Suspended Ceiling Grid
You've just remodeled your basement, and now you've got to do something about that mess of plumbing and electrical work that's floating above your head amongst the joists in your ceiling.
Covering the mess above while still allowing access to fix plumbing and electrical issues requires that you install a grid with removable ceiling tiles. Here are your options:
Drop Ceiling Grid
Suspended grid (t-bar grid, drop ceiling grid, etc.) is made specifically to hang from your true ceiling or ceiling joists, allowing sufficient space above the drop ceiling grid to hide duct work, plumbing, electrical and other unsightly but necessary utilities placed at the ceiling.
The drop ceiling grid is hung by wire and can hang anywhere from 4 inches to 20 feet or more from the true ceiling above. This type of grid is great for making usable office space out of larger warehouse style buildings, and for closing in live/work areas to keep heating and cooling systems focused on the areas where people reside. Suspended ceiling grid is very common in office buildings, where there is a significant amount of wiring, plumbing and duct work at the ceiling level that needs to be hidden from view.
Suspended ceiling grid is traditionally made from steel, although it is sometimes available in plastic as well. ACP Ideas provides a plastic version of the grid, while Chicago Metallic is the main supplier of metal grid.
It is commonly available in two sizes. The 9/16" size has a grid face that is 9/16" wide. This means that the part of the grid that shows when tiles are installed is exactly 9/16" wide. This size grid is generally made for tiles that clip over the grid and hide it from view, however, many standard lay in tiles work with it as well. The 15/16" grid offers a wider face which is more visible, but is also more versatile, with many more compatible ceiling tile types available. Both types of grid can be arranged to accommodate both 2" x 2" ceiling tiles and 2" x 4" ceiling panels.
Suspended ceiling grid is a challenge to install, and many people decide to hire a professional contractor to do the work. Hanging the grid requires precision and care, and it helps to have specialized tools. However, folks with some handyman experience and a bit more time should still be able to complete an installation on their own. The plastic versions are traditionally a bit easier to install because of their lightweight nature and more pliable material. The plastic material also withstands moisture a bit better.
Direct-Mount Drop Ceiling Grid
Recently there has been a rise in the popularity of basement remodels, which has sparked demand for a new type of ceiling grid. In most basements, ceiling height is extremely important, but so is access to utilities like plumbing and electrical work between ceiling joists. This demand for dual purpose has led to a new type of ceiling grid that is made to apply directly to your ceiling joists or flat ceiling. After installation, you lose only about an inch of headroom, but you still have access to the space above the ceiling if you need it. The grid is made entirely out of plastic, and is attached to the ceiling by glue or screws. CeilingLink is the main supplier of direct mount grid systems, and sells it online from their website.
Designer Drop Ceiling Grid
Because grid mount ceilings are such a versatile solution for both residential and commercial ceilings, there has been a boom in made-to-order and designer ceiling grid. This category of ceiling grid includes 3 dimenional grids, curved grids, floating grids, open grids, and other twists on the standard suspended drop ceiling grid. The leader in this section of the industry is clearly Armstrong Ceilings, with their large selection of custom grids. This particular type of grid is expensive but often worth the cost for larger installations, as it will transform a ceiling into a truly custom piece of art.