Whether you want to hide ducts, reduce noise, or improve insulation, lowering your ceiling can be a great way to update the look and feel of your home. Depending on the height of your home, dropping the ceiling can offer a lot of benefits. However, it can also be expensive.
The average cost of lowering a ceiling in the UK is £20-£65 per square metre. This means your standard living room of 46.3 square metres will cost at least £960 to lower the ceiling. However, if you’re lowering the ceiling for a loft conversion or to support weight, the project could cost more than four times that.
Why Lower Your Ceiling?
Lowering your ceiling can provide multiple benefits to homeowners. For example:
Lowering the ceiling reduces the amount of open space you have to heat and cool. In the summer, you’ll have a smaller space to heat. However, unless you install ventilation at the top of your room for heat to escape, you won’t get too much of an increase in efficiency. However, in the winter, you’ll lose less heat as it rises to the top of the room. In addition, if you install insulation on top of your drop ceiling, you’ll retain more heat. That can significantly reduce your heating bills.
However, if you’re only dropping the ceiling a few centimetres and you’re not adding a layer of insulation, it won’t have that big of an impact. That’s especially true if your existing ceiling and roof are well-insulated.
Hiding Ducts and Electric Work
In many old homes, ducts and electrical work are installed after the home is built. That can leave you with unsightly pipes across your ceiling. Dropping the ceiling allows you to hide those. In addition, dropping the ceiling a few centimetres can allow you to cheaply replace all of your electrical work – by installing new on top of the ceiling, rather than ripping everything out of the walls. If you have plaster and brick walls – that can save you thousands.
However, it’s not always the best idea. It’s important to discuss your options with a construction firm and to base your decision on whether or not you can leave the old wiring in place.
Drop ceilings also allow you to install things like integrated spotlighting and curtain rails – without ripping up your actual ceiling.
Temporarily Making Changes to a Home
If you’re living in a rental and want to make dramatic changes to the ceiling or the room height, you can do so with a ceiling drop kit. These are inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to remove. That means you can restore the rental or the property to its original condition with very little added work – making this a great way to personalise your home when you can’t make permanent changes.
Many people simply prefer the look and feel of a lower ceiling. Lower ceilings can feel cosier, can look softer, and can feel warmer. In addition, they allow you to use spot lighting and even to install speakers or other electronics directly in the ceiling, without reducing your insulation.
Lowering Ceiling Cost Estimates*
Drop ceilings can vary in cost depending on different factors like the cost of labour, the timeline, the size, insulation, and materials. The following chart details the difference in cost between using tiles and plasterboard.
|Labor||£10-£40 per hour|
|Frame||Wood||£5-£25 per metre|
|Drop Ceiling Kit||£75-£450|
|Ceiling||Tiles||£12-£20 per square metre|
|Drywall/Plasterboard||£3-£9 per square metre|
|Wood||£12-£25 per square metre|
|Finishing||Plaster||£3-£25 per square metre|
|Paint/Varnish||£2-£5 per square metre|
So, if you were to look at estimated costs for the “standard” living room size of 46.3 square metres, with a day rate of £150 each for two labourers, those costs might look like this:
|Wood Ceiling/Wood Frame||£1,052-£2,600|
|Wood Tiles/Drop Kit||£1,700-£2,200|
|Fireproof Tiles/Drop Kit||£1,000-£1,630|
*These rates are based on average quotes at the time of writing in April 2023. The rates do not include electronics or lighting installed in the ceiling. In addition, rates are subject to change and may be different at the time of reading.
What Factors Influence The Price Of Lowering A Ceiling?
The cost of lowering a ceiling can vary dramatically.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labour for a builder typically ranges between £10 and £40 per hour. On average, you’ll pay a day rate of about £100- £150 per person helping. And, in most cases, you can expect to pay for at least a full day of work. In some cases, you can expect your drop ceiling to take up to three days to install. For example, the cost chart above assumes that the installation will happen in one day – which it should for a small room. However, if you have complications, such as if your old ceiling will not support the weight of the new one, it will take longer.
Either way, fitting costs will normally start at around £300 for an average living room. If you have a larger space, expect to pay more.
Total costs for installing a drop ceiling typically depend on size. However, you’ll normally pay a minimum, even for a very small room. So, if you want to drop the ceiling in your storage closet, you can probably expect costs to start at around £250. On the other hand, you can expect average costs to range between £25 and £65 per square metre. The average living room is 46.3 metres.
The cheapest materials cost as little as £3 per square metre, plus installation. On average, you can expect:
- £150-£250 for plastering
- £150-£450 for drywall
- £500+ for tiles
- £500-£1500 for wood
- £150 for paint
Choosing a material should normally depend on what kind of ceiling you want. For example, most homeowners opt for a drywall or wood ceiling. Most businesses opt for tiles.
