceiling surface. If you have a room with exposed pipes, a drop ceiling provides an ideal option, because it leaves space above the visible ceiling where the pipes can be left exposed without being seen. The installation of a drop ceiling to a ceiling with exposed pipes is much the same as the installation of a drop ceiling to any other ceiling surface.
Find the lowest exposed pipe in the room and measure from the ceiling down to the bottom of the exposed pipe, then add 1 inch. If the distance is at least 4 inches from the ceiling, use the measurement that you took as the measurement for your drop ceiling. Measure the same distance down from the ceiling in one corner of the room, marking both walls in that corner, and repeat the measurements in every other corner of the room.
Use a snap chalk line to make a line across one wall of the room from the mark at one end of the wall to the mark at the other end of the wall. Repeat the process on every wall of the room to create a straight line that goes all the way around the room.
Find the wall studs along the line that you made in the room with a stud finder if the walls are drywall. Mark each stud that you find with chalk.
Place a wall angle on one wall so that the bottom of the wall angle rests against the line that you made on the wall. Attach the angle to the wall with wood screws if the wall is drywall or concrete is the wall is concrete. Drive the screws through the premade holes in the wall angle and into studs when you can. Repeat the process until you have put wall angles around the entire room.
Move along one wall of the room and find the ceiling joists in the room using the stud finder, marking the ceiling as you find each joist. Once you locate the joists, measure 4 feet down each joist, mark the spot and then measure in 4-foot increments down the remainder of the joist. If a pipe is in the way of any of these measurements, mark the ceiling as closely as you can to the 4-foot marks.
Snap chalk lines between the marks that you made going down each joists, and then snap chalk lines between the marks that line up in the opposite direction to make a checkerboard on the ceiling. If a pipe lies in the way of snapping chalk lines, or prevented you from marking the ceiling at a 4-foot mark, use a straightedge between the marks that you cannot snap a line between, and draw a chalk line between those marks to create the straightest line that you can across the ceiling.
Attach an eyehook to the ceiling at each 4-foot mark that you made going down the joists. Thread a piece of wire through an eyehook in the corner of the room and run it the length of the joist, threading it through each eyehook that it passes, and then repeat the process going in the opposite direction across the room. Repeat for all of the eyehooks in the room, running wire down every row in the room to create the same chalk grid pattern on the ceiling with wire.
Set the end of a drop ceiling bracket onto the wall angle on one side of the room so the bracket lines up with one of the grid lines above. Attach the bracket to the wires running across the ceiling by threading a piece of wire through each hole on the drop ceiling bracket and wrapping it around the wire above. Repeat this process for every line in the grid, recreating the wire grid pattern with brackets.
Add the tiles to the drop ceiling once you place all of the brackets. Install each individual tile by lifting it up through the brackets, turning it so that it lines up with square opening in the bracket and placing it on the bracket.
Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.