Yes, admittedly everything Jason says about drop ceilings is true.
1. You will lose head room.
2. It can look cheap. OR It doesn't look like the rest of the home.
3. You lose out on some value
4. You don't save any money with a drop ceiling
However.... I think a drywall ceiling can be quite sharp looking and adds
continuity to the rest of the house IF it's done right.
With all due respect to the hardcore pro drywall ceilingers out there (don't you just love that lead in? "With all due respect" You can just get away with saying anything after that... just ask Ricky Bobby "Mr. Dennit, with all due respect, and remember I'm sayin' with all due respect, that idea ain't worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin' it on.")
With all due respect, each basement is unique and requires careful consideration as to the best choice for you, so here is my attempt to convince you a suspended ceiling is the right choice.
With a Suspended Ceiling - You'll Lose Head Room:
Yep, you sure will. No refuting it. To be fair, you will loose headroom with a drywall ceiling as well. If you have electrical, gas, or water lines running along the bottom of your floor boards (all of which were the case for me), you won't be able to screw drywall directly to them.
You need to nail spacer boards along the length of the joists to allow the drywall to screw flush to them. If you use 2x4s combined with 3/8'' drywall, you are going to loose close to 2 full inches of head room.
So how much headroom will I lose?
Good question, and the answer, I've found, is it depends...
At a minimum you need to drop it enough to clear all of your obstructions plus the length of the main T-Bars. Don't know what a T-Bar is? No worries - check out my drop ceiling install article ( coming soon ). All you need to know for now though, is that it's about 1.5''.
For me, the thickest "obstacles" were the metal conduit junction boxes which added another 1.5'' of clearance requirement. Therefore, at minimum, you need 3-4'' of clearance.
Is a one inch loss in headroom going to kill you?
Unless you are hosting the 1995-96, 72 win, Chicago Bulls roster, including their four 7-footers (I'll include John Salley at 6'11'' - that's close enough in my book), 1 inch is not going to make a difference.
Having said that, setting your drop at 3'' is going to make installing the tiles more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. So does that extra 1''-2'' loose you? If so, I'm sad to see you go. If not, read on.
It doesn't look good. It doesn't look like the rest of the home.
To me, this portion, is like grading your 8th grade English paper (sorry Mrs. Barnes) - its subjective. Sure there are basic elements to any install (or essay) that must be there.
If you slap your ceiling up out of level, or spaced improperly, it's going to look bad. If you choose the cheapest, flush, industrial 4'x2' tile (like what's in my office at work) its going to look like junk. There are many styles of tile to choose from. Obviously cost will be a factor as the tile cost vary widely.
Which ceiling tile should you buy?
I recommend a mid-range 2'x2' tile with a reveal, in whatever texture you prefer. I went with the Alpine tile from the ole HD (Home Depot). The tile itself ran me about $500 for my 1,000 sq ft basement. I could have paid as little as $250 for an entry level tile, or as much as $1,000 for a top end tile. Here's a link to Amazon for ceiling tile options.
As far as it not looking like the rest of the house, true - in general you don't see drop ceilings on 2nd floors of residential homes. To me, a basement is a separate part of the home, not an extension of it. It is where my wife and I go put our headphones on after the kids are in bed, and get a good workout in. It's where I pop in a blue-ray, crank up the surround sound, and watch me some (insert mindless action movie title here).
Some would argue against me here, and say they want it to be just like the rest of the home, I guess then if a suspended ceiling makes it feel so much different from the rest of the home, its not for you.
You lose out on some value.
Maybe? I'm not a real estate agent, and haven't had my house appraised since my original purchase. According to Jason, he's been directly told by an agent, drywall over suspended ceiling is the way to go. Of course that's one agent's opinion, but it certainly carries more weight than mine.
Having said that, give me 2 equivalently designed basements, one with a drywall ceiling, one with a suspended ceiling. I wouldn't be willing to pay more for the house with the drywall, nor would I expect to pay less for the drop ceiling. I guess it comes back to personal taste.
Do I save money installing a suspended ceiling?
In a word... NO.
In 9 words... It is highly dependent on the tile you choose. (Raise your hand if you actually counted the number of words in that last sentence)
My drywall mudder informally quoted my basement (and I assume he was going to use low end 2'x2' tiles) for $2,000 materials and labor. I completed it myself for about $700 in material... $1,300 savings in labor... Satisfaction of doing the job yourself.... priceless.
It probably would have cost about $200-$300 in drywall and I'm guesstimating another $100-$200 in mudding labor + $50 for a couple gallons of ceiling paint I no longer needed.
Therefore on the low side my drop ceiling cost only $150 more. On the high side maybe as much as $350 more. Again, if I chose a cheaper tile, I could have cut my $700 in half in which case I would indeed have saved money over drywall. It would have looked very "office like" but hey if that's what you're going for or on a very tight budget, knock your socks off.
BONUS: Suspended ceiling advantages over drywall
Access: Jason buys into the old adage: Plan for success. You shouldn't put in a suspended ceiling just because you are planning on having a water or gas leak. Agreed - these things happen quite infrequently but they do happen. Also there are things like water shut offs, sewage line clean outs, cable/internet lines, speaker wire, etc you may more regularly need to access.
A suspended ceiling provides you with the freedom to access them. In addition, when you actually do have a leak, bingo, pop out a tile and have at it. Drywall is "easily" repaired but what's easier: cut out drywall, make repair, insert new drywall, mud, sand, mud, sand, prime, and paint, or pop out tile, make repair, pop in tile?
Flexibility: How many times has your lady friend wanted you to move a light fixture just a skosh to the left or right. There's usually a lot going on in between ceiling joists which may force you to break the symmetry of the light grid, which is incredibly annoying. Drop ceilings offer way more flexibility to work around these obstacles.
You can even incorporate LED panels directly into your grid so you don't have to worry about cutting tiles, etc. Here's a link to hykolity panels.
Sound proofing: I'm not running a recording studio out of my basement, nor can I read or play a lick of music. My wife does tell me, however, that I like to listen to movies and video games at an above acceptable sound level.
My brother in law did warn me that my hearing would start going at home once I got married... The suspended ceiling tiles do provide a nice added benefit of dampening sound from getting back upstairs where my wife is busy chasing our toddlers and keeping up with the Kardashians.
Easy to install: I'm baffled that Jason, Mr. "I can do my own electrical and so can you" would tell you that they are hard to install. Don't let him fool you. If you are doing your own framing, electrical, and drywall, you can definitely install a drop ceiling! Check this article for a full rundown of how to install a suspended ceiling!
Ok, so now you've heard both sides of the argument. What's it going to be for you?
Are you team suspended ceiling ceiling, like me.
Or team drywall ceiling, like Jason.
Chime in either way in the comments below.