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Can You Put Drywall Over Ceiling Tiles? (How To)

Updating the ceiling can beautify any room. If you have old ceiling tiles, can you put drywall over them, or should you remove them first?

You can drywall over ceiling tiles if you can screw into something solid. You would either screw through the drywall and ceiling tiles into the joists above or fabricate a new ceiling framework.

man worker fixing ceiling

There are times when it is more than beneficial to attach drywall over ceiling tiles. It may help to keep your family safe. That is the case if the tiles are older than 30 years, as they may contain asbestos.

In addition, removing ceiling tiles can be a lot of work if all you’re going to do is put the drywall over them and finish it. Sometimes you just want to leave the tiles in place because it makes your life a lot easier.

I have been on dozens of projects where we installed drywall over ceiling tiles. We covered some tiles because they contained asbestos, and others were dated.

In any case, one common thread ran through every project. The drywall finishes things off beautifully, but there is no cookie-cutter option for getting the job done.

In this article, we will talk about many different types of ceiling tiles and the options that may be possible for adding drywall. It doesn’t matter if old asbestos tiles are attached to the ceiling or if you want to avoid replacing a drop ceiling. There are options for adding drywall.

It’s not always about the benefits of adding drywall to the ceiling. It’s also about the potential problems. You can confidently tackle any job when you can look at the issues and address them ahead of time.

Should You Put Drywall Over Ceiling Tiles?

man worker fixing ceiling

In this section, we will look at some of the problems associated with installing drywall over ceiling tiles. These may only fit in some projects, but they are worth considering.

Weight: When you install drywall on a vertical wall, you are distributing the weight, and you aren’t in danger of having it fall. It is different when you install drywall horizontally from the ceiling.

It is important to consider the weight of the drywall on several different levels. First of all, the drywall needs to be affixed to the ceiling so that it will hold the weight.

When you consider the fact that a 1/2-inch sheet of drywall weighs over 50 pounds, it really can add up quickly. The last thing you want is for the drywall to come crashing down after installing it.

You can address the issue with weight by screwing through the drywall and ceiling tiles into the joists above. You can also build a framework that will hold the drywall ceiling.

Asbestos: One of the biggest questions many homeowners have is if their ceiling tiles contain asbestos. If those tiles have been up since the 1980s or before, it is possible that they do.

Just because you have asbestos in the home does not mean you are in grave danger. Unless the asbestos gets powdery and airborne, there isn’t much danger.

Encapsulating asbestos with drywall is one of the best things you can do to protect your family. It is easier to encapsulate it in this way than have it removed.

Just be aware that if the drywall ever needs to be removed, you will be exposed to damaged asbestos tiles. The same could also be true for any future owners of your home.

Uneven Tiles: If the tiles are uneven, the drywall will not work well. A drywall sheet will crack if you try to affix it to a surface that is not flat and even.

You can overcome this problem in one of two different ways. The easiest way is to build a secondary framework that will give you something to affix the drywall to permanently.

You can also use shims to make the drywall flat against any surface. This can be challenging if the ceiling tiles are sagging and some insulation has gotten between the joists and the ceiling tile. It is still something to consider because it has worked well on some of my projects.

Ceiling Height: This is the issue I discussed with most of my clients more than any other. Quite simply, when you add drywall to the ceiling, you are lowering the ceiling height.

If the drywall is relatively thin and attached directly to the ceiling tiles, it will not intrude on the living space a noticeable amount. On the other hand, there are reasons why you might consider installing a new framework on the ceiling.

A ceiling framework gives you something to support the drywall, and you can screw directly into it. It is also possible to run wiring within the framework, so you can always add ceiling fans or lights to the room.

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On the other hand, a ceiling framework will lower the height of the ceiling considerably. If you have high ceilings, it may not be noticeable but it is not the best option for standard ceilings.

Now that we have considered the possible problems let’s look at the options to get the job done.

