How to Hang a Drop Ceiling

A drop ceiling is good way to cover up an unsightly and damaged ceiling, and it requires very little alteration of your home. Installation of a drop ceiling requires plenty of measuring but virtually no structural changes to the ceiling. Despite the relative simplicity of the project, however, you may need a bit of guidance.The following steps will help you.

A drop ceiling is a relatively quick way to renew the look of a room.

Step 1

Decide on the style of ceiling you wish to hang. There several styles of drop ceilings. Panels come in several different sizes, with 2'x4' being the most common. Some drop ceilings are very simple, while some are quite fancy. However, just about all of them are the same when it comes to their mechanics. As with any decorating idea, your ceiling should generally match the decor of your room.

Step 2

Determine how many panels you will need.This can be done by sketching your ceiling on a piece of graph paper. The easiest way to ensure proper measurements is to designate one box on the graph paper to equal one square foot. You may then simply count how may panels you will need to do the job.

Step 3

Decide on a proper height for your ceiling. Most existing ceilings are around 8' high, with 7' 6" being the most common. In most areas, drop ceiling panels must be located 5" to 7" below light fixtures and 3" from water pipes. Before you proceed, bring the sketch of your project to your local building department. An inspector will verify these requirements and inform you of whether or not you need a building permit.

Step 4

Install your wall angles (runners). Once you have determined the proper height of your ceiling, you may begin installing your all angles. The first step in installing wall angles is to make sure they will be level when they are affixed to your wall. Use a level. Don't attempt to "eyeball" where your angles will be hung based the seam of your wall and ceiling. Chances are good that your ceiling isn't as level as it looks. Using your level as straightedge, draw a line around the perimeter of the room. This line will represent how far from from the original ceiling your angles will be located, thus determining how high your new drop ceiling will be from the floor. Once you have drawn the angle lines, nail them to the wall. Be sure to nail the angles to studs. If you are unable to locate studs, use a stud finder or fasten the angles to the wall with masonry screws. Pay close attention to the corners. Improperly mitered angles will result in a crooked drop ceiling.

Step 5

Install eye hooks for the suspension wires. These hooks are screwed into the existing floor joists (or suitable ceiling joists) above you, if you are installing the drop ceiling in your basement. They should be placed evenly, according the instructions in your ceiling kit. Once you have each hook in place, fasten the suspension wires to the hooks. Each wire should be cut to proper length. Inspect each wire to ensure that it is not bent or kinked.

Step 6

Install the main tees. The main tees are the runners that will suspend from your existing ceiling/floor framing and help make up your drop ceiling's grid. The tees should run at right angles to the existing joists or ceiling. To properly install the tees, first measure the distance along the top flange of each tee and locate the slot. You must compensate for the thickness of the wall runner. Measure each main tee and subtract that measurement of the runner's thickness. This is commonly 1/8". Saw each tee to the exact measurement of the room, subtracting the thickness of the runner. Fasten each main tee to the suspension wires, ensuring that each main tee is level with the wall angles.

Step 7

Fasten the cross tees to the main tees. This is done by inserting the ends of each cross tee into the slots on the hanging main tees. You will need to trim the cross tees closest to the walls to compensate for the thickness of the runner. After your cross tees are installed, your grid should be complete.

Step 8

Drop your ceiling tiles into the grid. If your calculations and measurements were correct, each panel should rest easily into each square. However, it is common for trimming of the panels to be required. This can be done with a utility knife for most types of lightweight tiles.


  • Contact your local building inspector before beginning your project.
  • Always wear safety glasses, gloves and respirators when working with ceiling tiles, plaster or drywall.
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