How much does it cost to install a drop ceiling?
Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to install a drop ceiling?

Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to install a drop ceiling?

$4 – $20average cost per square foot installed
$400 – $4,000average total cost (100 to 200 SF ceiling)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$4 – $20 average cost per square foot installed

$400 – $4,000 average total cost (100 to 200 SF ceiling)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Tamatha Hazen
Written by
Tamatha Hazen
Edited by
Kristen Cramer
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Tom Grupa

Drop ceiling cost

A drop ceiling costs $4 to $20 per square foot installed, depending on the ceiling tile type and material. The labor cost to install a ceiling grid and tiles is $1.50 to $5.00 per square foot on average. Drop ceilings are also called suspended ceilings or acoustic ceiling tiles.

Average drop ceiling installation cost
Ceiling square feet Average cost installed
50 $200 – $1,000
100 $400 – $2,000
150 $600 – $3,000
200 $800 – $4,000
250 $1,000 ­– $5,000
500 $2,000 – $10,000
1,000 $4,000 – $20,000

*Cost data is from research and project costs reported by HomeGuide members.

Get free estimates from drop ceiling installers near you.

Average cost to install drop ceiling

Installing a drop ceiling costs $4 to $20 per square foot, on average. A grid framework suspended a few inches below the structural ceiling holds removable tiles that hide the wiring, plumbing, and ductwork. Tiles come in various materials, colors, and patterns with optional rail covers to match.

Drop ceiling installation cost calculator
Factor Average cost per square foot
Suspended ceiling grid $1.50 – $2.00
Drop ceiling tiles $1.00 – $13.00
Installation labor $1.50 – $5.00
Remove old drop ceiling* $1.00 – $7.00
Insulation panels behind the tiles* $1.50 – $2.50
Decorative rail covers* $0.45 – $1.00 per linear foot
Total installation cost (excluding optional costs) $4.00 ­– $20.00

*Optional costs.

Labor cost to install a drop ceiling

The labor cost to install a drop ceiling is $1.50 to $5.00 per square foot or $50 to $150 per hour on average.

Other factors also impact the cost to install a drop ceiling, including:

  • Materials – Ceiling tile materials range from the traditional white fiberboard to more stylish options including colored fiberboard, plastic, metal, and wood tiles.

  • Obstructions – Labor costs are lower when the space is wide and uncluttered. Installers charge more to work around furnaces, water heaters, and pipes.

  • Permits – Some states require a building permit before installation and an inspection once the work is complete. Building codes also require a minimum ceiling height in most areas.

  • Prep work – Installers charge for the time to measure the space and plan the layout on grid paper. The grid diagram includes the locations of beams, hanging wires, light fixtures, smoke detectors, and other obstacles.

  • Room size – The larger the space, the higher the cost. Professional installers often reduce the cost per square foot for larger projects as materials purchased in bulk are cheaper.

  • Structural supports – The main ceiling may need structural modifications to support the new drop ceiling weight.

  • Additional contractors – More complex projects involve additional contractors to move pipes, ductwork, or electrical wiring, including:

  • Additional repairs and installations

  • Aesthetic enhancements

    • Hiring a painter costs $20 to $50 per hour or $1 to $6 per square foot to paint the ceiling grid or tiles for a custom look.

    • Decorative rail covers cost $0.45 to $1.00 per linear foot for vinyl wraps that slide over the grid beams to better match the tile color.

Cost to install suspended ceiling grid

A suspended ceiling grid costs $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot for the grid system alone, not including tiles or installation. Clip-in, hook-on, and lay-in systems have similar pricing but different framework, installation, and tile attachment methods.

  • Clip-In ceilings use a grid of metal runners with horseshoe-shaped clips to hold the tiles in place. Clip-in ceilings require tiles with beveled edges to hide the flanges.

  • Hook-on ceilings maximize ceiling height by attaching brackets to the joists and using hooks to hold the tiles in place. A hook-on ceiling requires more skill to install than a clip-in system.

  • Lay-in ceilings are the most common drop ceiling type, using a visible grid of metal supports paired with large foam tiles. The tiles are simply laid in place, not attached to the grid, allowing for easy replacement when stained or damaged.

A contractor installing a drop ceiling panel.
A contractor installing a drop ceiling panel.

Cost to replace drop ceiling tiles

The cost to replace drop ceiling tiles is $2.50 to $14.50 per square foot, depending on the tile material and quality. Ceiling tile replacement costs include the new tile materials and labor but do not include replacing the suspension grid or rail covers.

