Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

We have been living in the basement apartment of our Mid-Century-to-Colonial-Revival-House for a few weeks now. diy surface mounted suspended ceiling

We bought this house in September and started renovating the apartment, then the main floor, then the outside… most of it is not done because one thing affects the other and needs to be addressed before the other thing can get done, and so on.

I Thought We Should be able to DIY the Suspended Ceiling

The apartment is done I’m glad to say, and the surface mounted suspended ceiling was a project my husband and I did ourselves to try to help the carpenter have more time to address the thousand other projects he’s working on in the house that we really aren’t capable of doing.

This is one project I thought we could do. We did.

It was fairly easy… but honestly, there isn’t a single project my husband and I can work on together and just be happy and jovial about… You know.. just a smooth sailing machine… hahaha… I don’t know if it’s our personalities, or what, but we approach everything so differently… every little task basically opposite. And we’ve been married over 38 years… our brains are just created as unique individuals, there ain’t no ‘growing alike’ with that!

Putting on My Bossy Pants

Finally, someone just needs to be the boss and tell the other one what to do.

On this ceiling project, I decided to take the helm, (I’m sure my friends and family aren’t surprised to hear that ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) haha… Oh, my husband is plenty bossy too… we just know who needs to be bossy when.

Step by Step

Here’s what we did to DIY this surface mounted ceiling: (I will have some links to the products we used for this DIY ceiling project at the end of the post) Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

It’s a basement apartment. That means the ceiling of the apartment is the floor of our main house. Sound is an issue.

Insulation… Acoustical?

To combat as much sound transferring from one side to the other, I installed these insulation batts in the floor joists. They say they are special acoustical insulation… I’m not really sure if they’re made different, or they are just saying that insulation works for that too. The package said acoustical insulation. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

I wore a face mask to breathe through, as well as long sleeves and gloves. The little fiberglass insulation fibers were floating around in the air, even though I tried to move the batts gently.

As soon as I was done with insulating the ceiling, I took a shower. Still my face burned for a couple days where some of the little glass fibers must have gotten lodged and scratched it. I wouldn’t want to have to do that job every day!

If you’ve never worked with fiberglass insulation, the batts tear apart in the lengths you need pretty easily. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

This is what it looked like after I wove the batts in and through and around all the mechanical works filling the ceiling of the basement apartment. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

Installing the Grid

Next step was to install the grid. This is where I needed a second pair of hands.

The package directions for the surface mounted suspended ceiling grid says you can do it by yourself. I have no idea how. I tried.

I was able to get the perimeter U-Channel up alone, but when I tried to get the black strips up working by myself, it was maddening.

I lined it up on the marks, but by the time I got my drill and screw in place, it had jostled just enough to go off the mark. Then I tried painters tape to hold it in place long enough for me to get the screw through it. That wouldn’t hold. Finally, with my husband’s help, and one of us holding it and the other one drilling the screw through it, we were able to get it up. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

It’s Not Always Smooth Sailing

I’d love to say the first time around went swell and it all snapped together fantastic… but I’d be lying. Truth is the last 10% of the ceiling went swell… like that ‘well-oiled machine’, the other 90% of the ceiling was a learning curve, to say the least.

Those little grooves on the sides of the black strip must all be lined up row after row so that the ceiling tiles fit in between with the crossbars snapping into those little grooves.

It took me a few rows to realize that mistake! Argh!

As far as the actual product, using this surface mounted suspended ceiling is great for this particular project. It does allow access behind the ceiling… with a bit more work than a standard suspended ceiling, but a lot less than a drywall ceiling. In this basement apartment, the ceilings are only around 7′ 6″, so to lose even more inches with a traditional dropped ceiling was really not good.

Cutting the Ceiling Tile

Cutting the ceiling tile was much easier than mounting the grid for it.

I just simply cut a score line: (I actually had a long piece of scrap wood to line up my razor blade next to for the initial score cut, then went over it a few again. I guess when I took this picture I must have moved that strip of wood to get my hand on the camera instead) Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

Once it’s scored, I just quickly snapped it, applying a little quick pressure on the back of the score line as my other hand pushed the edge. Worked every time. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

Cutting Tip…

Here’s a tip for cutting the larger circular holes for electrical boxes. Because the tiles are so structurally weak, I don’t think actually cutting into it with a power drill would go well. Instead, I used the drill attachment hole cutter by just holding it in my hand and twisting it back and forth.

The tiles cut surprisingly well this way. (fortunate for us, we have a carpenter working on the house and he has pretty much every tool you can imagine… the large hole cutter set is his, nice that we didn’t need to buy one ourselves, or try to cut the circle by scoring it with a blade. I think that would have been a lot more difficult.) Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling


We wore vinyl gloves when working with the ceiling tiles to prevent fingerprints on them. One thing about these tiles, they lose their sound deadening quality if they are painted! So touching up smudges with paint was out of the question. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

As the hole drill bit was twisted back and forth it made a deep groove right where we wanted it.

Then ‘pop’ it came right through the other side. Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

The end result was a pretty clean cut: Surface Mounted Suspended Ceiling

Ceiling is Done

This ceiling tile I chose was one of the better ones for sound deadening. They’re not especially pretty though. They look like the 2 x 4 tiles in so many offices.

They also are not structurally very strong, if you push on it… I found that out when one busted in half when I was cutting a hole in it… oops!

The dust that came off them when we cut them made me cough like crazy too.

But besides those not great things about them… they are cost effective and really do deaden the sound well.

To make the ceiling look a little more interesting than just a basic pattern, we laid them out in a staggered brick pattern: surface mounted suspended ceiling

I could have had the sheetrockers finish the ceiling, but you saw all those pipes and mechanics in the ceiling… it just makes me nervous thinking about having to get in there in the future for a possible mechanical failure if the ceiling is sealed tight with sheetrock.

This was a good compromise… it gave us every bit of height we had, but still allows some access to the mechanics hidden in the ceiling if need be.

We finished the ceiling in the late afternoon, popped up the light fixtures, cleaned and moved in that night. We were so thrilled to finally have a kitchen again. Since moving from our 100 year old house, we went 7 weeks without a kitchen. (the one that was in the house, had to be gutted because we used those cabinets and appliances for this apartment renovation)

You can click on this link if you’d like to read more about our Mid-Century-to-Colonial-Revival house we’re renovating, including all the projects for this basement apartment… 

Shopping links:

Did you know I now offer e-decorating? I can help you with your decorating needs via email, without having to step foot in your home. If you’re interested in more information, visit my e-decorating site: Frame and Frills. I’d love to help you with your project!

Here are more wall and ceiling treatments:

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This post is linked up at these other sites: Between Naps on the Porch, Skip to my Lou, Coastal Charm, DIY Showoff, Refresh RestyleUncommon Slice of SuburbiaThe ScoopA Stroll Thru LifeYesterday on Tuesday, DIY Dreamer, Savvy Southern Style, My Repurposed Life, Little Bits of Home

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  1. Steven Rimmington says

    Hey guys, a big hello from the team here at Suspended Ceilings QLD in Brisbane Australia! That’s a pretty solid effort for your first ceiling ๐Ÿ™‚ Over here polyester insulation is really good cost per performance insulation and is nowhere near as itchy as glass. It’s not good for thermal insulation but great for acoustics. It;’s awesome you went for a herringbone ceiling layout that adds to the difficulty factor. Excellent job guys! feel free to come visit us any time and have a look at some of the ceilings that we do. Or just pop on to say hello. Take care! Steve

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