Drop Ceiling Installation for Armstrong Ceilings

Drop Ceiling Installation for Armstrong Ceilings

Learn how easy a drop ceiling installation can be. Get instructions, watch videos, and see photos.

Model #: 273

24" x 24" SAHARA

How to Install a Drop Ceiling

Learning to do a drop ceiling installation can be a rewarding experience and a money-saving skill. Get ready for your install with safety reminders, helpful hints, a list of tools needed, and detailed instructions.

Before You Begin: Preparation is Key

Read complete installation instructions before beginning your installation. Instructions can be found at the end of this overview.

Let your ceiling panels adjust to the environment in the room of installation.

Unpack all panels at least 24 hours prior to installation. Panels may be stored in areas with a temperature between 60°and 80°F. Also, be sure to check that the relative humidity is below 70%. You may consider purchasing a dehumidifier with a humidity reader for this.

  • Do not install loose fill or batt insulation so that it rests directly on the panels.
  • Keep hands clean to avoid smudges on the finished ceiling.
  • Always cut ceiling panels face up with a sharp utility knife.
  • Main beams should be installed perpendicular to the joists.
  • Grid should not be installed tighter than 3” to joists/structure with traditional hanger wire or 2.5” to joists with QUICKHANG grid hooks. A minimum 4” drop is required when installing below drywall. This allows for access above the panels.

PDF Tips for Ceiling Installers

Know your ceiling and grid terms.

  • Border Panel – ceiling panels cut to create a perimeter around the room
  • Main Beam – load-bearing beams of a suspension system that are hung with hanger wires
  • Cross-Tee – shorter steel beams that run perpendicular and parallel to main beams to form the grid openings that support the tiles.
  • Wall Molding – attaches to the wall to support tiles and offers a consistent visual to the main beams and cross tees for a finished look
  • Hanger Wire – 12-gauge wire used to suspend main beams from ceiling joists
  • Fasteners – attach hanger wire to ceiling joists
  • QUICKHANG hardware – Hanger wire alternative; a faster, easier way to install and level a drop ceiling. Hardware includes hooks and brackets.
  • On center – term used to describe the distance from the middle of one main beam to the middle of the next

Mark hidden joists.

For joists that are hidden behind drywall, you’ll want to use this tip to mark where they are:

Knock on the drywall. You should hear a solid thud when you tap on a joist.  You can also use a stud finder to help with this task.

Don’t forget to determine the direction of the joists as well. Helpful hint: joists are usually 16” apart on center.

Plan the location of each ceiling panel for an even layout.

If your new drop ceiling installation will have border panels, make sure that the opposite sides of the room have the same border width. Always cut panels face up with a sharp utility knife.

Place all ceiling and grid materials in one location. Be sure to check out the drop ceiling calculator tool to help with the layout and a list of the materials needed for your project.

Gather Necessary Tools

You will need:

Installing 2' x 4' Drop Ceiling Panels

  1. Determine the size of the border panels – To get the length of your border panels, divide the width of the room by the length of a single panel, add the remainder to the length of a single panel, and divide by 2. To get the width of your border panels, divide the length of the room by the width of a single panel, add the remainder to the width of a single panel, and divide by 2.
  2. Install Wall Molding – Mark the desired new ceiling height on the wall. Snap the chalk line tool to create this guideline. Repeat on all walls. Be sure to make sure all lines are level and match around the room. If you have a laser level handy, you can use that for a quicker way to mark where the molding will be placed. Next, nail wall molding to studs. For concrete or stone walls use appropriate fasteners or substitute the wall molding by hanging a main beam runner from the joist closest to the wall.
  3. Install Hanger Wire or QUICKHANG grid hooks – – Mark the position of each main beam with a chalk line, which will run perpendicular to the ceiling joists. Main beams should be 4’ apart on center.
    1. For hanger wire: Screw in wire fasteners, and wrap hanger wire securely around itself 3 times. To locate where to bend hanger wire, suspend a leveling string between two nails. Each nail should be 7/8” up from the bottom of the wall molding (Most Armstrong Ceilings wall molding is already 7/8” high.) Bend each hanger wire 90 degrees where the wire meets the string. Repeat for each section and remove strings when finished.
    2. For QUICKHANG grid hooks: attach brackets to joists with fasteners and insert pre-bent hooks. Turn all hooks in the same direction, parallel to joists.


Install Fasteners and Hanger Wire

Pre-bend Hanger Wire

OR: Attach QUICKHANG brackets to joists and insert hooks

4. Hang Main Beams – Cut the first main beam to make sure there is a cross tee hole where your pre-determined first border cross tee is to be located. The first cross-tee hole in each row of main beams must line up. Always put the cut end of the main beam on the wall molding. To hang, simply slide each hanger wire or QUICKHANG hook through one of the small round holes in the main beam. Repeat these steps for the second main beam.

Cross-tee slot at border panel distance

Main beams hung with hanger wire

Main beams hung with QUICKHANG hooks and brackets

5. Install the Cross Tees – You will need to measure and cut the border tees to the border panel size.  Place cut end of tees on wall molding and connect the uncut end to main beam.  Now insert the first two uncut cross tees in line with the border cross tees. When connecting two cross tees in the same rectangular hole in a main beam, insert the second tee into the slot by passing on the right side of the already installed tee.


6. Squaring the Grid – To achieve the best end results, it’s important to make sure your grid is square at this point.  To check that your grid is square, measure across the diagonals of the 2’x4’ opening.  The measurements will be the same if the grid is square.  If the measurements are not the same, trim one of the main beams further until the diagonals are equal.

7. Finish Grid – Repeat steps #4 and #5 for all other main beams and cross-tees.  Click additional main beams and cross tees together as needed. When connecting grid elements together, an audible click will be heard when properly connected.

8. Install Panels – Slide the tile through the grid opening at an angle.  Carefully lower into place. Cut any border tiles or required openings with a utility knife with the panel face up. 

Installing 24” X 24” Drop Ceiling Panels

Install 24” x 24” panels in the same manner as 24” x 48” panels, with the following exceptions:

  1. In a 24” x 24” panel installation, the first main beam can be the border panel size or border panel plus 24” from the wall.
  2. Install 4’ cross tees perpendicular to the main beam, creating an even grid visual. 4’ cross tees should be 24” apart on center. Now install your 2’ cross tees parallel to the main beams to create the 24” x 24” opening

Final Thoughts

Preparations help the drop ceiling installation process go faster and more smoothly. Take your time and get ready to be surprised by how handy you are. Also, be sure to check out videos, more how-tos, and the full set of installation instructions below.

Tips & Tricks Videos

How to Tie Hanger Wire
How to Cut a Tegular (Stepped) Edge
How to Install Wall Molding

Drop Ceiling Calculator

Tell us your room dimensions and joist direction, and we'll tell you how to layout your 24"x 24" or 24" x 48" drop ceiling grid and provide an accurate materials estimate for your space.

Layout Grid and Estimate