Adding options like insulating panels, lights, or heat-sensitive tiles increase costs:

  • Insulating panels cost $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot for materials alone and are installed behind the ceiling tiles to improve thermal performance and reduce sound transfer.

  • Light panels cost $10 to $17 per panel, on average, not including installation. The lightweight, acrylic panels allow light from a can fixture to illuminate the space.

  • Thermal drop ceiling panels, also called drop-out, melt-away, or heat-sensitive tiles, cost $1.10 to $1.50 per square foot for materials alone. The panels are designed for use under a sprinkler fire system and shrink away once the temperature hits 135°F.

Cost to install a drop ceiling in basement

A basement drop ceiling costs $2,000 to $40,000, depending on the material used and the basement size. Waterproof plastic ceiling tiles are ideal for basement installations because they resist moisture and mold.

Basement drop ceiling cost
Square footage Average cost
500 – 1,000 $2,000 – $20,000
1,000 – 1,500 $4,000 – $30,000
1,500 – 2,000 $6,000 – $40,000

Finishing a basement costs $32 to $47 per square foot and often includes installing a drop ceiling. The suspended ceiling covers the unsightly ducts, pipes, and wiring, but the panels are removable for easy access.

Acoustic ceiling tiles prices

Drop ceiling tile costs per box

Home improvement stores sell ceiling tiles by the case for $40 to $160.The most common drop ceiling tile sizes are 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’. A case of tiles covers 20 to 128 square feet, depending on the number of tiles in each box.

Drop ceiling tile coverage
Tile size Quantity Area covered
2’ x 2’ 5 tiles per box 20 square feet
2’ x 2’ 10 tiles per box 40 square feet
2’ x 2’ 16 tiles per box 128 square feet
2’ x 4’ 8 tiles per box 64 square feet
2’ x 4’ 10 tiles per box 80 square feet

  • The standard tile thickness for a residential drop ceiling tile is 5/8”.

  • Installers cut the tiles to fit around obstructions like furnaces, pipes, and ductwork, resulting in a 5% to 40% waste factor.

  • Pallets with 160 to 320 tiles are available, but the larger quantities are primarily sold for commercial installations.

Drop ceiling tile prices by material

Drop ceiling prices are $1 to $13 per square foot for materials alone, depending on the type. Fiberboard and plastic tiles are the most affordable materials at $1 to $9 per square foot, while metal and wood tiles cost $2 to $13 per square foot and offer durability and unique styles.

Drop ceiling tile material prices
Tile type Price per square foot* Details
Fiberboard (Mineral fiber) $1.00 – $3.50
  • Affordable tiles made from a mix of materials including recycled newspaper, fiberglass, PVC, perlite, mineral wool, and binding agents
  • Highly light reflective for brighter rooms and improved visibility
  • Sound absorption for reduced echo and reverberation
  • Prone to discoloration in humid areas
Plastic tile(PVC and Vinyl) $2.00 – $9.00
  • Affordable, lightweight tiles made of PVC or vinyl
  • The waterproof tiles resist moisture, mold, and mildew, making them ideal for basement installations
  • Easy to install and clean
  • Maintenance-free and flexible, resisting cracking and corrosion
Metal tile $3.00 – $13.00
  • Commonly made from steel coated in tin, making them resistant to heat, moisture, rust, and wear
  • Other metal materials include aluminum, brass, and copper
  • Most difficult to install but more durable than other materials
Wood tile $2.00 – $10.00
  • Real and faux wood plank ceilings are popular due to their easy installation and traditional appearance
  • Provide excellent soundproofing and thermal insulation
  • Durable material that lasts for decades
  • Real wood is prone to warping in highly humid environments
Black acoustic tile $1.00 – $6.00
  • Bold, dramatic appearance
  • Sound absorption and reduced light reflection make them ideal for home theatres using dim lighting
Insulating tile $1.50 – $2.50
  • Made from rigid, thick fiberglass with a high R-value for better insulation and energy savings
  • Excellent sound absorption

*Not including installation.

Cost to remove a drop ceiling

The cost to remove a drop ceiling is $1 to $7 per square foot. Additional repair costs after ceiling removal may include:

  • Interior demolition costs $4 to $10 per square foot and may be required when mold or pest damage has caused structural issues.

  • Mold remediation costs $15 to $30 per square foot and takes 1 to 2 days to treat a small area or up to a week for a more severe mold problem.

