Renovation & Design

Suspended ceiling gets a facelift

Reusing existing grid saves time and money

The existing ceiling grid is salvaged to minimize the cost of the suspended ceiling facelift.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The grid is centred to the hallway, and all tiles must be cut to fit, including specialty cuts around ceiling protrusions.

In the fall of 2018 amidst a rather intense and complex addition to a four-season cottage near Grand Beach, a relatively simple basement ceiling upgrade was squeezed into my calendar over a weekend. With the materials on-site, the project began by removing the old suspended tiles to make way for the new.

Basement ceilings are usually littered with outcroppings and protrusions that prevent concise and flat ceiling surfaces. Ducting, support beams and plumbing are the usual suspects. As such, it is quite common in older homes to use suspended ceiling tiles rather than drywall to sheathe the ceiling.

At a client’s house in Charleswood, the existing basement ceiling had been fitted with standard ceiling tiles, from the staircase landing through to the end of the hall on one side of the drywalled bulkhead that hides the main beam, and throughout the entire rec room area on the opposing side of the beam.

After assessing the condition of the existing suspended ceiling, it was evident the old faded and discoloured tiles had definitely seen better days. However, the existing grid remained in pretty good shape. It was decided, in an effort to minimize costs, that the old grid could be salvaged and reused — new tiles would simply be dropped into the already mapped grid.

Further to the tiles replacement, my clients had requested a ceiling lighting configuration upgrade — there was never enough light in the rec room and along the far end of the hallway. That became the next step following the removal of the old tiles.

The existing lighting was abandoned — the old fixtures were systematically disconnected one by one. New wiring was then tied into the main feeds from each of the respective switches and subsequently fed to the locations of 10 new slim, four-inch LED pot lights. Once the electrical prep was completed, the new suspended tiles could be set into place.

In that the gridwork was already positioned, it was convenient to determine every ceiling tile cut. Along the hallway, all tiles were trimmed to fit the narrow surface area on either side of the centred grid.

Sections of the main support T were then cut away, and any adjacent suspended tiles were notched accordingly to allow for the four new pot lights from the stairs to the end of the hallway. The larger rec room area required tiles trimmed along the perimeter only — full tiles fill the inner portions of the grid. Centred within six full tiles, 4¼-inch holes were first cut before the tiles were place. And in the appropriate locations, these tiles allowed for the tie-in of six new pot lights.

Where required, specialty cuts allow the suspended ceiling to manoeuvre around any protrusions, and adjustable ceiling vents.

A newly installed fader for the rec room lighting circuit allows for just the right amount of light in the space. And just like that, the basement ceiling is reborn, at a very conservative expense.

Basement ceilings are essential if you want your lower level to seem "finished."

Although drywall provides a more refined look, it is less feasible downstairs. The suspended ceiling provides ongoing access to numerous services and connections hidden between the joists above and allows for less complicated modifications or expansions to lighting components throughout the basement.

If and when the time to revitalize the basement ceiling ever arises, recycling the grid and simply updating the tiles is quick and easy, not to mention a budget-minded solution.


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