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.

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 all included safety instructions and warnings on all material packages.

  • Clear out the designated work area and keep the area as ventilated as possible.
  • 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 run the opposite direction of the joists.
  • Grid should not be installed tighter than 3” to joists/structure to allow installation of tiles.
  • If an existing ceiling contains radiant heat coils, coordinate with an electrician to have the coils removed or unwired via their professional opinion.


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
  • On center – term used to describe the distance from the middle of one main beam to the middle of the next

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.

Find and mark the joists with your hanger wire locations.

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 24" x 48" 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 Fasteners and Hanger Wire – Mark the position of each main beam with a chalk line, which will run the opposite direction of the ceiling joists. Main beams should be 4’ apart on center. Screw in wire fasteners, and wrap hanger wire securely around itself 3 times.

Install Fasteners and Hanger Wire

Pre-bend Hanger Wire

4. Pre-Bend Hanger Wires – 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 wire hanger 90° where the wire meets the string. Repeat for each section and remove strings when finished.

5. Hang the First Main Beam – Make sure the first cross-tee hole in all main beams line up and that there is a cross tee hole where your pre-determined first border cross tee is to be located.  It may be necessary to cut the main beam. Always put the cut end of the main beam on the wall molding. To hang, simply slide each hanger wire through one of the small round holes in the main beam. Click additional main beams together as needed. Tip: When main beams are properly connected an audible click will be heard.

Cross-tee slot at border panel distance

Hang first main beam with hanger wire and connect multiple main beams

6. Install the First Cross-Tees – Place cut end of tees on wall molding. Be sure the distance for the border panels is correct and that the grid is square.

7. Finish Grid – Repeat steps #4 and #5 for all other main beams and cross-tees.

8. Install Panels – Lift tile above grid at an angle and carefully drop in place. Cut any border tiles or required openings with a utility knife with the panel face up. 

Drawing of snap-in cross-tee

Drawing of hook-in cross-tee

Installing 24” X 24” Drop Ceiling Panels

When installing 24” x 24” ceiling panels, you will need to lay out your grid differently.

  1. Determine the size of border panels the same way you would a 24” x 48” ceiling panel.
  2. Install the first main beam at this measurement.
  3. Then, install first row of cross-tees with the cut end on the wall molding.
  4. Next, install all 4’ cross tees perpendicular to the main beam, creating an even grid visual. 4’ Cross-tees should be 24” apart on center. 
  5. Now install your 2’ cross tees parallel to the main beams to create the 24” x 24” opening.
  6. Repeat throughout room.

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.

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