Wood Furring Strips 2 - Tools, Materials, and Project Considerations

A man on a ladder installing white ceiling tiles.

Installing either a file or suspended ceiling in a 9 foot by 12 foot room will require 14 to 20 work hours, a host of tools and materials, careful planning, and two people.


  • 20- to 25-foot metal tape
  • Putty knife
  • Straightedge
  • Nails
  • Framing or combination square
  • Drywall pan
  • 2- to 4-foot level
  • Handsaw
  • Sharp utility knife
  • Nail belt
  • Ladder
  • Face mask
  • Hammer
  • Safety goggles
  • Chalk line
  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Miter box
  • String
  • Coping saw


  • Furring strips
  • Shims
  • Adhesive
  • Tiles

Permits and Codes

You probably won't need a permit to work on your ceilings, but check with your local building department just to be sure. Sometimes there is a minimum floor-to-ceiling height (usually 7 feet, 6 inches). Also, you will likely need to allow at least 5 inches between any lighting fixture and the old ceiling.


You can get ceiling tiles or panels that look like marble, oak, or other natural materials, with authentic hues, shades, veins, and striations. If you prefer traditional, white tiles, you can get patterns that replicate bleached wood, sculptured plaster, or rough-troweled stucco.

Ceilings aren't all about form either; they have useful functions as well (besides keeping the rain off your head). You can get soundproof acoustical tiles or fireproof tiles made of mineral fiber.

Most Common Mistakes

Because of the complexity of this project, there are many opportunities to mess up along the way. Read the following list and return back to it over the course of the project. You'll want to make sure you're doing the opposite of everything it says.

  1. Not planning the ceiling layout on paper first.
  2. Not checking local code for minimum ceiling height and clearance.
  3. Failing to plan grids so they avoid posts or columns.
  4. Measuring the ceiling height from a sloping floor, thereby creating a sloping ceiling.
  5. Not laying out runners such that border tiles will be half the size of a normal tile or larger.
  6. Not installing the runners level.
  7. Soiling the tiles during installation.
  8. Installing the ceiling without first completeling the rough wiring for the ceiling fixtures.
  9. Not allowing the required clearance between the old ceiling and new light fixtures.
  10. Not repairing leaks in the ceiling before suspending a second ceiling from it.
  11. Applying loose-fill or roll insulation directly on top of the ceiling panels rather than in the cavities between the joists.
  12. Installing a suspended ceiling when the original ceiling has embedded radiant-heat coils.