How to Install a Suspended or Drop Ceiling

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Measuring tape
  • Straight edge
  • Chalk line or laser level
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Wire cutting pliers
  • Hammer
  • String
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses
Materials Required
  • Ceiling tiles or panels
  • Screw eyes
  • Metal sections
    (wires, runners, cross
    tees, wall angle)

Before You Begin


Here's how to install a suspended or drop ceiling. First, store and install tiles or panels in an area with a temperature range of 60° to 80°F and not more than 70% relative humidity. Remove panels from the cartons 24 hours before installation and allow them to adjust to normal interior conditions of the area where you plan to install the ceiling.

Lay out the design for panels

Measure the room and plan the layout of panels (tiles) following suggestions of the manufacturer. You want them equal in size on opposite sides of the room. Plan to position the runners so they run perpendicular to the ceiling joists and installed on 4-foot centers. The minimum space between the old ceiling or joists and the new ceiling is 4 inches.

1. To calculate the length of the border panel divide width of the room by length of single panel (9’/4) = 2’ with a remainder 1’. Add remainder 1’ to length of panel (4’+1’) = 5’. Divide by 2 (5’/2) = 2’ 6". The length of border panel is 2’6’’ feet

2. To calculate the width of the border panel divide length of room by width of single panel (10’ 9’’/2) = 5’ remainder 6’’. Add remainder 6’’ to width of panel (2’+ 6’’) = 2’ 6’’. Divide by 2 (2’ 6’’/2) = 1’3’’. The width of border panel is 1’ 3’’ feet

Not sure you want to tackle this job? Here's a link to Home Advisor, a free referral service that matches homeowners with local ceiling contractors.

  • Step 1 : Mark ceiling height

    Allow for at least 4 inches of clearance between the old ceiling and the new ceiling, then add the height of the wall angle and mark this position on a wall. Use a level to extend a line down the wall and continue the line around the corner to the adjacent wall. Continue using the level to extend this line down the wall around the corner and down the third wall. Mark the line on the fourth wall by stretching a chalk line between the lines on the opposite walls and snapping it to mark the fourth wall.

  • Step 2 : Install the wall angles

    Align the bottom of the wall angles with the chalk line, then fasten the wall angles to the studs with a nail or screw. At corners cut the wall angle to fit against the adjacent wall. Butt the end of the next wall angle against the wall angle on the first wall; the other end should butt against the third wall. Continue installing the wall angles until you have all four walls covered.

  • Step 3 : Install hanger wires

    In this example for a 10’ 9’’ x 9’ room, snap a chalk line for the main beams 2’ 6’’ from the wall. Snap another line the same distance from the opposite wall. Begin in the center of the room and screw in wire hangers in the joist and then another wire hanger 4’ on either side. Do the same on the other line. Thread hanger wires through the holes in the hangers and securely wrap the wire around itself 3 times.

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