A suspended ceiling is a great way to change the look and feel of your home. Whether that’s to hide pipes and ducts, avoid stripping out old plaster to redo the ceiling, or improve insulation, a suspended ceiling can be the way to go.
Suspended ceilings allow you to drop a ceiling anywhere from a few centimetres to over a metre – giving you freedom to create the look and feel you want in your home.
However, the cost of a suspended ceiling can vary depending on what materials you use. On average, you’ll pay about £28 per square metre. However, actual rates can vary from £20 to over 65.
Here, the costs divide between materials and labour. You can expect to pay about £150 per day per person on the job, or an average of £300 per day. And actual materials costs average to about £15 per square metre plus the suspended ceiling kit.
Suspended Ceiling Overview
A suspended ceiling is a hanging ceiling fixed to the beams of the original ceiling above. Depending on the build, you may install new beams of either wood or structural steel. Then, you hand a suspended ceiling kit. These kits can be made for tiles or for drywall or even wood. However, you’ll have to select a kit based on the ceiling material you want to use.
Dropped ceiling kits are also available in a variety of lengths. Some also use wire suspension systems, which your construction team can cut themselves. This allows you full control over how far you want to drop the ceiling. And, a dropped ceiling allows you to reduce the height of the ceiling by anywhere from a few centimetres to over a metre.
They also specifically allow you to create an air cavity between the ceiling and the original ceiling. This can add to insulation. However, you’ll typically want to insulate over the tiling to preserve heat retention, as most tiles and drywall are not that insulative.
How Much Does Suspending A Ceiling Cost?*
Suspended ceilings can cost as little as £1,000 for a full install in a room. However, if you want to do your whole home or want to use wood panelling, costs will be significantly higher.
|1-3 days labour for 2 people||£10-£40 per hour/£150 per day per person|
|Drop Ceiling Kit||£75-£450|
|Tiles||£12-£20 per square metre|
|Drywall/ Plasterboard||£3-£9 per square metre|
|Wood||£12-£25 per square metre|
|Plaster||£3-£25 per square metre|
|Paint/Varnish||£2-£5 per square metre|
*These rates are based on average quotes at the time of writing in May 2023. Actual rates are subject to change and may be different at the time of reading.
This can work out to significantly different costs depending on your project.
- 30 m2 living room with wood tiles and suspension kit – £1,700-£2,200
- 15 m2 bedroom with fireproof tiles and drop kit – £850-£1,200
- 38 m2 hallways with plasterboard and suspension kit – £1,200-£1,600
5 Factors Which Impact Suspended Ceiling Prices
There are plenty of things that will impact the total cost of your suspended ceiling. However, labour, the amount of work required, and the materials you choose will be the most important.
1. Local Cost of Labour
The local cost of labour can vary quite a bit across the UK. For example, while it averages £150 per day in most of the country, that can be as high as £250 in parts of London and as low as £80 in some very rural areas. On average, it will be £150. In other cases, you might not get a day rate – which means you could pay up to £40 an hour for 2 people – meaning you’re looking at up to £640 per day in fitting costs.
Understanding local labour rates is therefore critical to figuring out what you’re going to pay. In addition, it’s almost always cheaper to find a team that will offer a day rate – because it’s likely significantly cheaper than an hourly rate. That’s because many labourers have to charge higher rates for small jobs to cover the cost and time of commute.
2. Reinforcing the Ceiling
In the best-case scenario, you’ll be able to suspend your ceiling directly from the existing ceiling with no added work. This is relatively easy if you have visible beams or supports and they’re sturdy enough to support the added weight.
However, if you have a plaster ceiling without beams, you might not be able to suspend a ceiling from it. Instead, the plaster my literally pull out from around the suspension kit causing part or all of your ceiling to sag and fall.
Here, your best option is to have the room assessed upfront. From there, you can figure out if you need beams to hang the ceiling from. If you, wood beams are usually more than good enough and they’ll typically cost about £14 per metre. However, you may also want structural steel, which can cost up to £66 per metre.
