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How to Replace Ceiling Tiles with Drywall

These step-by-step instructions demonstrate how to remove and replace ceiling tiles with a drywall ceiling.

More in Remodeling

newly installed drywall ceiling
  • Time

    Weekend

  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty

    Moderate to Hard

Highlights:

Step 1: Remove the Ceiling Tiles

Investigate how the ceiling tiles are attached. If they're glued directly on, it will take some extra effort to remove them. If they were attached to furring strips, the job will be easier. Use a utility knife to score the tiles, then a putty knife to loosen and pull loose a tile for inspection (Image 1). Fortunately, the tiles in this home were attached using furring strips.

Begin removing the tiles. First, remove the old crown molding, then use a pry bar or claw-hammer to pull the old tiles loose (Image 2). This goes faster with two people or more, working on ladders from various points of the room.

Use a pair of pliers to pull the old staples from the furring strips. Make sure the strips are left smooth. Anything left on them could create a bump in the drywall when it's installed.

Reinforce the furring strips by driving screws through them, and into the ceiling joists.

Step 2: Cut the Drywall

Take measurements to determine how much drywall is needed. The objective with accurate measurements is to use as few boards as possible, and to make sure the ends of each drywall board are attached to the furring strips.

To cut the drywall to fit, mark the length using a drywall square as a guide, score the line with a utility knife. Next, walk behind the drywall and snap it to break the core along the scored line. Remember to trim the paper.

cut the drywall to fit

Step 3: Install the Drywall

Tip: Use a drywall lift to make the next phase of the project much faster and easier. It's optional, but it greatly simplifies the job of lifting the drywall sheets into place. Drywall lifts like this can be rented from rental centers and some home centers.

To install the drywall, one person helps hold the board against the ceiling while two others drive in drywall screws 8" to 12" apart (Image 1). Use a cordless drill or screw gun.

Tip: Use drywall screws rather than nails for securing drywall. Screws are less likely to pop out later on. For installing ceiling drywall, 1-5/8" screws are recommended.

It's important to line up the long-side edges. The side-edges are tapered for smoother joints.

The ends of the drywall panels are flat, and will require a little more skill when "mudding."

Orient the panels with staggered end-seams to help achieve a smooth finish for the drywall ceiling. Continue working in this manner until the last drywall panel is put into place (Image 2).


Step 4: Conceal the Seams

The most complex part of finishing the drywall installation is hiding the joints where the panels meet. Make sure you have plenty of drywall compound and drywall tape. Also make certain that you have both 6" and 10" joint-compound finishing knives (Image 1).

Use the 6" knife to apply a coat of all-purpose joint compound ("mud") to the joint (Image 2). Then center the tape in the mud and cover it with another thin layer of joint compound.

Step 5: Apply a Second and Third Coat of Mud

Once you have all the joints covered (Image 1), allow the compound to cure overnight.

For the second coat, spread the lightweight joint compound using a 10" knife. Also use the joint compound to conceal the screw-heads.

Again, let the compound cure for 24 hours.

Tip: For the second coat, "feather" the joint by applying more pressure on the outside of the blade than the inside. This helps to conceal the bump created by the tape and mud.

For the third and final coat (Image 2), the process is the same. Feather the joint, and put a final coat over the screw-heads. Allow it to cure overnight.

Step 6: Skim and Sand the Ceiling

After the final coat covering the joints has dried, skim and sand the ceiling. To skim, roll on a very thin coat of compound using a paint roller, then skim off the excess using a skimming blade (Image 1). A 24" skimming blade covers a wide area, which makes for less sanding later on.

Once the skim coat has dried, lightly sand the ceiling using a sanding stick (Image 2). Be sure to wear a dust mask when sanding.

Once the sanding is finished and the ceiling is smooth, the job is done. If desired, paint the walls and ceiling and install crown molding.

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