This article is a step by step guide to laying out and installing a suspended acoustical grid ceiling.
It explains nailing up the wall angle (molding), installing hanger wires and the grid, leveling the
grid, and installing the ceiling tiles.
Why Install an Acoustical Ceiling?
Why indeed? A suspended grid ceiling, otherwise known as an acoustical ceiling, can be a great
improvement in some areas of your home. For example, if youre
remodeling your basement or
turning it into a game room or a man cave with a tiki bar, a grid ceiling is easy to install and allows you to take advantage of can lights or florescent light fixtures that sit right in the grid.
If youd rather not DIY but would rather hire a pro, I recommend Angies List. They give you local recommendations.
Lets take a look at the tools and material needed to complete this project.
16 oz. straight-claw hammer
Tin snips (straight-cut aviation snips)
Pop rivet tool and pop rivets
Small clamps or vise grips
Laser level or water level (a link to instructions on how to make one is at the bottom of this article)
Acoustical ceiling grid (12 main runners, 4 Ts, 2 Ts optional).
Brand names include Donn and Armstrong.
Wall angle (molding)
12 ga. hanger wire
Nail up the Wall Angle
Determine the desired finish height of your new ceiling and strike chalk lines one inch (the height of the wall angle) above that on the
walls. Allow at least 4 inches below the ceiling joists or any obstructions to allow working space to later fit in the tiles.
Youll need more clearance for light fixtures, ect. In fact, if you are going to use drop-in fixtures rather than surface-mount, go to the store and size them before starting your project.
You will have to allow more clearance than just the thickness of the fixture because to install them you will have to angle them up to get them into the grid.
Youll want the ceiling to be level. You can use a laser in a room with straight walls, but when the space has a lot of corners or halls, I like to use a water level to transfer benchmarks.
I find it easier to mark the benchmarks at eye level at inside and outside wall corners and then and then measure up to strike the chalk lines. Nail up the wall angle; the chalk line is the top of it.
Making the Layout for the Ceiling Grid
The first step is to make the layout. Its easy to determine which way the main runners (or, just
mains) will go they will run perpendicular to the ceiling joists. They are spaced at 4 intervals,
connected every 4 with the 4 Ts. To determine their location, find the center point of
This can be either the center between two mains or the point where a main falls. Either way, it makes
for equal borders.
Mark off every 4 so you know where the mains are. Nail fence staples up into the ceiling joists and
hang your hanger wire. Allow about 4 below finish ceiling level.
Determine Where the Ts Will Fall
Find the center point on the other wall; this will give you a mark where a border T goes. Measure back
down the wall and make a mark each 2 and at the last 2 increment before reaching the
This is the first T. Now make a mark 6 past that. Measure the distance between the mark and the
wall and make that mark on the opposite wall and run a string line from mark to mark (connected to the wall
angle and pulled tight).
Hang the Ceiling Grid
Cut and hang two main runners so that one of the slots lines up with the string line. Fill in the
4 Ts. Pop rivet the mains to the wall angle. Now check the second 2' X 4' grid opening
for square by measuring diagonal corners for equality.
Pulling the assembly in the direction of the wall or pushing it away will allow you to find perfect
square. Cutting a T to the proper length and securing it to the wall angle will keep it there.
You may have to cut that border T shorter or longer to achieve this. When you've got it, make sure it's
straight by eyeballing down the 4' T and rivet it.
Now run a string line from the outside edge of that main
along the main by the edge where you just established squareness and clamp it to the opposite wall.
Using the two strings you can hang the rest of the field and maintain square. Squareness is extremely
important when it comes time to install ceiling tiles and drop-in
fluorescent light fixtures. Rivet
the border Ts on that wall and the mains on the string wall.
Hang the grid in a slight arc to make it easy to level down in the next step.
Level the Ceiling Grid
Simply run a taut string under each main in turn and level down to 1/16 from the string. If
making a 2 X 2 system, pop the 2 Ts in. You're done!
Install Your Ceiling Tiles
This is the easy part. First, use your tape measure and utility knife to cut the border tiles. If you
measure from the inside of the wall angle to just 1/8 inside the lip of the main or the T will give you good
coverage. Dont cut them too tight.
Next, install light fluorescent fixtures and air conditioning and heating registers. Finally, fill in
the full ceiling tiles. This is a great time to add insulation on top of the tiles.
Have you installed a suspended acoustical ceiling in your home? This type of project falls in the category of lessons learned. So, if you have any tips for our readers, please leave a comment below. Thanks!