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In the basement where there are many ducts, pipes, and cables that may occasionally need maintenance, installing a suspended ceiling grid system makes a lot of sense. The installation is easy and will make the basement space more appealing. Suspended ceilings are also ideal for first floor bathrooms where there is a bathroom on the floor above to allow for plumbing access. Simply select the style of acoustical tile, design the room’s grid on paper, double-check the room’s measurements, and begin the installation. Add fluorescent drop-in light fixtures that are designed to fit within the ceiling’s grid design.
This suspended ceiling step-by-step installation guide is based on the room having wood construction walls.
If installing a suspended ceiling grid into a room that has masonry walls, the installation is virtually the same as that of wood construction. Simply use a masonry drill, bit, and screws.
If removing older tile, take care at how it is disposed of if it was installed before 1960 as there may be asbestos in the tiles.
Choose the style of the acoustical tile first and then begin the design, purchase, and installation work thereafter.
There are different types of acoustical tiles available. Keep in mind that regular tiles have recessed flanges that protrude below the grid roughly 1/4". Regular tiles may be tricky to cut and trim.
A licensed electrician may be needed to install light fixtures.
Check with local building codes before beginning work.
Check to find out whether permits are needed for the work before beginning.
An L-shaped molding spans the entire inside perimeter of the room.
From the L-shaped molding, main runners (the strongest structural stringers) will span from wall to wall at 4' spacing intervals. The main runners are supported by the L-shaped molding.
The suspended ceiling grid will need sufficient floor to joist height for installation.
The finished ceiling needs to be at least 7 1/2' tall; check local building codes however.
A suspended ceiling grid also needs at least 4" clear space between the joists and the structural T’s to maneuver the panels into place.
A total of 6"-8" between the joists and the bottom of the ceiling grid is also needed if fluorescent light fixtures will be installed into the grid.
Drawing and planning the ceiling grid on paper first is easier than manually planning the system by hand on the ceiling and rooms’ structure itself.
1.1 Draw an outline of the ceiling square footage with dimensions. For a small room, such as a half bath, use 24"x 24" tile. For rooms larger than a half bath, plan on using 24" x 48" tile for efficiency and economy. Sometimes 2' x 2' tile will be selected based on aesthetics and at other times a combination of the two types of tiles will be used for unique room configurations.
1.2 Draw a line down the center of the room in both directions.
1.3 Draw lines at 2' spacing along the longer of the two lines.
1.4 Draw lines at 4' spaces along the short length of the room. The result should be a grid that shows roughly how many tiles are needed for the room.
1.5 Adjust the drawing and redraw it by shifting the grid in different directions so that the least amount of tiles will be needed as well as the fewest number of cuts. Try the grid oriented in the opposite direction to see if tiles could be reduced.
1.6 If adding florescent light fixtures, then the room needs to be centered on the locations of the light fixtures, not the tile grids. If so, use the same planning principles, but first draw the light fixtures onto the floor plan so that they are centralized. Then, orient the grid’s design around the light fixture locations.
1.7 Take the drawing to the physical space where the ceiling will be installed. Make sure the drawn plan works in the space.
1.8 Retake measurements of the space before construction begins as a precautionary measure. Measure twice, install once.
2.1 Determine the height of the L-shaped moulding that spans the perimeter of the room. Locate the moulding 4" from bottom of the ceiling joists if the system will not have any drop-in fluorescent lights. Install the moulding 6"-8" from the bottom of the ceiling joists if installing fluorescent lighting fixtures. Before making final markings, check to make sure the bottom height of each joist is the same.
2.2 Mark several points along each wall with a level as a guideline.
2.3 Install the first length of moulding tight against one corner.
2.4 Install the second length of moulding into the starting point of the first piece of moulding.
2.5 Use tin snips to cut 45O angles for the other corners of the L-shape moulding.
2.6 Finish installing each length of the L-shaped moulding.
3.1 Install the main runners perpendicular to the ceiling joists at 4' space intervals. Based on the ceiling plan drawing for the suspended ceiling, plan for there to be enough main runners so that there is no greater than a 4' space between the main runner and the L-shaped moulding because these are the core structural supports for the entire system.
3.2 Use a chalk line to measure out and mark where the main runners will be installed.
3.3 To install the main runner, screw small eyebolts into every third joist along the chalk line.
3.4 Attach the 16-gauge wires to the eyebolts; twist the wire at the top around itself at least 3 times.
3.5 Stretch string across the room under the L-shaped perimeter moulding to help level the runners as they are installed. Use the spirit level to make sure the string is level.
3.6 Hold up the first runner and attach it to the hanging wires across the room until fully installed.
3.7 Complete the installation of all the main runners.
3.8 If the room is particularly long in one direction, a single runner may need to be extended by attaching it to another section of another runner. If so, attach the runner sections together at the slots and tabs at each end of a length of runner.
3.9 Add an extra wire support at each joint if there is an overly long section of a main runner.
3.10 Install the cross tee members at 2' space intervals along the main runners. The cross tees have a hook on each end that attaches to a slot on the main runners.
3.11 Install the final pieces that connect to the perimeter moulding around the room. Several runner sections will likely need to be cut to fit in at these end locations.
3.12 Square the grid. Measure across the diagonals of the 2' x 4' opening. The measurements will be the same if the grid is square. If the measurements are not the same, shorten one of the mains until the diagonals are equal.
Light fixtures and other utilities need their own structural support and not rely on the suspended ceiling grid or ceiling panels. It might be necessary to add extra hanging wires.
4.1 Encase the light fixture’s wiring into flexible metal conduit.
4.2 Attach the lighting fixture’s box onto a ceiling joist above.
4.3 Extend heating and cooling ductwork down so that it penetrates through the acoustical tile.
4.4 Cut holes through acoustical panels with a sharp utility knife to fit the ends of the ductwork. Make cuts with the fine surface of the tile facing upward.
4.5 Once the tile is installed with the end of the ductwork, install the ductwork diffusers onto the acoustical tile to finish the work.
5.1 Layout all the panels on the floor to make the installation easy.
5.2 Install each panel into the grid system.
5.3 Measure and cut any remaining tiles to fit out all the rest of the grid’s spaces and openings.
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