Kits vs Wood
A ceiling drop kit normally costs £75-£150 for the kit. This includes the hanging kit that you fit into the existing ceiling. You’ll still have to purchase the tiles separately.
A wood frame allows you to opt for drywall or a wood drop ceiling rather than a tile ceiling. However, it normally costs more – although that depends on the size of your ceiling.
Ability to Carry Weight
If you’re lowering your ceiling for a loft conversion or for storage, you’ll have to spend a lot more on the frame. This will increase costs to £25+ per square metre. If you don’t intend to suspend weight on the ceiling, you can skip reinforcing it, so costs will drop.
Height of Drop
The lower you want to drop your ceiling, the more the total work will cost.
Average Ceiling Heights UK
There are very few regulations concerning ceilings in the UK. This means you can often make your ceiling whatever height you’d like. However, there are some standard heights for ceilings in the UK.
Ceiling Type Height (cm)
Minimum for Comfort 210
In most cases, you’re recommended to have a ceiling height of about 240 cm for most rooms. For stairs and bedrooms, you can drop the height, but anything under 210 is normally considered uncomfortable.
Is Planning Permission Required?
Planning permission is not normally required to drop a ceiling. That’s also true if you’re considering dropping versus replacing the ceiling. However, if you live in a listed building, you will always need planning permission.
You will not have to apply building control to lower your ceiling, so long as you do not replace the ceiling between a cold loft or the roof. If you replace more than 25% of the ceiling between a cold loft or a roof, you’ll have to contact building control.
In addition, building regulations require that dropped ceilings have a sufficient fire resistance rating to be safe. You can ensure that you meet regulation by using building materials that comply with at least Euroclass B-s1, d0 or better. Any tiles you use will meet this regulation at minimum.
Here, a wood frame is normally anywhere from B to F. In this case, the surface material should be a B or higher.
Building Project Timelines
In most cases, the timeline for building a dropdown ceiling will depend on the size of the ceiling. Additionally, you’ll have different timelines depending on whether you intend to use a kit or a wood frame.
In most cases, you’ll have a timeline that looks like this:
- Installing/constructing suspension frame – 3-6 hours
- Fitting facing/Plasterboard – 1-2 hours
- Installing Wood Timber/Panelling – 2-4 hours
- Paint – 2-3 hours
- Plastering – 3-6 hours
So, so you can expect the full project to take a maximum of about 40 hours. If you choose to build a frame, install drywall panelling, plaster it, and then paint that, you’ll take the most amount of time. On the other hand, if you hang a suspension kit and simply insert tiles, you could finish the full project in less than a day.
Downsides of Lower Ceilings
Lower ceilings aren’t always a great choice. In fact, they do have several downsides:
- Room looks less spacious
- It’s harder to hang lighting
- Heat doesn’t rise away from you during the summer
- You’ll have to choose shorter furniture
- Architectural elements such as moulding are harder to fit
In most cases, that’s the full extent of downsides. However, if you end up hating your drop ceiling, they are normally relatively easy to remove. If you’re not sure, try visiting places with lower ceilings to see if you like the look.
Money Saving Tips
Saving money on lowering your ceiling is relatively simple. However, it may require some planning.
- Choose the right materials. In most cases, the cheapest option is a drywall drop ceiling with a wooden frame. This also allows you to minimise labour when hanging the ceiling, because you’ll need fewer suspension points than with a drop ceiling kit.
- Do prep work yourself. If you have to remove lamps or lights, you can save a lot of time by doing that yourself.
- Shop around for materials and see if you can get them cheaper than you’re quoted by the builder
- Try to find a builder who will also do the plaster work and re-hang the lights – as that will save you considerably over having a new firm come out to fix those aspects of your new ceiling
- If you want to drop more than one ceiling, have everything done at once. Part of the rate you pay is the project or call rate – which is the minimum cost of a project and usually covers the first hour of work.
- Choose the Right Season. It’s usually more expensive to build in the spring and summer, because everyone is doing construction projects. Switching those projects to the fall and winter months could save you considerably. And, if you plan far enough ahead, you’ll more easily be able to get the contractor you want.
- Compare quotes. Different contractors charge different rates based on experience, how busy they are, or their own preference. If you find a firm that has a lot of experience installing drop ceilings, they’ll likely charge less for the job, because they can fix it faster.
If you’re intending to lower your ceiling, you can estimate that the total project will cost between £25 and £65 per square metre, including the cost of labour. Often, you can complete the project in 1-3 days, depending on materials, the number of labourers on your project, and the complexity of what you’re doing.
If you’re ready to get started, fill out the form at the top of the page to get ceiling lowering quotes for your area.