In addition, reinforcing the ceiling will mean more labour and therefore more labour costs.
Drop ceilings use a combination of a suspended frame with something on top of the frame. Depending on the frame you choose, that can be tiles, plasterboard, or even wood. For the latter, you’ll need a heavier frame that can support more weight.
However, materials cost anywhere from about £3 to about £250 per square metre. The cheapest will be simple fibreboard tiles which insert into the frame – much like you’d see in an office. You probably don’t want that in your home but it is cheap.
- Drywall – £7-£20 per m2
- Fibre Tiles – £3-£20 per m2
- Wood Tiles – £20-£160 per m2
- Insulated Tiles – £12-£68 per m2
You’ll also have to calculate that you will pay £250-£800 for the suspended ceiling kit itself, depending on the size of the ceiling. In addition, some types of kits, such as those with wood framing to hide tile seams, can cost much more.
4. Size of the Room
The larger your room, the longer it takes to hang a ceiling. On average, you can expect your workers to be able to manage about 10m2 per hour of suspension and about that for hanging tiles, which means you’ll need about 2 hours per 10 m2. However, prep work and finishing can take longer.
This means that if you have a 16 m2 room, you can expect it to take at least 4 hours of actual work – but prep and cleanup may push it into a full day of labour. If you have a 40 m2 room, it may take much longer to handle the tiling.
5. Drop Height
The higher the drop of your ceiling, the more it will cost in most cases. This is the case for a few reasons, including that it will take more effort to hang the ceiling. You’ll also need a sturdier kit to handle the hanging distance – because more distance means more instability and more pressure on the suspension points.
So, if you’re dropping the ceiling a few centimetres to hide pipes, you might not need support beams. If you’re dropping it 12 cm to lower the height of your ceiling, you might need the beams anyway. So, costs can be quite a bit different depending on the drop height.
Benefits Of A Dropped Ceiling
Dropping your ceiling can change the full look and feel of your home. There are also benefits that you might want.
If you have an old roof, insulating it can be extremely costly and difficult. Dropping the ceiling may allow you to add an insulative layer without that expense. In addition, if you have very high ceilings, dropping the ceiling can force the warm air closer to the floor, so you feel the warmth more.
However, achieving this involves either using a layer of insulation on your drop ceiling or choosing insulated tiles. It’s not enough to use fibreboard or drywall as these materials aren’t insulative enough, and you’ll simply trap the heat between the suspended ceiling and the original ceiling.
Therefore, if your goal is to improve heat retention, opt for insulation and insulative measures when installing the suspended ceiling.
A lot of older homes were installed without proper ductwork or pipes in place. In other cases, those pipes and ducts had to be re-fitted at a later date and the owners opted to have them installed on top of the ceiling or walls rather than breaking apart the plaster.
Many people find ducts, radiator pipes, and water pipes to be unsightly. A suspended ceiling gives you a cavity to install and hide those utilities – so you don’t have to worry about wires, cables, or pipes.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re covering radiator pipes, you need to use good insulating material around them, as they can get quite hot.
This is also the case if you want to install spots or down lights but don’t want to drill into your plaster ceiling. However, it’s unlikely that you’d go through the expense of a drop ceiling just for a lighting choice.
If your home has high vaulting ceilings, it can be less than cosy. Many people prefer the look and feel of lowered ceilings, so dropping them can be great for the aesthetics of your home.
Lowering the ceiling also allows you to modernise the ceiling, with new types of décor, hidden curtain rails, downward spots, and other options.
False Ceiling Installation Steps
Installing a false ceiling or drop ceiling will almost always follow the same process:
- Find a builder/contractor
- Inspect the room and assess the ceilings
- Install support beams on the ceiling where necessary
- Drill and fit the suspension frame
- Install the panelling/tiles/covering
- Do any finishing work such as trim or paint and plaster
In most cases, each of these steps will take a few hours – although inspection could take longer. In addition, if you live in a listed building or a council house, you might need permission to drop the ceilings.
