Ceiling tiles, or sometimes called ceiling panels, are made from a variety of materials and are used to cover ceilings. Your three basic installation types are:
- Suspended Grid: Some tiles are made to be installed into a drop or suspended ceiling grid.
- Direct Attachment: Others are designed to be mounted directly to the ceiling using an adhesive.
- Substrate/furring Attachment: A few are made to be stapled or nailed to a plywood substrate that has been attached to the ceiling.
The type of ceiling tiles you choose will depend, in part, on the installation type you will use.
1 - First this guide discusses installation options and what they cost for the labor and supplies required.
2 - Then we look at the kinds and costs of your ceiling tile options for each type of system.
Ceiling Tiles Installation Options
Drop and Flush Mount Ceilings Systems
In both of these systems, tiles are positioned or fitted into a grid that must first be assembled and hung.
Standard drop ceilings are commonly used in basements to hide the ceiling infrastructure, like wiring and ductwork, when access to systems needs to be maintained. Traditional drop ceiling grids hang on suspension wires and can lower the ceiling height by up to 6 inches, so only work in a room with enough ceiling height to accommodate the system.
Surface or Flush Mount ceiling systems attach directly to the ceiling framing without suspension wires and take only about an inch from the ceiling height. Surface Mount systems can be installed over a plaster or drywall ceiling; If the ceiling surface material has been removed, the tiles can be attached to the ceiling framing, 2x4’s for example.
You can use almost any kind of ceiling tiles with standard or surface mount ceiling grids including mineral fiber, fiberglass, PVC, and metals.
Whether you install your ceiling system yourself or hire a professional, you will first need to make decisions about which system will best meet your needs. For instance, will 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’ tiles work best? Deciding on the tiles you want will help you choose your system. Some tiles are only available in 2’ x 4’ sizes, like fiberglass. Tiles made of mineral fiber, PVC, and metals are available in many more styles in the 2’ x 2’ size.
Grid systems are available in steel and PVC, most often in white, but you can also find colors like brown and black. Tile manufacturers often sell grid covers that match their tiles so choosing a colored grid may not be necessary.
Pros typically charge by time (labor) plus materials. Let’s look at each in turn.
Labor: Professional Grid System Installation Costs
Hiring a professional to install a ceiling grid system will cost between $2.50 and $5 per square foot for labor and laying the tiles into the grid. Costs depend on the complexity of the ceiling including, how many light fixtures must be worked around, the number of corners, etc. A 400 square foot room will cost between $1,000 and $2,000. This cost does not include the grid system itself or the cost of the tiles. Costs of different types of ceiling tiles are reviewed later in the article.
Materials (Not including tiles): Grid System Material Costs
You can find a variety of drop ceiling kits at home improvement stores. Kits are usually sold to cover 64 square feet and include all of the needed components. These kits cost between $1.20 and $1.80 per square foot, so a 400 square foot room will cost between $480 and $720 for grid materials.
Direct Mount Installation Costs: Pro or DIY?
Direct Mount installation type is where the ceiling tiles are mounted to the ceiling using an adhesive. Styrofoam, PVC, some mineral fiber tiles, and sometimes aluminum tiles can be installed this way. Direct mount ceiling tiles are a quick and easy way to cover an ugly surface or popcorn ceiling.
Installing these tiles is a relatively easy DIY project. If you decide to take on the project, your only costs will be for adhesive and a few tools for applying the adhesive and measuring the room.
The cost to have a professional install direct mount ceiling tiles will run between $1 and $5 per square foot depending on the complexity of the ceiling and whether you will be using crown moldings. So, the cost for a 400 square foot room will be between $400 and $2,000 for labor. Later in the article we discuss the cost of a variety of ceiling tiles.
Plywood Substrates for Metal Ceiling Tile Installation
If you will be installing metal tiles, like tin or copper, directly to the ceiling, you will need to attach a plywood substrate or furring to the ceiling first, then staple or nail the tiles to the plywood. Metal tiles are generally too heavy to be installed directly to the ceiling, as the weight of the tiles can pull the nails out of drywall or plaster.
Professional Substrate and Tile Installation Costs
Hiring a professional to install a metal ceiling including supplying the materials for and installing the plywood substrate will cost between $2.50 and $5.50 per square foot. The cost will depend upon the details of the ceiling such as light fixtures, crown molding, corners involved, and the number of tiles that need trimming. Therefore, a 400 square foot room will cost between $1,000 and $2,200 for everything except the cost of the tiles and moldings. Tile and molding costs are detailed later in the article.