  • Asbestos removal costs $4 to $20 per square foot and requires a certified and licensed asbestos professional. The asbestos tiles must be encapsulated to prevent dangerous cancer-causing fibers from becoming airborne.

Cost to replace drop ceiling with drywall

Replacing a drop ceiling with a drywall ceiling costs $3 to $11 per square foot. Removing the drop ceiling framework and tiles costs $1 to $7 per square foot and installing a drywall ceiling costs $2 to $4 per square foot. Drywall provides a sleeker, more modern aesthetic.

Alternative ceiling installation options include:

Get free estimates from drop ceiling installers near you.
  • Shiplap – A shiplap ceiling costs $3 to $11 per square foot installed, with some building codes requiring drywall behind the shiplap.

  • Tongue-and-groove – A tongue-and-groove ceiling costs $4 to $10 per square foot and is an attractive way to cover old drywall instead of replacing it.

Frequently asked questions

What is a drop ceiling?

A drop ceiling is a secondary ceiling that hangs below the main structural ceiling. A metal grid framework supports ceiling panels or tiles that cover the wiring, plumbing, and ductwork. The easily removable tiles provide insulation, sound suppression, and stylish design.

Drop ceiling pros and cons
Pros Cons
  • Hides unsightly ductwork, pipes, and wires
  • Provides easy access to wiring or drain and water lines for repairs
  • Insulates the space to reduce heating and cooling bills
  • Sound suppression and improved acoustics
  • Adds texture, depth, and color for a unique style
  • Reduces the room height by several inches, making the room feel cramped
  • Some materials stain, sag, or deteriorate after just a few years
  • Easily damaged, requiring frequent maintenance and replacement
  • Less sturdy than a traditional fixed ceiling with added falling risk in an earthquake or fire

How long does it take to install a drop ceiling?

A professional installer spends 2 to 3 days building the framework and putting up tiles for a drop ceiling. Installations that require pipework, ductwork, or electrical modifications take longer.

How much clearance do I need for a drop ceiling?

You need a minimum 3” clearance between the framework and the rafters for most drop ceilings and may require more space for pipes, ductwork, and lighting. Building codes often mandate a minimum ceiling height of 7' that restricts the drop height, especially in basements.

Do drop ceilings save energy?

Drop ceilings save energy by improving insulation and air circulation, which lowers heating and cooling bills. Additionally, a white drop ceiling creates a brighter space, reducing artificial lighting use.

Who installs drop ceilings?

A professional handyman or licensed contractor installs a suspended ceiling. The project may also require a plumber, HVAC specialist, or electrician for pipe, ductwork, or wiring issues. Installing a drop ceiling requires proper planning, measuring, and cutting and is not recommended for DIY beginners.

Can you paint drop ceilings?

Yes, you can paint drop ceiling tiles and grids, but doing so may void the warranty and cause tile sagging if the proper painting technique is not used. Painting also affects the tiles' fire resistance, sound suppression, and light-reflecting properties.

  • Acoustic tiles require water-based flat latex paint formulated for sound absorption.

  • Metal tiles require a primer and spray paint.

  • Plastic and wood tiles should be prepped with sandpaper and an oil-based primer, then painted with an oil or latex paint designed for ceilings.

Getting estimates from suspended ceiling installers

When hiring a drop ceiling installer near you, be sure to:

  • Select insured and bonded ceiling installers that have been in business 5+ years.

  • Browse their reviews on HomeGuide and Google.

  • Get at least three estimates with equal quality materials to compare.

  • Avoid selecting the lowest quote as quality may suffer.

  • Get a written estimate, contract, and warranty before the work begins.

  • Never pay in full upfront. Follow a payment plan and do not make the final payment until the work is completed.

Questions to ask

  • What experience do you have with drop ceiling installation?

  • How many suspended ceilings have you installed in the last year?

  • Do you charge an hourly rate or by the square foot?

  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?

  • Do you recommend mineral fiber or plastic tiles?

  • What is the tile fire rating?

  • What size tiles do you suggest, and why?

  • How many cases of tiles are needed for my square footage?

  • What will the finished ceiling height be?

  • How long will the ceiling installation take?

  • Will the installation require a permit, and if so, will you obtain it?

  • Do you offer a guarantee of your work, and if so, what does it include?

  • How can I clean the ceiling tiles to avoid discoloration?

  • May I have a copy of your insurance policy for my records?

  • Will you provide a list of references with contact information?