Basement Ceilings - Dropped Ceiling Tiles vs
The Pros and Cons of Dropped Ceiling Tiles and
Drywall for Basement Ceilings
By: Mark J. Donovan
One of the biggest decisions I
had to make when finishing my basement was the basement ceiling. I needed to
decide on whether to install
dropped ceiling tiles or a drywall ceiling for the basement ceiling.
Dropped Ceiling Tile Advantages
Using dropped ceiling tiles for a basement
ceiling has several advantages. First and foremost, it provides you
easy access to pipes and wires running up in the main level floor joists.
This can be a finished basement savior when your water pipes, tub or toilet
drains spring a leak.
|Secondly, dropped ceiling tiles
enable you to future proof your home and basement ceiling. If later on you decide do install new
wiring, such as telephone, computer, or electrical wiring, you can easily remove
the dropped ceiling tiles to run the wires in your basement ceiling. This is also the case, if later on
you decide to install a central vacuum system.
Dropped ceiling tiles are also
relatively easy to install and ceiling tiles come in many shapes, styles
Most do it yourself homeowners are capable of installing a dropped
ceiling in a basement. The one key suggestion I have is to use a laser level when installing
the ceiling tile grid frame.
and Dropped Ceiling Tile Disadvantages
When deciding between dropped ceiling
tiles vs drywall ceilings for your basement ceiling, it is important that you consider
the height of your unfinished basement. The one key downside of installing
dropped ceiling tiles is that your basement ceiling will be lower, compared to
installing a drywall ceiling. You will need 3-4 inches of space between your
main floor floor-joists and your dropped ceiling tiles. If you plan on
installing recessed lighting in the basement ceiling you will need an additional
Dropped ceilings have also had a
stigma of being considered a cheap alternative to drywall. This stigma, however,
is history due to the breadth of quality ceiling tile products on the market
Installing a drywall ceiling as your
basement ceiling offers two main benefits. First, drywall ceilings require less space.
Typically all that is required for a drywall ceiling is about 1.0-1.5 of
thickness (height). You need to account for the installation of 1x3 furring
strips to the floor (ceiling) joists and then another ½ for the drywall
thickness. So if your basement ceiling heights are already low, installing
drywall ceilings will limit the additional headroom loss.
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The other main advantage of
installing drywall on basement ceilings is that it offers a smooth and clean
looking ceiling. To many, it makes the basement living space look as good as
the other living spaces in the home, versus as an afterthought.
Of course the main disadvantage of a
drywall basement ceiling is that it provides poor access to pipes and wiring,
and if there is a water leak you will have significant basement ceiling damage.
Drywall ceilings also curtail your ability to future proof your home and
To mitigate some of these concerns,
when installing a drywall basement ceiling, it is important to install access panels to
key areas in the basement ceiling, e.g. just below J-Traps and water valves.
This way you can clean out clogged toilet and tub J-traps and turn off water
valves in the event of a water leak.
Also, to provide some level of home
future proofing, you can run 2-3 inch wide PVC pipes from the main circuit panel
(if it is located in the basement) to other areas of the basement ceiling. Later
on wires can be fished through these PVC pipes to add new services to the home,
without having to tear up the drywall ceiling.
In the end its a personal and
practical decision on whether to install ceiling tiles or drywall on your
basement ceiling. For me, I decided on a drywall ceiling as my basement ceiling. The
main reason was for headroom concerns, particularly since I was installing
recessed lights all throughout the basement.
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