Substrate Material Cost for DIY
A metal ceiling can be installed by an experienced DIYer. The plywood or furring strips, plus nails, will cost between $.50 and $1.00 per square foot. A 400 square foot ceiling will cost between $200 and $400.
Types of Ceiling Tiles and Costs
Now that we’ve overviewed the labor and materials involved, we get to the cost of the actual ceiling tiles.
Sq. Ft. Cost
Ceiling Grid Systems
$1.20 - $1.80
$2.50 - $5
$1 - $6
$.50 - $1
$2.50 - $5.50
Ceiling Tiles/Molding Materials
Sq. Ft. Cost
Linear Ft. Cost
Mineral Fiber Tiles
$1 - $5
$.50 - $9
$1.25 - $3
$3 - $12
$1 - $3
$2 - $3
$2.50 - $12
$2 - $12
$4 - $15
$3 - $14
$14 - $23
$12 - $55
Mineral Fiber tiles are the traditional ceiling tiles found in many basements beginning in the mid 1950’s and through today. Mineral fiber tiles are made from recycled materials including paper, fiberglass, and mineral wool combined with binding agents and formed into tiles.
Mineral fiber tiles can provide some thermal insulation to a room and usually have small perforations which give them acoustic, i.e. sound dampening, properties. They are susceptible to moisture but most tiles on the market today are treated to provide mold, mildew, and sag protection. Just don’t count on them lasting forever in a damp area.
Mineral fiber tiles are available in a variety of textures and styles including some that are made to look like coffers or panels and some that are pressed to look like a tin ceiling. Mineral fiber tiles are available in 2’ x 2’, 2’ x 4’, and 12” x 12” sizes in white, and can be painted with latex paint.
Brands & Suppliers
2’ x 2’ and 2’ x 4’ sized tiles are made to be installed into grid ceilings. The 12” x 12” tiles are made to be installed directly to the ceiling with an adhesive or staples.
If you have an existing ceiling grid system, professional installation isn’t usually necessary. You only need to remove the old tiles and lay in the new tiles after giving the grid a dusting or light wash with mild soap. If some trimming of tiles is required, just cut them with a utility knife or shears. You’ll soon have the hang of it.
Applying the tiles directly to the ceiling with an adhesive is also fairly easy if you have some DIY experience. If you decide to hire a professional your costs will run between $1 and $5 per square foot.
Mineral Fiber Tile Costs
Mineral fiber tiles are some of the cheapest ceiling tiles and will cost between $.50 and $6.00 per square foot depending on the thickness of the tile, the style, and the quantity purchased.
Fiberglass ceiling tiles are made from glass fibers and resins and formed into tiles. Most fiberglass tiles are encased with a vinyl material, are durable, and maintenance free. Fiberglass ceiling tiles provide both thermal insulation to a room and are effective at noise reduction by absorbing sound.
Fiberglass tiles are easy to find and are available in a choice of textures, mostly white or black, and available in a 2’ x 4’ size. Due to the vinyl covering, these tiles are not easy to paint. Fiberglass tiles are moisture resistance and Class A fire rated.
Brands & Suppliers
Armstrong and USG are the largest manufacturers of fiberglass ceiling tiles and these brands can be found at home improvement retailers.
Most fiberglass ceiling tiles are made to be installed into grid systems but you can find fiberglass tiles that can be installed directly to the ceiling with an adhesive.
Laying the fiberglass tiles into an existing ceiling system is an easy DIY project and can be done yourself. If you need to trim the tiles, use a utility knife or shears.
Applying the tiles directly to the ceiling is a little more difficult but can be done as a DIY project. If you hire a professional, expect to pay between $1 and $5 per square foot.
Fiberglass Tile Costs
Standard fiberglass ceiling tiles cost between $.50 and $1.50 per square foot but thicker tiles, with a high level of acoustic ability, can cost up to $9.00 per square foot.
PVC Decorative Ceiling Tiles
PVC (also called vinyl or plastic) ceiling tiles are made by forming melted plastic into tiles. They are available in nearly unlimited patterns and styles. PVC ceiling tiles are versatile, lightweight, and waterproof. They are 100% recyclable and Class A fire rated.
You can find them in white, solid colors, hand painted, and custom finishes. They can be made to look like metals, wood, leather, and stone. There are tiles that mimic the look of historic tin ceilings and tiles that create the look of a deeply coffered wood ceiling. You can also find tiles in contemporary styles. PVC ceiling tiles are sized at 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’.
