Suspended Ceiling or Drywall?

suspended ceiling

If you're considering finishing your basement you're quite likely faced with the old question: Should I install a drywall ceiling or a suspended (drop) ceiling?

Drywall will give your ceiling a smooth, finished appearance. Some people think suspended ceilings look cold and institutional; however, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of ceiling. Here are some thoughts on the pros and cons of each option.

Ceiling Height

Ceiling height can be an issue, particularly in a basement renovation. Since drywall can be attached directly to the main floor joists you will lose less that 1-inch of ceiling height if you install drywall. Suspended ceilings require anywhere from 3-6-inches of space below the floor joists, although some manufacturers claim their tiles require as little as 2-inches of clearance. Either way, they will lower your ceiling.

In newer homes, the extra space a suspended ceiling needs is seldom a concern; however, in older homes basements are shallower and a suspended ceiling may not be a viable option. Alternatively, if there are electrical wires or plumbing pipes running on the underside of the joists, it's impossible to install drywall before relocating the wires or pipes. It add extra cost to your ceiling.

Suspended Ceilings Allow Access

Since it's against building codes to permanently cover electrical junction boxes with drywall, suspended ceilings have a definite advantage Covering junction boxes or plumbing with a suspended ceiling is not against any building code since access is simple.

Potential Damage From Above

Water flows downhill. Basement ceiling can be particularly at risk to water coming from the main floor. An overflowing sink, a backed up toilet, or even a malfunctioning refrigerator can all send a deluge of water onto your basement ceiling, permanently staining it.

Water stains on a drywall ceiling generally mean large sections of the ceiling will need to be removed and the entire ceiling will have to be refinished. Alternatively, a stained suspended ceiling tile can be repaired by replacing the single stained tile.

Acoustic Properties

Do you plan to have a TV on your lower level for your children to play video games? Drywall attached directly to floor joists will have very little sound blocking capability, so noise from the basement will come right up through the floor. You can buy special sound blocking drywall or mount the drywall onto a "resilient" channel designed to block sound transfer; however, both options will add extra cost to your project. They will also minimize one advantage of drywall since they will lower your ceiling. Suspended ceilings are generally made from sound absorbing materials that reduce sound transfer, helping keep basement sound away from the main floor.

Concerned About the Appearance?

Ceiling tiles are now commonly available in different sizes as well as a number of different colors and finishes. Some even resembling an old fashioned tin ceiling. You have many options with a suspended ceiling.