By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Want to cover up a maze of electrical wires, plumbing lines and heating duct in the basement? The best solution we know is a suspended or drop ceiling that incorporates 24-inch square or 24- by 48-inch panels in a metal grid. A suspended ceiling is also used to lower or level and existing ceiling often a concern in large older homes.
The metal grid is permanently fastened to an old ceiling or from exposed floor joists; the ceiling panels are then placed in the grid. That means a damaged panel can be quickly and easily replaced, and it's no trouble to access the lines and wires for repair work. Compared to a permanent drywall ceiling, this removability factor is a plus.
A contractor will charge $1,160 to install a drop ceiling in a 15-by-20-foot room using 24-inch square panels, which includes the labor and material. If you have some carpentry experience you can buy the grid and panels for $300, the drop ceiling installation cost, saving 74 percent. The job will cost more if you incorporate recessed or surface-mounted lighting.
When you’re planning a ceiling in a room, figure you need at least a 7-foot ceiling height. The channels usually require about six inches of space below the lowest obstacle or pipes in the ceiling, which gives you a finished ceiling height of about 6 ½-feet. That’s the minimum ceiling height for most building codes.
You'll need the following tools and equipment: tape measure or measuring rule, straight edge, hammer, carpenter's level, utility knife, tin snips, line wire cutting pliers, string and chalk, safety glasses and a ladder (two, if you have a helper). You'll spend the most time planning the grid layout and installing it; inserting the tiles goes quickly, which completes the job.
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To make layout easier and be assured that the ceiling is level, rent or buy a laser level.
That sums it up. Knowing the average cost to install a drop ceiling lets you compare doing it yourself with what you can expect to pay a contractor. To customize the cost to where you live add your ZIP Code in the cost box.
Cost updated 2013