Easy-to-install suspended ceiling

Unlike a living or dining room, the ceiling of a rec room can be made of just about any finish. 

But, the standard finish for rec room ceilings over the years has been ceiling tile or plasterboard. Plasterboard usually is not a do-it-yourself project, especially the taping and filling. This part of a plasterboard ceiling is best left to a professional. Besides, plasterboard is heavy and usually requires two people to lift and install. 

A very practical ceiling for the rec room is a suspended ceiling. It is relatively easy to install and allows easy access to the pipes and wires that may need adjusting or replacing. A suspended ceiling also provides access to a basement ceiling to install an alarm system, central vac or run new water pipes for a main floor renovation. 

There are two types of suspended ceiling “grids” available — metal or PVC. The metal system usually requires two or three inches of space between the bottom of the floor joists and the surface of the ceiling. The PVC system such as Snap Track can take as little as an inch away from the ceiling height. Using this system, hangers are nailed to the side of a floor joist and the T-track is snapped into the hanger. 

In areas where ceiling height is at a premium, such as under furnace ducts or a ceiling beam, the ceiling panels can be installed tight to the bottom of the obstruction by installing the panels in the T- bars and then snapping the track into the hangers. 

Although most suspended rec room ceilings use standard panels, just about anything can be used as panels. 

Standard ceiling panels are two-by-four feet. I recommend that they be cut in two. Two-foot-square ceiling panels look better in a low ceiling. The larger panels tend to “bring down” ceiling height and the two-by-four-foot panels may make your rec room look like an office. 

Suspended ceiling panels are available in a number of finishes. Some ceiling panels are flexible such as those made from fibreglass. Others are made from fibreboard, either painted or with a vinyl finish. There are also some very fancy panels available from ceiling specialty stores. These panels are usually used in commercial buildings but they can add a nice touch to the rec room. 

Plasterboard can be cut and used for panels. After cutting the plasterboard to fit into the T-bars, paint the panels and let dry thoroughly before installing them into the grid. Use a primer and paint the panels as you would any plasterboard product. 

Glass mirror could be used as ceiling panels for a different effect. Glass specialty companies will cut the mirror to size for you. Make sure that the mirror panels are cut slightly undersized so they can be manoeuvred into the track. 

Other materials you may consider for a suspended ceiling include cedar boards or fancy plywood. 

When installing a suspended ceiling, level it with the bottom of the joists 

and not the rec room floor. Most concrete floors in basements slope towards a floor drain. To ensure that your ceiling is level, there are new products on the market other than a carpenter’s level which help you make it straight and even.                                                   

The first step in installing the ceiling is to mark on the walls where the “wall rail” will be installed. This will determine where and how the hangers and T-bars will be placed. 

If you are using the metal system, simply drive a nail into the side of a joist 

and use soft wire to hang the track on. When using the Snap Track system, the hangers are nailed to the sides of the joists. The suspended ceiling is installed after the walls are up and finished but 

before the flooring goes in to prevent damage to the flooring while installing the ceiling. 

For help with your project, building supply and home centres have books and brochures on suspended ceilings installation procedures.