Also Read: Decorative Ceiling Tiles Reviews and Costs
Brands & Suppliers
Home improvement retailers carry some PVC tiles, including the Armstrong brand, but you can find the widest selection from online retailers including:
PVC ceiling tiles can be installed into ceiling grid systems or applied directly to the ceiling with an adhesive. They are lightweight and easy to trim and install. Installing the tiles into an existing ceiling grid only requires removing the old tiles and lying in the new tiles.
Installing the tiles directly to the ceiling is more challenging and you may want to consider using a professional. Having PVC tiles professionally installed to the ceiling with adhesive will cost between $2 and $6 per square foot depending on the complexity of your ceiling.
PVC Tile Costs
Inexpensive PVC tiles will start around $1.25 per square foot with the average cost about $3.00 per square foot. Hand painted, specialty, and custom tiles can cost over $20.00 per square foot. PVC crown moldings cost between $3 and $12 a linear foot.
Styrofoam Decorative Ceiling Tiles
Styrofoam, or polystyrene, ceiling tiles are made by pressing or molding the melted material into tiles. Styrofoam tiles are light and waterproof and can be used in any room, including a bathroom. They will also add some thermal and sound insulation to the space.
Styrofoam tiles are created in many patterns including tiles that mimic tin ceilings, tiles with deep and shallow coffers, various panel styles, and contemporary designs. These tiles are available in 20” x 20” or 19.5” x 19.5” sizes, are available in solid colors, multi-colors, faux metal finishes, and white, which can be painted to match your décor with water based paint.
Brands & Suppliers
Home improvement stores do carry some Styrofoam ceiling tiles but you will find the widest selection from online retailers. Some of these are:
These tiles will not work with ceiling grid systems due to their size. They are made to be installed directly to the ceiling with an adhesive.
Installing Styrofoam ceiling tiles yourself can be somewhat difficult unless you have a fair amount of DIY experience. It also depends on the complexity of your ceiling. Here is a video of Styrofoam ceiling tiles being installed that might help you decide whether to tackle the work.
If you do decide to use a professional installer, expect to pay between $2 and $6 per square foot.
Styrofoam Tile Costs
You can find Styrofoam ceiling tiles for as low as $1 per square foot but they can go up to $3 per square foot depending on the style and finish. Styrofoam crown moldings cost between $2 and $3 per linear foot.
The most common type of metal ceiling tiles is pressed or embossed tin plated steel. Tin ceiling tiles are available in styles that replicate antique tin ceiling patterns but you can also find them in traditional and contemporary styles.
Copper, aluminum, and steel are also used to make ceiling tiles. There is a wide variety of styles and patterns available including tiles with panels and coffers. Metal ceiling tiles are available in both 2’ x 2’ and 2’x 4’ sizes.
You can find them unfinished, which you can paint or seal yourself, and in many colors and in hand painted and distressed finishes. Copper tiles are unpainted and only sealed. Some metal tiles have perforations giving them acoustic properties.
Armstrong makes a line of steel ceiling tiles under the brand, Metallaire, in white or finished to look like copper, brass, and lacquered steel.
Brands & Suppliers
Home improvement retailers carry some metal ceiling tiles including Armstrong’s Metallaire brand and a number of tin ceiling tiles. American Tin Ceilings is a large supplier of tin plated steel tiles and you can visit their website. https://www.americantinceilings.com/
Decorative Ceiling Tiles carries tin, aluminum, and copper tile.
Metal ceiling tiles can be installed into ceiling grid systems or can be applied to the ceiling over a plywood substrate. Laying the tiles into an existing ceiling grid is an easy project and the tiles can be trimmed with tin snips.
If you are going to install the metal tiles directly to the ceiling, you will need to first install a plywood furring or substrate to your ceiling joists. A drywall or plaster ceiling is not strong enough to hold the weight of the tiles, so the tiles must be nailed to the plywood.
Earlier in the article we detail installation costs.
Here is a video featuring installation of a tin ceiling.
Metal Tile Costs
Tin ceiling tiles are the least expensive metal tiles and cost between $2.50 and $12 per square foot. Aluminum ceiling tile price is between $4 and $15 per square foot, and copper ceiling tile cost is between $14 and $23 per square foot, all depending on the style and finish on the tile. Cost for tin crown moldings will cost between $2 and $12 per linear foot, aluminum will cost $3 to $14, and copper moldings will run between $12 and $55 per linear foot.