What Tools Do You Need To Put Drywall Over Ceiling Tiles?

Tools use for drywall ceiling

Gathering your tools together is an integral part of the process. I tell everyone that works for me from the start that they should have their tools within arms reach and organized, or work will go slowly.

The following tools will be necessary to put drywall over ceiling tiles:

  • Tape Measure
  • Utility Knife
  • Drywall T-Square
  • Screw Gun
  • Drywall Screw Bit
  • Long Screws
  • Drywall Knives
  • Drywall Mud Pan
  • Drywall Lift (Optional)
  • Fiberglass Support Poles

What Preparations Do You Need To Put Drywall Over Ceiling Tiles?

man worker fixing ceiling

Preparing to put drywall over ceiling tiles requires more than just a passing thought. If things aren’t prepared properly, it could result in the drywall disconnecting and falling.

Work your way through this checklist to ensure that everything goes smoothly:

Inspect: The first thing to do is to scrutinize the ceiling. Learn as much as possible about what can be seen on the surface and what may be under the surface.

If any obstructions would impede the drywall installation, you should correct them at this point. If any repairs are necessary, you should make them before starting.

Check the ceiling tiles to ensure that they are structurally sound. If you install the drywall directly over the ceiling tiles, they should be flat and level.

Locate Ceiling Joists: If you install the drywall directly over the ceiling tiles, you will need to drill through the tiles into the joists. That will give the support necessary to hold the drywall in place.

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Locate the ceiling joists and mark their location. You can put a mark on the wall at each end to reference it after the drywall is in place.

Pro Tip: Ceiling joists are typically 16″ from center to center. There may be some instances when they are 24″ on center. Access the area above the ceiling to measure the joists. Once you find one, you can measure to the others.

Locate Vents and Light Fixtures: Measure the dimensions of any lights or vents in the ceiling. It is easier to cut these from the drywall on the floor before installing the sheet.

Keep in mind that you will be working in the opposite direction. This is also an excellent time to install new lights if desired.

Install New Framework (Optional): Considering the ceiling height available, you may want to install a new framework. It can be installed directly below the ceiling tiles and provides a suitable option for installing drywall.

How To Put Drywall Over Ceiling Tiles

man worker fixing ceiling

It is now time to begin the installation of the drywall. If you prepare everything in advance, the process will be relatively easy.

Measure and Mark: Measure the dimensions of the area where you install the drywall. Have one long seam where the drywall meets each other in the middle of the room rather than multiple seams running in the opposite direction.

Measure carefully any lights or other fixtures, as these will have to be cut out in advance. When measuring these on the drywall, measure them from the opposite direction since you will flip the drywall and install it.

Cut the Drywall: Use a drywall T-square as your straight edge. Carefully run a utility knife along the edge of the T-square to cut through the paper and a small amount of gypsum.

After making the score mark and cutting through the paper, put the drywall on its side and put your knee on the opposite side of the line. Snap the board toward you and finish the cut on the opposite side with a utility knife. Be cautious not to cut your hand.

Hang the Drywall: You will need assistance with larger sheets of drywall. This can be another person or use a drywall lift or fiberglass poles to help hold the sheet in position.

Attach the Drywall: Begin in the center of the drywall sheet and work outward. Screw through the drywall and into the supporting structure.

If you add a new framework, you can drill into the framework. If not, make sure you are drilling through the ceiling tiles and into the supporting joists above.

Finish the Drywall: The final step is to spread the drywall compound and finish the drywall. Use drywall tape on seams and cover the screws with a small amount of drywall compound.

The drywall compound may require several applications to feather out and create a smooth, seamless finish. To finish the look, you can then sand the dried drywall compound, either with sandpaper or a wet sponge.

Old ceiling tiles can be covered with drywall if you screw through the tile and into the supporting joists. If the tiles are damaged or are not level, you can use shims or install a small framework below the ceiling tiles for support.

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