How to Update Drop Ceiling Tiles

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Carpenter's level
Heavy-duty pliers

Among the many benefits of drop ceiling tiles is the ability to change them out quickly and easily. Small rooms can be changed in minutes, using different ceiling patterns or colors to completely change the look of the room. Even if you rarely change out the tiles, it is a good idea to check the level of the ceiling from time to time as well as to perform routine maintenance.

Step 1 - Inspect the Ceiling

Visually inspect the drop ceiling for tiles that do not properly fit the opening or are raised along one side. Many times, tiles which are out of alignment are an indication that some adjustment is needed on the hangers.

Check the ceiling grid with a carpenter’s level, especially in suspect areas. It is a good idea to spot check the entire ceiling. The area around recessed lighting often bears more weight than other areas. That can result in sagging.

Step 2 - Inspect the Grid

Make sure that all of the joints in the grid fit snugly together. Except for edges and special cut-ins, the grid should consist of straight runs of T-shaped mains, crossed at intervals to define the actual tile sizes. Most pieces have interlocking clips that hold together, but these clips will slide out of their groove and need to be re-inserted. Replace any missing or damaged pieces of the grid.

Step 3 - Remove the Panels

To remove ceiling panels, push upward gently on one side. If the tile seems to be jammed, wriggle it gently from side to side as you press upwards. If that fails to release the panel, remove those around it. Place your hands above and below the problem panel, lifting it out one edge first. Ceiling tiles are very fragile. They must be handled with care to prevent breaking and scratching. When tile must be stacked, place it face-to-face and back-to-back so that the faces only contact other faces.

Step 4 - Inspect the Grid Wires

The gird wires are where you will make any adjustments to the ceiling grid. Using a pair of heavy-duty pliers, grip the hanger wire horizontally at the point where it loops through the grid and then wraps around itself. Twist the wire in the direction of the existing wrap, and the ceiling will raise slightly with each small twist. In rare circumstances, a grid wire may need to be added or replaced.

Step 5 - Replace the Panels

Insert the ceiling tiles. One at a time, with one corner slightly lifted, slide the tile upwards into the opening until the grid has been cleared. Lower the tile back down so that all edges are support by the rails of the ceiling grid. If a tile does not fall into place properly, try wriggling it gently from side to side.

You can also lightly tap it upward and let its weight pull it down. Never force suspended ceiling tiles into place. If the opening is not large enough, adjust the grid. Tiles only have to be specially cut for edges and custom designed ceiling areas, never for the main part of the drop ceiling.