How Much Does It Cost to Install a Drop Ceiling?

Typical Range:

$1,032 - $2,956

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 710 HomeAdvisor members. Embed this data

How We Get This Data

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  • Homeowners use HomeAdvisor to find pros for home projects.
  • When their projects are done, they fill out a short cost survey.
  • We compile the data and report costs back to you.

Updated October 18, 2022

Reviewed by Robert Tschudi, Expert Home Building and Remodeling Contributor.

Written by HomeAdvisor.

Drop ceilings, also known as suspended ceilings, cost between $1,032 and $2,956, or$1,986 on average, depending on the room size and material quality. Additional features like ceiling fans and lighting add more to the final price.

2022 Notice: Material Prices Are Surging

Demand for siding and other building materials has grown over the past year. And as a result, manufacturers are increasing materials prices. Prices have gone up 5% to 10% this year, and many parts of the country are experiencing long delivery times. If you're planning a building project, we recommend starting as early as possible in the season, preparing for potential price fluctuations, and allowing extra time to order materials.

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National Average $1,986
Typical Range $1,032 - $2,956
Low End - High End $420 - $5,200

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 710 HomeAdvisor members.

Drop Ceiling Cost per Square Foot

Installing a drop ceiling costs $5 to $28 per squarefoot for labor and materials, which falls in the middle range when it comes to installation costs across all ceiling types. Add $2 per square foot if you want insulating panels behind the ceiling tiles and up to $1 per linear foot for decorative rail covers.

In addition, grid rails and ceiling tiles are around $13 per square foot, depending on your preferred tile material. 

Drop Ceiling Installation Costs

Expect labor to range from $2 to $5 per square foot when hiring a drop ceiling installer near you to install the grid and tiles. You may pay $240 to $1,200 for labor alone for a 120-square-foot room. Installing lighting, switches, and decorative accents will drive up the cost. 

Cost to Install a Drop Ceiling Grid

Installing a drop ceiling grid makes up most of the labor rate. Contractors must take the time to ensure the grid sits perfectly level to get the right look. The installation is more time-consuming in areas with exposed ductwork and pipes.

Labor Cost to Install a Suspended Ceiling

A suspended ceiling is another term for a drop ceiling. It costs around $3.50 per square foot to install. 

Additional Features

If you’re adding or moving lighting (ceiling lights drop down to the grid level), vents, or other features, you may need an electrical or HVAC contractor. These pros will let you know if they need a permit. 

Grids in very large rooms may also need additional supporting wires. Extra wires will add to your material costs and increase your labor rate since the installation can be time-consuming.

Average Cost to Put a Drop Ceiling in a Basement

Average costs to finish a basement could run between $2,000 to $11,200 if you install a 400-square-foot drop ceiling. This includes $1,200 to $9,200 in materials for a large area. Labor also increases with the square footage and lands in the $800 to $2,000 range. 

Expect ceiling installation experts to increase the price if your basement has a lot of exposed wiring, plumbing pipes, and ductwork. Working around these elements takes a lot more time and could extend the job by a day or more.

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Acoustic Ceiling Tile Prices by Material

5 types of ceiling tile material

Prices for acoustic ceiling tiles largely depend on their material and size. Standard fiberboard and plastic are the most affordable, while tiles made from metal and wood cost more because of their high-end, decorative qualities.

Ceiling Tile Material Average Price Range per Tile
Fiberboard $1 – $7
Plastic $5 – $9
Metal $12 – $20
Wood $10 – $70

Fiberboard

Fiberboard tiles cost between $1 to $7 per tile without labor. It’s the most common ceiling tile material because of its affordability and sound-reduction properties. However, fiberboard is made from mineral fibers, so it’s prone to stains from moisture, like humidity. 

Plastic

If you're shopping for plastic tiles to reduce ceiling installation costs, expect to spend between $5 and $9 per tile. Plastic tiles are versatile and resistant to moisture and stains, but they may not be as attractive as metal and wooden ones. However, DIY installers like plastic tiles because they're easy to hang.

Metal 

Metal tiles are one of the most expensive options for a drop ceiling, costing about $12 to $20 per tile. Attractive designs and installation difficulty drive the prices upward. Homeowners often use metal tiles, also known as tin tiles, as accents instead of an entire ceiling to save money while adding charm. 

Wood

Wood ceiling tiles range in price from $10 to $70. They bring warmth and elegance to the home but are generally the most expensive ceiling tile option. Wooden tiles are attractive and add plenty of design elements to a room, but they’re not ideal for locations with high humidity because of rot and warping tendencies. 

Other Drop Ceiling Tile Prices

Other cost factors include the ceiling square footage and whether you need noise-reduction tiles. 

Box of Ceiling Tile Cost

Home improvement stores usually sell ceiling tiles by the case for $50 to $1,920 each. The total cost of the case depends on the material you choose and how many square feet it covers.

