Installing a Drop Ceiling in a Basement Laundry

Steve Watson and crew demonstrate how to make a semi-finished basement laundry room more presentable by installing a drop ceiling.

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After: A drop ceiling, though not the most luxurious of ceiling options, is sufficient for this basement utility room, and quite an improvement over bare joists and wiring.

Materials and Tools:

suspended-ceiling kit
2'x4' florescent light box
eye hooks
carbide blade miter saw
table saw
tin snips
measuring tape
level
safety glasses

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Steps:

The ceiling area for this project is 14 feet long by 11 feet wide. For lighting, we will install a 2'x4' florescent lighting fixture that will fit with the 2'x4' panels.

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1. To begin, determine the exact height at which the suspended ceiling will be installed. Allow a minimum of three to four inches clearance between the old ceiling and the new ceiling for installation of the ceiling panels. After locating the exact position for the suspended ceiling, use a level to draw a line completely around the room indicating where the wall angle will be applied.

Important: Don't assume the original ceiling is level. Use a level for accuracy. Also, position the wall angle low enough to conceal as many pipes, ducts, etc., as possible.

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2. Fasten the wall angles, or tracks, securely to the wall at all points. Nail them firmly to studs, or use screw anchors or other masonry fasteners on brick or masonry walls. Position the wall angle so that the bottom flange rests on the level line you have drawn on the wall. Overlap the wall angle on inside corners, and miter the wall angle on outside corners. Cut any needed angles with metal cutting snips or a hacksaw. Set the wall angle low enough to conceal as many pipes, ducts, etc., as possible.

3. For the recessed lighting fixture, install the wiring before putting the suspension wires in place.

4. The suspension wires are used to support the main tees: long running framework of the drop ceiling. Main tees should always run at right angles to the joists in the room. Locate the position of each main tee by stretching a tight line from the top edge of the wall angle on all sides of the room at each position where the main tees are to be placed.

5. Cut the suspension wires to the proper length. The wires should be 12" longer than the distance between the old ceiling and the new guideline string you have stretched to indicate the position of each main tee. Locate the first suspension wire for each main tee directly above the point where the first cross tee meets the main tee. Check your original sketch of the room to determine this location. Be sure the suspension wires are securely fastened. Apply them to the ceiling with screw eyes, screw hooks, nails, or drilling. Attach a suspension wire every 4' along the level guideline. Stretch each wire to remove any kinks and make a 90-degree bend where the suspension wire crosses the level line.

6. Most main tees are 12 feet long and have cross tee slots punched every 12 inches, beginning 6 inches from each end. Measure this distance along the top flange of the main tee and locate the slot just beyond this point. From this slot, measure back the same distance, subtract 1/8" and saw the main tee at that point. The 1/8" subtraction is for the thickness of the wall angle. If the wall angles are not square, position the cross tee slots accordingly. Since the room is less than 12 feet across, cut the main tee to the exact measurement of the room, allowing 1/8" for the thickness of the wall angle.

7. Install the main tees so that they are all level with the wall angle already mounted. Use a long level for this.

8. Install the cross tees by inserting the ends of the cross tees into the slots in the main tees. Border cross tees are installed between the wall angle and the last main tee. Measure from the last tee to the wall angle, allowing 1/8" for the thickness of the wall angle. Cut the cross tees and install them by inserting the connector in the main tee and resting the cut edge on the wall angle.

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9. Drop the ceiling panels into position by tilting them slightly, lifting them above the framework and letting them fall into place. Use a table saw to custom cut the border panels.

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