How to Install a Hanging Ceiling

Hanging ceilings go by a variety of names, including drop ceilings or suspended ceilings, and these ceilings can offer a variety of advantages. The tiles are suspended or hanging from a metal grid that is attached to the roof structure. The space between the roof and ceiling tiles provides easier soundproofing and fire-resistant properties than traditional ceilings. If you have decided that hanging ceilings are for you, most ceiling companies will offer professional installation. However, experienced do-it-yourselfers may try to perform the task.

Step 1

Measure from the current roof structure down the wall 4 inches; this is the minimum distance required between the ceiling and the hanging tiles. If you intend to use recessed lighting, measure at least 6 inches.

Step 2

Trace a line around all walls at the 4 inch mark. Use a level to make sure your lines are straight; you will install a piece of the ceiling grid along this line.

Step 3

Locate the studs along the perimeter line with a stud finder; mark these with a pencil. These will be the spots for nails that will hold your molding in place.

Step 4

Nail perimeter molding in place on all four walls. Line up the top of the molding with your perimeter line and be sure to put nails into the studs. Put molding to the end of the wall and butt it to the molding on the next wall.

Step 5

Stretch string at the perimeter length, along the ceiling joists. Starting at one wall and perpendicular to the joists, measure 4 feet from the wall and hang a string perpendicular to the joists; this is the location for your main tee installation. Continue to measure and mark every 4 feet for a main tee. This string grid will help you visualize the location of your parts.

Step 6

Cut suspension wire 12 inches longer than the distance between the ceiling and the guide wires you just hung. Attach a suspension wire to the ceiling with eye hooks; drill in the hook and then wrap the wire at least three times around to secure it. Install an eye hook and suspension wire every four feet along the main tee lines.

Step 7

Attach runners for the main tees. Line up the first runner with the perimeter molding and attach it to the first suspension wire in its path. You will see small holes along the runner; attach the suspension wire through these holes, wrapping at least three times for security.

Step 8

Continue to install runners all along the main tee lines. If the runners are not long enough to reach the far side of the room, join them together by the slots and tabs on their ends. If you need to join runners together, install an additional suspension wire to support the joint. If runners are too long, clip them off with tin snips.

Step 9

Install cross tee runners by sliding them into the locking slots on the main tee runners; follow exact manufacturer’s instructions for this connection, as the location of the locking slots can vary depending on the product. Install all cross tees, generally 2 feet apart.

Step 10

Cut smaller pieces of runners to join any short runners to the perimeter molding. This is only done if there are small gaps between the runners and molding; this may not apply to every project. Fit the small pieces into place between the main runners and molding; install more suspension wire at these pieces to support them.

Step 11

Install the hanging ceiling tiles or panels by pushing them through the gaps in the grid at an angle and then allowing them to drop into place. If necessary, cut panels with a utility knife to fit in smaller gaps or to work about any fixtures (such as heating ducts). Install all panels to complete the project.


  • Wear safety goggles and protective gloves if you have to cut the runners, molding or panels with tin snips or utility knives. This gear will protect your hands from sharp objects and your eyes from any small pieces of shrapnel that may fly from the cut edges.