How to Remove Drop Ceiling Tiles - The Easiest Way to Get the Job Done

Written by Milan Jara on 7th Jul 2022

Drop Ceiling Tiles

Wondering how to remove drop ceiling tiles? There are several reasons for needing to do this renovation. We outline the easiest, safest, and best way to do this.

Drop ceiling tiles are typically found in basements, offices, and rec rooms. One of their benefits is that they are easy to install. They also allow homeowners to easily access electrical, plumbing, and mechanical items above the ceiling. However, there are times when homeowners want or need to replace them. We teach you how to remove drop ceiling tiles.

Why Is it Good to Know How to Remove a Drop Ceiling Tile?

Drop Ceiling Tiles

There are several situations when you may need to remove a drop ceiling tile. Tiles for a suspended ceiling, like many other materials, have an expiration date, and you will need to replace the old tiles periodically. However, there are other reasons for needing to have them removed, ranging from water damage to upgrading your ceiling.

Water Damage

Water leaking from above may stain a drop ceiling. It can come from a leaky bathtub, sink, or any other faucet in your home. A water stain can turn a ceiling tile an unsightly yellowish color. If the ceiling is light-colored, this stain shows up in the worst way, and you will need to replace the damaged tile.

Requiring Access to Utility Lines

Sometimes, you will need to reach the utility lines running across your basement ceiling if you ever need to do any plumbing or electrical work. Then you will need to learn how to pop them up and take them out.


Sometimes, it is time for a change. If you ever wanted to change the color of your drop ceiling tiles, you will quickly discover they can be paint hogs. Depending on the material, they absorb paint quickly.

Or you may just want to install a new ceiling and upgrade your space. Removing the drop ceiling and the grid system isn’t terribly involved. You can do this in a few easy steps.

Tiles Are Past Expiration Date

Suspended ceilings tend to use gypsum tiles. They are nice, at first. However, as time marches on, they discolor or become easily damaged. You can keep the ceiling looking new by learning how to replace them. Plus, taking them out isn’t a terribly difficult job. It can just be hard on the muscles, depending on how large the room is.

How to Remove Drop Ceiling Tiles

Drop Ceiling Tiles

Drop ceiling tiles aren’t difficult to remove. You can easily do it in a few simple steps. However, when taking them out, make safety a top priority. As mentioned, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing may be lurking overhead. You want to take extra precautions to ensure you don’t injure yourself or those around you.

  1. Cover the floor with protective material. If you have gypsum ceiling tiles, they may easily crumble around the edges, especially if they are old. You should protect the floors using newspaper, tarps, or drop cloths.
  2. Position your step ladder underneath the tile you are removing. If you can’t reach the ceiling while standing, you will need a boost. Using a ladder and getting a better view allows you to remove the tile with less damage to the edges.
  3. Remove ceiling tiles from the ceiling frame. Each tile rests in place on a T-shaped metal frame that forms the ceiling grid. Push upwards from the bottom side of the tile with both hands to prevent falling debris.
  4. Angle the tile so it will fit through the frame. Keep pushing up until the tile moves away from the grid. Since the tile itself is larger than the opening, when you angle it, it will securely rest on the frame. You will need to turn the tile at a 45° angle to one side of the grid so that it clears it. Then, you can slide it down and out.
  5. Pull out the tile from the frame. Slowly lower the tile through the frame and place it on the protective floor covering. Gypsum tiles can be put into the garbage or recycled in designated areas.
  6. Address issues causing the damage. Once fixed, you can replace the tile.

If you are completely removing the grid system:

  1. Flip the circuit breaker. Shut off electricity to this area as a safety precaution.
  2. Disconnect each light fixture. Many ceilings have light fixtures. If you are replacing the whole ceiling, you will need to disconnect each light fixture from the electrical supply wire. To avoid electric shock, be sure to use wire nuts that will cover any exposed ends.
  3. Cut any support wires attached to lights. Once these are out, you can safely remove the lights from the drop ceiling.
  4. Use metal wire or string to support vents/returns. This ensures they will not fall out once you remove the grid.
  5. Cut/remove remaining support wires attached to the grid.
  6. Unsnap the short Ts from the main Ts. After you do this, remove them. Continue to remove the Ts until they are all gone.
  7. Take off the support wires from joists. Now that the wires are cut at the bottom section, you must cut where they are fastened to the joists to free the grid.
  8. Utilize a drill to remove screws. These are used to hold the support wires in place.
  9. Remove the wall track. Once this is done, you have finished removing your drop ceiling. The wall track tends to be screwed or nailed into the wall.

In determining how to remove drop ceiling tiles, you must be prepared. The floor should be protected, and if you are removing any fixtures, be sure that you turn off the electricity to the area. If you are doing any electrical, plumbing, or anything else, it is a wise idea to remove electricity. Always ensure safety is your top priority.

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