How to Install a Suspended Ceiling
In this guide, we show you how to fit a suspended ceiling. It’s not difficult, but it does require the right tools and a planned approach. Here’s how to get your suspended ceiling installation right.
are suspended ceilings installed?
Suspended ceilings sit below you main ceiling, helping to hide unsightly plaster, cables and trunking while boosting insulation, acoustic performance and more. As the name suggests, suspended ceilings use numerous fix points to hang from the ceiling above. They also perch on a perimeter trim or wall angle that runs around your room.
What tools do you need to install a suspended ceiling?
You’ll need the following tools for your suspended ceiling installation:
- Tape measure
- Sprit level
- Power drill with a masonry or timber drill bit depending on your wall/ceiling construction
- Sharp utility knife
- String line or laser line
What materials do you need to install a suspended ceiling?
Before we plan how to fix your suspended ceiling, let’s take a quick look at the materials you’ll be using:
- Perimeter or edge trim: This will run along the walls of your room at the height of your suspended ceiling. The main tees will sit on this.
- Main tees: These will usually run perpendicular to your ceiling joists and support the cross tees.
- 1200mm cross tees: These will connect at right angles to your main tees creating the lattice into which your 1200mm x 600mm ceiling tiles will fit.
- 600mm cross tees: For the more common 600mm x 600m suspended ceiling tile you’ll need to run 600mm cross tees between the 1200mm cross tees to create a grid of the right size.
- Suspension wire: The main tees will sit on the perimeter trim but will be supported across the room by suspension wire so they don’t sag. Each length of suspension wire will connect the main tees to the original ceiling using…
- …Brackets or wire hangers: Which fixing you use will depend on whether your suspended ceiling is sitting below timber joists, purlin clips or concrete:
- Choose wire hangers for concrete
- Choose purlin clips for metal purlins
- For timber joists (or plasterboard over timber joists) choose ceiling brackets
To find the quantities you need, use our wizard
For questions, please get in touch
Staying safe when installing a suspended ceiling
Metal tees can be sharp, especially when you’re cutting them to length. Always wear safety gloves and glasses.
Before you begin, ensure your steps are stable and make sure your working area is clear of obstructions.
Planning your suspended ceiling installation
There’s how to fit a suspended ceiling. Then there’s how to fit a suspended ceiling that looks great. The difference is in the planning.
The best suspended ceilings have ceiling tiles of equal size around their border, and it’s only through planning that you can achieve the equal spacing to deliver that.
Grab a piece of paper and a pencil (graph paper is best) and measure your room. Draw it to scale on the paper bearing in mind that:
- Your main tees will usually run perpendicular to ceiling joists.
- Each main tee should be 1200mm apart.
- 1200mm cross tees should run across the main tees at 600mm intervals. This will create a ceiling grid suitable for 1200mm x 600mm ceiling tiles.
- 600mm cross tees will bisect the 1200mm cross tees where your ceiling tiles are 600mm by 600mm.
- Mark suspension points on your plan. Fix points should start 400mm-600mm from each wall, then be placed at 1200mm points along the main tees.
- Aim to ensure there’s substantial portion of ceiling tile against each wall – it’s much easier than working with thin slivers of ceiling tile at one side and it looks better too.
- If you’re installing lights within your suspended ceiling, plot their positions now.
Suspended Ceiling Joists
Suspended ceiling joists are an essential part of the ceiling system. They are the framework that supports your ceiling tiles and panels, allowing the ceiling grid to function as intended in all types of interior space. They are typically made of metal, such as steel or aluminium, allowing the framework to hang below the actual ceiling or roof structure. There are different grid types to choose from, depending on your ceiling tile sizes or the type you plan to use.
The ceiling joists are attached to your actual roof structure and ceiling brackets using hanging wires. This creates a stable framework to install suspended ceiling panels. Furthermore, ceiling joists are versatile and can accommodate light fixtures, ventilation and sprinklers.
to install a suspended ceiling 1: Find your joists
If it’s a timber ceiling covered with plasterboard, you’ll want to locate the joists to which you’ll be attaching your ceiling brackets. You could use a stud finder. If you don’t have one, tap along the ceiling until the sound changes from echoey thump to solid, dull thud. That’s your joist. Mark it with pencil.