How To Save Money On Suspended Ceilings
Dropping the ceiling can be a costly project – especially if you’re doing the whole home. However, there are a few ways you can save money:
- Compare installers and choose one that offers good value for money. E.g., minimise delivery, commute, and equipment costs
- Look for someone offering day rates for labour
- Choose materials based on insulation or add insulation. You’ll save on your heating bill every year- which will reduce costs over time
In most cases, shopping around for materials will save you the most money upfront. However, you will generally pay about £28 per square metre – unless you opt for an expensive material such as hardwood tiles.
Suspended Ceiling Material Types
Most suspended ceilings combine a metal frame with a covering material. The metal frame is usually made of aluminium or steel. However, your options will generally depend on the height of the drop and the weight of the covering material.
|Fibreboard||Cheap||Ugly, Prone to water damage, only last 5-15 years|
|Drywall||Cheap, easy to install, doesn’t look like a drop ceiling||Requires plaster, not suitable for tiling effects, requires a drywall suspension kit|
|Plastic||Cheap, versatile||Ugly, may lower the value of your home|
|Hardwood||Luxurious, beautiful||Expensive, may require maintenance in kitchens|
|Softwood||Beautiful||Expensive, may require maintenance in kitchens, not as fire resistant as other options|
|Insulated Panels||Good heat retention, otherwise, the same as fibreboard||Expensive, limited options|
|Fireproof Panels||Very good fire safety||Expensive, limited options|
Fibreboard is the basic or standard tile option made of pressed fibre. These are cheap and can be as little as £3 per m2. However, they’re typically ugly and look like they belong in an office. Most homeowners don’t want them.
However, you can use trim to create different effects to make them more appealing.
Drywall hangs on a suspended ceiling by attaching to the frames. You can then plaster and seal the drywall just like you would on a normal ceiling. However, the drywall will be less durable on a suspended frame, because it has fewer attachment points.
On the other hand, it’s cheap, durable, looks like a normal ceiling, and can be painted whatever colour you like.
Plastic tiles are cheap and versatile. However, many people don’t like the look because they will always look plastic – unless the veneer on the top is very well done. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to use plastic tiles if planning to sell the home.
Hardwood is a luxury material that can add value and beauty to your home. It’s also good for insulation and good for fire resistance. However, it’s one of the most expensive materials you can choose, with costs starting from about £40 per m2.
Softwood offers much of the aesthetic appeal of hardwood but none of the other benefits. In addition, you’ll have to treat softwood in order to fireproof it enough to meet regulations. Otherwise, softwood can be a beautiful ceiling material.
Insulated panels reduce the steps of hanging a suspended ceiling to just one, because you’ll only need one layer of panels. That can save you the extra cost of insulating your suspended ceiling with a separate layer of insulation.
However, insulation can be as little as £2.50 per square metre – so it might not necessarily be cheaper to choose insulated panels – although it will save mess and hassle.
Fireproof or fire-resistant panels are ceiling tiles that are designed to reduce the effect of fire. These aren’t necessary everywhere as all tiles have to meet minimum regulations for fireproofing. However, you may prefer them in some areas, such as in a kitchen or over a boiler.
Finding The Right Professional
Finding a good installer can save you a lot of time and hassle and will ensure that you get the best rates for your new ceiling. Here, you can ask the following questions:
- Do you have a detailed quote including all materials?
- Who owns waste and extra materials? Do you get rid of waste yourself or is there an extra fee?
- Do you have liability insurance and worker’s compensation?
- Is there a workmanship guarantee?
- Do you supply and fit or just fit?
- Are you going to subcontract for electrical work to lower lights with the ceiling?
- Is your organisation in the Competent Persons Register?
- Do you handle council notifications?
Lowering your ceiling can offer a lot of benefits. The best place to get started is to find contractors in your area, start pricing materials, and figure out how much you want to drop the ceiling. Comparing local contractors ensures you know what your job should cost and why – although you’ll still have to look at material options.
If you’re ready to get started, use the form at the top of the page to request quotes from installers in your postcode.