How to Install a Drop Ceiling Grid System

We renovated our entire basement and one of the most significant steps was installing a wood plank ceiling. It totally transformed the room and we could not be more pleased with the result. Installing a drop ceiling grid system was the precursor to installing our wood plank (shiplap) ceiling.

Materials needed for installing a drop ceiling grid ceiling:

    • string and string level
    • grid system
    • wire
    • measuring tape
    • chalk box
    • drill
    • screws
    • wire cutters
    • tin snips
    • ladders

Below is a picture before we installed the grid ceiling system.

Mark the parameter of the room (ceiling height):

Determine the height of your ceiling and use a laser level to establish the line around the entire room. At least eight feet is preferable; however, because of some ductwork, we had to make our ceiling 7’ 9”. Use a chalk box to mark the wall at the correct height around the room.

Mark the walls for the grid:

Establish the center of opposite walls for the main tee.  Then mark for successive main tees, which will be installed parallel to the center main tee (we chose to put main tees every 4’ which required a total of 3 – our room is just under 12’).

Attach the wall angle around the perimeter of the room using screws:

Use a stud finder to identify studs so you will know where to install the screws to hold the wall angle in place. And use the chalk line as your guide to screw the metal wall angle around the perimeter of the room.

Use tin snips to cut the wall angle the appropriate length.

Below is a picture of the wall angle installed.

Be sure to overlap the wall angle in the corners of the room.

We had two unique areas we had to address. The first area was an opening into the hallway. Neal built a wooden box so we could continue to wall angle.

The other area was a slanted wall above a closet under the stairwell. We ripped this piece of wood on a table saw at an angle and then installed the wall angle on the wood.

Use pieces of string to ensure levelness:

Insert nails under the wall angle on both sides of the room every 4 feet.

Use string (from one nail to the other) and a string level to ensure the string is level. This will enable you to check the levelness of each of the main tees when you install them.

Install Hanger Wire

Install support wires hanging from the joist or rafters above the ceiling. We used Eye Lag Screws with 18 gauge Hanger Wire. These will provide support from above for the grid system. We spaced the wire every 4’.

Install the Main Tees (long pieces):

Insert the end of the long main tees in the wall angle at one end of the room using support wires to hold in place. Measure, cut, and connect to extend the long grid pieces as needed to span the length of the room. Loop the wire through these main tees. The string will ensure that they are level.

The picture below shows the wire giving support for the main tees.

Install the short perpendicular pieces:

Since we spaced the main tees 4’ apart we used 4’ cross tees to make a 4’ x 4’ square; next, install another 4’ cross tee to half the box (you end up 2 – 2’ x 4’ rectangles). 

Next, insert 2’ cross tees to make 4 – 2’ x 2’ squares in each 4’ x 4’ square.

Install the short perpendicular pieces around the perimeter of the room:

Then measure (and cut, if necessary) and insert the 2’ cross tees (or smaller) around the perimeter of the room to complete the grid. Cut these pieces with tin snips as needed to make the appropriate length.

Below is the final result!

Install lighting and ductwork:

Determine the type of lighting you want to use. We installed 8 LED canned lights. We marked the spots with orange tape and then Neal wired the lights.

Hire a certified electrician for any electrical work.

Rework any ductwork so that the output vents will be installed in the ceiling when you install the shiplap.

Click HERE to see how we installed the shiplap by attaching it to the ceiling grid. The result is STUNNING! Below is a sneak peek.

Don’t forget to Pin for future reference.

Pinterest Pin how to install a ceiling grid system

Let us know if you have questions or what you think about how to install a drop ceiling grid system by posting below.


  1. Erin on 02/21/2020 at 9:17 AM

    I have always wondered how to do this. Helpful details.

  2. Donte on 02/23/2020 at 5:03 PM

    You guys ROCK on projects!

  3. Bob on 02/23/2020 at 5:05 PM

    How did you determine the level to put this?

    • Suzanne on 02/28/2020 at 2:17 PM

      Our goal was to install the ceiling as high as possible. However, we were restricted by the existing HVAC ductwork which made the ceiling just shy of 8 feet. We used a laser level (put on the top of an 8-foot ladder) to mark all 4+ walls.

      I hope this helps! Thanks for reading our blog!


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