Suspended (drop) ceilings are an inexpensive and practical way to install a new ceiling in your home. Unlike traditional plaster or drywall ceilings, suspended ceilings don't require any special skills or tools. They can be installed by any competent do-it-yourselfer. Here's how to go about installing your own suspended ceiling.
Your first task is to ensure that your room has sufficient height for a suspended ceiling. Measure the room to calculate your supply requirements, which include the number of ceiling tiles, main tees, cross tees, and side or "L" brackets needed to do the job. See Planning Your Suspended Ceiling.
Install the "L" Brackets
After purchasing your supplies, the next step is to install the side (L) brackets on the walls that will hold the outer edges of your ceiling tiles. These brackets should be positioned at least 4-inches below the ceiling joists to leave room to drop in the ceiling tiles. Cut the brackets to fit, using tin snips. Mitering them at 45° for outside corners and butt them together for longer walls. A laser level ensures that the starting point is accurate and level. Alternatively, you can measure carefully then use a long level to draw a line between the marks. You can also run a chalk line. Attach the side brackets by screwing them directly into the side walls.
Install the Main Runners
Before you start installing the main runners/tees, you need to determine how they will be laid out. The main tees need to be perpendicular to the floor joists and positioned 4-feet apart. Determining the proper placement of the main tees requires you to first find the center of your room, then measure out to the side walls. By starting from the center, your ceiling will end up with similar size tiles on each side of the room.
Main tees are available in 8, 10, and 12-feet lengths and interlocked at the ends for longer lengths. Also, just like the side rails, they can be cut to fit with tins snips for odd lengths. The tees are hung from pieces of 16-gauge wire, fastened to the underside of the floor joists, and positioned so they're level with the side brackets. Use pieces of string run across the room between the side brackets to ensure that the main tees are level with the side brackets.
Install the Cross Tees
After installing the main tees, it's time to install the cross tees to complete the grid pattern. The cross tees are made to fasten and lock into the main tees providing a solid grid for holding (suspending) the ceiling tiles. Don't start installing any of the cross tees before you have totally installed the main tees; otherwise, your grid may shift and end up slightly askew.
Install the Ceiling Tiles
Once the grid is finished, install your ceiling tiles by tilting them up to fit through the grid than simply drop them into place. Start installing your tiles at the center of the grid and work out to be sure it stays solid. Cut your side tiles using a sharp utility knife to minimize dust and any tearing of the tiles.