How to Install Drop Ceiling Tiles - Tips & Tricks for a Simple Installation

Written by Milan Jara on 20th Aug 2022

Install Drop Ceiling Tiles

Wondering how to install drop ceiling tiles? We take you through the journey from installing the grid ceiling to tips on how to properly install just the tiles.

Installing drop ceiling tiles isn’t a complicated process, but it is time-consuming. We begin by instructing you on installing drop ceiling tiles from scratch, starting with installing the grid panel. If you only need to know how to install the tiles, you can scroll to the end of the article.

Required Tools

Experts advise having all necessary tools before beginning drop ceiling tile installation. Doing so will save time. You’ll be aware of any missing items and save on the frustration of searching for things you need.

  • Chalk line
  • Carpet knife
  • Clamps
  • Drill bit set
  • Drywall circle gauge
  • Cordless drill
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Tin snips
  • Lag screwdriver
  • String lines
  • Pop-in riveter
  • Gloves

Required Material

This is a list of materials you need before starting the project.

  • Ceiling grid materials
  • Acrylic caulk

How to Install Drop Ceiling Tiles

If you are starting from scratch and installing your drop ceiling, experts advise that you begin laying out your ceiling grid using graph paper. Measure and sketch your ceiling so you can correctly position the grid. You will also be able to add up any materials you need, and it helps provide you with the same size panels for each side of your room.

You should include any heat register, ceiling fan, or light fixture in your planning as you will need to know where to place them. Use a centered tile row or tee to bisect your room at its center.

Experts also advise rounding up to an even number. For example, if your measurements for your room are 9’ x 11’, order enough tiles to cover a 10’ x 12’ room. This extra ensures you have enough should you make a or if a tile breaks, and you can keep the extras when you’re done, so you have extra in case one needs replacing due to damage down the line.

Nail Up Your Wall Angle

Select the lowest ceiling height where a ceiling tile can clear without obstruction, like ductwork, electrical, or plumbing lines. Nail the angle at each stud using 1 ¼” drywall nails. Avoid nailing near or on corner beads, as this is a quick way to generate cracks and nail pops.

Run your wall angle long, cut it at the bottom, and bend for the corner, finishing it with a slip-on corner.

Utilize Fence Staples

Using fence staples will allow you to hold your angle tightly. To do this, drill and slide a fence staple in to anchor the angle to your wall if there are no nearby studs. This approach is helpful if there are gaps. In the event of a severe bow, cutting a lower part of your channel may be necessary, allowing it to bend and follow a contour.

Run Your Guide Strings or Drive in Your Hanging Screws

Measure and create guide strings to hang your fasteners better as you begin your project. Offset your strings by ½” so they line with the tee sides rather than using the center. You can wrap the string ends around a nail. Secure it to wall angles using a spring clamp.

Drill a hanging screw by sighting along your string to both positions. These do not need to be centered perfectly. Acoustical eye lag screws need a special driver, which you can purchase if required.

Line up Your Cross Tee Slot

Once you establish the border tile row’s size, measure backward from your cross-tee slots. Then, cut the main tees to the appropriate size. Never assume you are working with a straight wall. Instead, use your string to ensure all cross-tee slots are appropriately aligned for your ceiling tile installation.

Pop in Your Rivets to Hold Them into the Grid Square

Once a few main tees are hung and placed into your 8’ to 12’ cross tees, you can begin to perfect your grid system. Examine the openings for their diagonal measurements. When square, rivet your main tees and cross tees to your wall angle.

Use a Grid Punch to Make Rivet Holes

This step speeds up the riveting method for your suspended ceiling. Drilling the hole is okay, but it is slow. Grid punches will save time, especially if you have more than one project in mind.

Cut Your Flanges

The best way to cut main tees to the proper length is to cut the bottom flange first using both directions. Cut the stem last, allowing for a flat, clean cut.

Scribe Shadow Lines

Cut your border panels and place them into the track. Score a shadow line and remove the panel, cutting along the shadow line.

Use a Finger for a Depth Gauge

Use Finger For Depth Gauge

Follow the established scribe line. First, cut halfway through the panel face. Then, cut through the side to finish it. You can use your fingers to gauge depth. Gloves will protect your hands and prevent the oil on your hands from smudging the panel.

Mark Holes With Drywall Circle Gauge

You can scribe holes using a drywall circle gauge. Then, make any cuts with a drywall saw for areas that require a cut-out for recessed lights or a ceiling fan. These tools allow you to make cuts in any size. Once done, you can place them in the ceiling grid.

Repair Ceiling Panels Using Flat Latex Caulk

If a panel is damaged, use some white caulk to patch it. Use a flat latex caulk as silicone is more visible than a hole. If the damage is bigger than a pencil eraser, you may want to place the panel to the side and use it as a partial.

When you put tiles into the grid, it is best to put them in at an angle so they have enough room to clear the grid without snagging. Once cleared, push them up, angle them into place, and lower them into the grid. And that's it! That's all you need to know for drop ceiling installation.

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