A suspended ceiling is a popular choice when it comes to finishing a basement, since the panels can be removed for access to plumbing and wiring and other duct work. Installing one is fairly straight forward, especially once you understand how everything goes together.
Wall angle:An “L” shaped piece of aluminum which comes in 12 foot lengths. This gets attached to the walls around the room . It supports the ends of the main tees and cross tees as well as the ceiling panels.
Main Tee: This is the most important part of the system. The main tees come in lengths of 10 feet and are suspended by wire from the floor joists. The main tees support the cross tees and the ceiling panels.
Cross Tee: Exactly as the name implies, cross tees intersects with the main tees. Available in 2 foot or 4 foot lengths.
Ceiling Panel: The ceiling panels sit in the grid created by tees and wall angles. There are a number of styles to choose from. If you need to do a lot of cutting, a random pattern will probably be best as there is less waste.
Other materials: Aviation snips, wire to hang the grid, nails or screws, sharp utility knife for cutting the panels, framing square, tape measure, level, etc.
The first step is to put up the wall angles around the room. There should be roughly 3 inches clearance from the lowest obstruction being covered by the ceiling. Locate this point and use a level to mark the line around the room. A laser level is ideally suited for this purpose, so if you want to buy one, this provides your excuse. If the floor boards above are level, there is another option. Simply locate the point three inches below the lowest obstruction, and measure its distance from the floor joist. Then all you need is a tape measure to make your marks around the room. The same measurement will also be used for installing the main tees. For greater accuracy, you can cut a piece of wood to act as a measuring stick. Again, this only works if your floor boards are reasonably level, since the resulting ceiling will be parallel with them.
Installing the Wall angle
I attached the wall angle with screws. All the major obstructions such as the duct work and main support beam had already been boxed in.
The outside corners are mitered. Rather than miter the inside corners, I chose to simply butt the angles up to each other. Not only was it faster and easier than cutting 45 degree angles, it also reduced the probability of measuring errors.
A better way to do miter joints is to only cut a miter on one piece and overlap the other piece.
Installing the Main Tees
I chose to use the most prominent wall as the reference point for installing the main tees. In my case, the main beam is an obstruction which runs the entire length of the basement, so I installed the first main tee parallel with it. I figured out how far from the reference point to install the first main tee by determining how many panels were required for the width of the section and dividing so that the full size panels would be centered. I drove nails in every other floor joist to wrap the wire around. Measuring from the floor boards as I had for the wall angles, I bent the wire at the point required to suspend the main tee so it was even with the angles. The wire was fed through the nearest hole in the main tee and twisted around itself. Main tees are installed 4 feet apart. To determine the position of the next main tee, I first installed a couple of cross tees to the main tee already in place, and a section of the main tee about to be hung.
Installing the Cross Tees
The main tees have slots every foot to accept the cross tees. The cross tees simply snap in place. Make sure when two cross tees meet in the same slot that they get installed on the correct side of each other or else they won’t line up.
Installing the Panels
The full size panels are easiest to install. Where panels have to be cut, care has to be taken when measuring so that the cuts are made in the right places. It is very easy to reverse the measurements when you take measurements while looking up and then transfer the measurements looking down at the panel. A sharp utility knife is adequate for cutting the panels. I used a drywall circle cutter to start the cut-outs for the recessed lights. Remember when cutting the panel to allow a little extra room so the panel will easily drop in the grid during installation.
Beyond the basic white ceiling tiles
The main complaint about suspended ceilings is that they have an institutional look about them. But you are not limited to the basic white tiles commonly found in your local home building supply store. DecorativeCeilingTiles offers Drop/Suspended Ceiling Tiles (affiliate link) in over 200 designs including real and faux metal so your suspended ceiling can have a definite “wow” factor.