A suspended ceiling is built by hanging a metal grid from ceiling joists and attaching various tiles to the grid in order to create a single surface. While creating a suspended ceiling is more work than putting up a traditional plasterboard ceiling, the benefits often make the work worthwhile. With a suspended ceiling you create an easily accessible cavity between the joists and the ceiling surface where wires, pipes and ductwork can be located. It's not a difficult project to pull off, and with the right tools and techniques it's very possible to do it yourself.
Building a suspended ceiling offers you a good deal of control over the design of the ceiling, not just in look but in function. Most suspended ceilings are tile based, with the ceiling surface consisting of a series of tiles dropped into the metal grid. This allows you a wide choice in tile materials. The tiles used in your ceiling can be made of fire resistant materials, or they can be sound absorbent, or purely decorative. You can chose from a variety of colours and styles, including tiles that look like marble, oak or stucco. With such a wide choice of available tiles, your ceiling can be made to accentuate the decor of a room, changeable as needs arise.
Along with the design benefits, a DIY suspended ceiling costs far less that a professionally installed one. In 2009, the cost for a contractor to install a suspended ceiling in a 12 by 15ft. would average £211, while the DIY cost is only about £94.
Installing the Grid
You'll want to begin your suspended ceiling installation by establishing the height of the new ceiling. You should check local building codes, as a minimal height may be required. Check the level of the floor for sloping and then measure an even, level ceiling at the desired height, marking the level lines of your ceiling on the walls. After establishing the level, you'll want to nail your wall mouldings to the wall.
Now mark with chalk the areas you'll be hanging the runners across the bottoms of the ceiling joists. When you've plotted out the runners, install the wire fasteners and hanger wire that will support them to the joists. Make sure the hanger wire is long enough to fall below your ceiling level by at least six inches.
Create a reference grid using string extended from the wall mouldings and following the paths the runners will take. This reference grid will provide you a necessary guide when cutting the runners. When the grid is complete, begin cutting your runners, taking note of the cross tee sections where they will be installed to form the metal grid for the tiles. The cross tees are 48in. pieces of metal that are placed perpendicular to the runners. You'll have to cut the runners so that the cross tees intersect exactly or your ceiling will not install correctly.
When you've cut the runners, begin installing them using your reference grid as a guide. The metal hangers should be bent at the reference grid level so that they can be attached to the runners in order to suspend them. Install the runners, and then mount the cross tees between the rows of runners to complete the grid. If the runners were cut and installed correctly, the cross tees, once installed, should form a perfectly square grid.
Installing the Panels
Once the grid has been installed, all that's left of the job is the panel installation. Installing the panels is as simple as slipping them through the grid and dropping them into the grid square. For border areas of the grid, some panel cutting may be necessary, but once the panels have all been put into place your suspended ceiling is complete. There are panels created with lighting fixtures; these fixtures only require that you wire them into the electrical system of the room, and that the wires be run through the cavity above the ceiling.