How to install a suspended panel ceiling

suspended panel ceiling

A suspended ceiling consists of an interlocking metal grid suspended from an already in place ceiling or an unfinished ceiling with exposed joists. The grid holds ceiling panels in place. The panels come in many colors and are generally ½ to 2/3 inch thick. The panels come in wood fiber, fiberglass, or a mineral fiber and in 2×2 and 2×4 foot in size. An advantage to the suspended ceiling is easy removal and simple access to pipes, wiring, and ductwork.

Main Runners:

T-shaped “main runners” that are 8 foot or 12 foot in length and extend the length of the room crosswise to the joists. These main runners or tees are the primary support for the weight of the ceiling and are hung by hanger wire from the joists or supports above.

Cross Tees

Cross-tees or crosspieces are support members that snap into the main tees or runners and hold each ceiling panel in place. They come in 2-foot or 4-foot long T-shaped “crosspieces” that snap into slots in the runners.

Wall Angles:

Wall Angles are 10-foot long metal strips placed around the entire circumference of the room. These will provide a finished edge as it meets the wall.

Calculate the amount of panels needed:
If using 2X 2-foot panels divide 4 square feet into the area of the ceiling (length X width). To calculate 2×4-foot panels divide 8 square feet area of the ceiling (length X width), add 5 % for error in both cases.


Purchase screw eyes and hanger wire that is at least 18 gauge used to hang the runners. Have on hand metal snips to cut the grids and 6d nails.

Find the wall studs and mark their locations at the height of the new ceiling. Allow at least 3 inches between old and new ceiling and 6 inches if installing recessed lighting. Hidden joists must be located and marked with chalk lines.

According to the measurement of the room lay out the grid plan on graph paper. Figure the layout so the tiles next to the wall are at least six inches wide. Plan the layout so that the main runners are crosswise to the joists. Use the diagram as a guide and mark the lines on the wall for the main runners.

The selected height of the new ceiling should be marked with a snap chalk line on the walls. A carpenter’s level will make sure the line is level. The base of the wall Angles are placed at the chalk line and nailed into the studs. Using snips cut pieces that join making sure they meet at the studs. Adjoin inside corners and miter outside corners.

Use chalk lines to mark the position of the main runners. Snap the chalk line across the ceiling joists. Extend strings across the room at the height of the ceiling to mark locations of runners and crosspieces. Wedge nails under wall Angles and tie the stretched strings to the nails. Cut the runners so the slots for the crosspieces will synchronize with the crossing of the strings.

Place screw eyes into joists along the chalk lines using one every fourth joist or according to instructions. Use about 1 foot of hanger wire through each screw eye and wrap it securely around itself and the end of the wire through the round runner opening. Measure wires height and secure wire end.

When the room is longer than 12 foot cut extra runner sections to fit. Snap the interlocking runner ends together. The slots for the crosspieces will need to meet correctly coinciding with the string crossings. Guided by the strings, snap crosspieces into runner slots and trim border crosspieces to fit.

Now that the grid is installed check that it is level. If grid is not level, modify the wires at this point. Cut the panels needed for the outer edges and install the full size panels by rows. To insert the panels tilt them up and though the grids then straighten and ease onto the flanged edges.

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