How to fit a suspended ceiling 2: Fix your perimeter
You can position your suspended ceiling at any height, BUT bear in mind you’ll need to place it at least 100mm below the existing ceiling to give you room to work above. If you’re adding insulation or lighting, you’ll want to give yourself much more space to work with. We’d suggest at least 200mm-300mm but choose a larger ceiling void if you prefer, and assuming it will suit the room below.
- Once you’ve chosen your ceiling height, use your level to draw a straight line at that height around the room.
- Fix the perimeter/wall trim so the bottom of the trim sits on the line. Fix at 350mm centres (approx.) with masonry or drywall screws depending on the wall construction.
- When you reach corners, overlap two lengths of wall trim (one for each wall) and snip the bottom trim at a roughly 45° angle to create a neat mitre. The edge trim will remain visible once the ceiling is complete so it pays to make your mitre cuts as neat as possible.
How to fix a suspended ceiling 3: Positioning your suspension points
- Mark the position of your main tees at 1200mm intervals along your perimeter trim, as shown on your plan.
- Moving across the ceiling from each mark on the perimeter trim, mark the position of each suspension point as per your plan.
- Fix ceiling hangers or brackets depending on the ceiling construction (see What materials do you need to install a suspended ceiling? above)
- Suspension wire is usually supplied in a coil. You’ll need to straighten it before you use it.
- To measure and cut the individual lengths of suspension wire. take the distance between the original ceiling and the suspended one, then add 300mm to give you plenty of extra to tie the wire to the hangers and main tees.
How to install a suspended ceiling 4: Fixing your main tees
Most main tee sections are 3.6m long. If your room is shorter than that, cut it to size. If it’s longer than that, connect two sections together (you’ll find a clip at both ends of each main tee section) and cut to length. Then, start your next main tee using the remainder of the section. This will ensure you stagger your joints and create a stronger ceiling.
- Starting at the wall edge, lay your main tee on the first 1200mm mark you made on your permitter trim. You may need to snip off the clip at the end of the tee so it sits flush.
- Use a string line or laser level to ensure your main tee is straight - it should line up with the corresponding row of suspension points across the room. Set it in position on the perimeter trim of the opposite wall, cutting to length if necessary.
- You’ll find your main tee has lots of slots along its length. These are for the cross tees. Place a second string line across the room, perpendicular to the main tee and positioned where the first cross tee will slot into the main tee. As long as the first one is right, the rest should automatically be.
- Work along the tee, tying the suspension wires around it.
How to fit a suspended ceiling 5: Fit cross tees
- Insert the tabs of your cross tees into the slots of the main tees.
- If you’re using 1200mm x 600mm ceiling tiles, slotting the 1200mm cross tees into the main tee as per your drawing will complete your grid.
- If you’re using 600mm x 600mm ceiling tiles, you’ll also need to insert 600mm cross tees into your 1200mm cross tees (effectively doubling the number of spaces in your grid but halving their size)
- As you progress, drop an occasional ceiling tile in place to help maintain the shape of your grid and prevent it from distorting as you work.
- As you reach the edge of the room you may need to cut some cross tees to size using your tinsnips.
How to fix a suspended ceiling 5: Insert ceiling tiles
The simplest part of the process is adding the ceiling tiles. Slide each tile through and up into the void space, then drop it back down into position. If you’re using a patterned tile, make sure each tile is orientated the same way as those around it, otherwise something will appear ‘off’ about the finished ceiling.
If you’re adding suspended ceiling insulation, doing it now will be the most time-efficient way to do it. Sit an insulation pack on top of each tile.
As you reach the edge of the room you may have to cut tiles to size. By planning the design of your suspended ceiling in advance you’ll have ensured that cut tiles at either side of the room will be of equal and significant size.
To cut to size, take a tile, measure to size and score along each face using a utility knife. Separate by hand and drop into place.
Fit a better suspended ceiling with JCS
You’ll find a vast range of suspended ceiling tiles and grid for less at JCS. For help selecting the right products for your suspended ceiling, talk to us.