  • A box of 1-inch-thick tiles covers 96 square feet. It contains 24 2-by-2-foot panels or 12 2-by-4-foot tiles.

  • A box of 2-inch-thick tiles covers 48 square feet. It contains 12 2-by-2-foot tiles or six 2-by-2-foot panels.

Cost of Black Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Black acoustic tiles look fantastic and cancel a lot of noise, so they’re a great addition to a gaming or movie theater room. Black acoustic ceiling tiles cost around $2 to $7 per square foot and sell by the case. A box of 16 1-inch-thick, 2-by-2-foot panels might run you $160 or more. A single case typically covers 64 square feet, so you’ll need about two for a 120-square-foot room. 

Cost to Replace Ceiling Tiles

Replacing ceiling tiles includes the purchase price of a new case of tiles. Cases are priced between $50 to $1,920 each. 

Drop Ceiling Cost Factors

The square footage, labor, and tile material affect your costs, but other factors contribute to the final price. Read below to find out what they are. 

Scope of the Work 

If the drop ceiling requires installers to work around a furnace, plumbing system, water lines, or venting, you’ll likely need to pay for ceiling repair costs

Permit and Inspection

Check with your local code enforcement office to see if it requires a permit. If so, add at least $400 to the total drop ceiling cost for the price of a building permit. Also, ask about the minimum space required between the old and new ceiling so you can properly install the tiles. 

Lights 

Depending on the type of light you choose, you'll pay between $30 and $170 each. LED panels are more expensive, while recessed lights start at $30 per unit. The controls needed for the lights range from $20 to $40 each. Remember to install all lighting before installing the tiles to avoid extra work and additional costs. 

Ceiling Fans 

If you need to install ceiling fans to help cool the space or add more light, you’ll add $450 to $700 per fan.

Drop-Out or Melt-Away Tiles

These tiles melt and drop down during a fire, allowing the sprinklers to douse the blaze with water. Add approximately $100 for each 2-by-4 drop-out tile you need to work with your room’s fire sprinkler system. 

Tile Edge Details

Consider using tiles with edge details for about $2 to 4 more per tile. If you prefer texture and visual interest for a project like finishing a basement ceiling, these tiles come in square and angular shapes. 

DIY vs. Hire a Drop Ceiling Pro

When deciding to DIY or call a pro, you might feel tempted to save money by doing the labor yourself. While installing a drop ceiling is considered a relatively easy DIY project, there’s a lot of work involved. Ladders (and sometimes scaffolding) take time and labor to set up, and leveling the ceiling grid can be complex and labor-intensive. For many people, it’s worth the extra cost to hire professionals. 

When you hire a local ceiling contractor or handyperson near you, you can rest assured that the ceiling will look level and last for years. Gather multiple bids from different contractors to find one with good references, excellent work examples, and a solid guarantee of their craft.

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FAQs

What questions should I ask my installer?

Ask the following questions to make sure you know what’s involved and that you’ve hired a good team:

  • Is your company licensed, bonded, and insured? 

  • What is the best tile size for my project? 

  • What fire rating do my ceiling tiles need? 

  • How long will it take to install the drop ceiling? 

  • What is the finished drop ceiling’s height? 

How much clearance do I need for a drop ceiling?

Your room must be at least 7 1/2 feet tall to install drop ceilings to meet residential building codes in most cities. The rules vary considerably, so always check with your code enforcement office.

Is it cheaper to drywall or drop a ceiling?

Drop ceilings are more expensive to install than drywall. Installing drywall costs around $1 to $3 per square foot, but that doesn’t include painting prices, which are about $2 to $6 per square foot.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of drop ceilings?

Drop ceilings have many pros and cons, which we outlined below.

Pros:

  • Easy to install and repair

  • Conceals unsightly elements, including stains and ductwork

  • Quick access to ducts and wiring for maintenance

  • Available in many different styles

Cons:

  • Lowers your ceiling height

  • Tiles may need replacements after a few years

  • Not as sturdy as a traditional ceiling

  • More time-consuming to install than drywall

How much does it cost to remove a drop ceiling?

Expect to pay around $2 to $7 for every square foot of installed drop ceiling you need removed. The cost to demo the interior materials for a 10-by-12-foot room ranges from $240 to $840. You’ll also add $60 per square foot to cover the cost of repairing the newly uncovered ceiling.

How much height do you lose with a drop ceiling?

You could lose as little as 3 inches or as much as 8 inches of height with a drop ceiling. It depends on your manufacturer’s suggestions and the local residential codes for minimum ceiling height. 

Can you paint drop ceiling tiles? 

It’s possible to paint some drop ceiling tiles like plastic, metal, or wood. But check the manufacturer’s guidelines, especially if you’re considering painting acoustic tiles since the paint could affect their ability to cancel out noise.

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