28th Nov 2022 -

Suspended ceilings are a common form of dry lining and are extremely popular within commercial buildings such as offices and shops. You can board over a ceiling with plasterboard, but another option is to hang a ceiling grid and then fit it with ceiling tiles and lights. This allows for a nice-looking ceiling that hides all of the wires, nooks and crannies that you find on a commercial ceiling.

What is a Suspended Ceiling?

The basic idea for a suspended ceiling has been around for centuries. The architecture of Japan during the Middle Ages suspended ceilings using planks of wood. 

However, these days a suspended ceiling usually consists of ceiling tiles that hang below the ceiling structure of the building. Modern suspended ceilings have their roots in the 1920s when a booming construction industry spurred innovation and led to many techniques still in use today.

‘Suspended ceiling’ is the common term but there are many other names for this type of construction, including the following: 

  • Drop ceiling
  • Dropped ceiling
  • Drop-in ceiling
  • Drop out ceiling
  • False ceiling
  • Grid ceiling
  • T-bar ceiling

Suspended ceilings have so many different names as they are such a common part of construction for both commercial and domestic settings. Overall, they are most prevalent in commercial buildings and larger residential blocks in cities.

Why Use a Suspended Ceiling?

You can get a lot of great benefits by using a suspended ceiling. You might think that there are losses, however slight, to ceiling height that could be used for practical things such as storage - but most suspended ceilings are high enough that you will not notice much difference.

There are also lots of benefits to a suspended ceiling, such as the following:

  • Hiding wires: You can more easily hide unsightly cabling from electrical equipment such as computers, air conditioning and internet facilities, or speakers with a suspended ceiling. For an area such as a commercial office, this makes for a much cleaner, safer space that is also easier to maintain.
  • Ability to install lighting: Most suspended ceilings are built with the main intention of adding lighting, to illuminate the space below and eliminate the need for wall or floor lighting - thus adding valuable square footage to the area of a commercial or public setting.
  • Fire protection: You can unobtrusively run pipe for sprinkler systems very easily with a suspended ceiling. This is a great safety feature suitable for slightly more industrial or even residential settings. Many buildings have stringent fire safety requirements, so this kind of ceiling design is ideal.
  • Moisture resistance: One benefit of certain kinds of plasterboard is moisture resistance, which you can also get when using suspended ceilings. You can prevent mould and humidity with plasterboard ceilings or ceiling tiles so a suspended ceiling design is good for health and hygiene.
  • Sound absorption: Acoustic ceiling tiles can make for great acoustical ceilings on their own, and by using resilient bars (a design that decouples the suspended ceiling from the joists, creating a gap that increases soundproofing) results are even better - and can rival music studio spaces.
  • Quick installation: It is simple and very fast to install a suspended ceiling, either with plasterboard, or ceiling tiles using concealed grid systems - this can help to keep a ceiling’s costs down. The ceiling’s ongoing maintenance costs are also helped by DIY ceiling kits for repairs and routine access. 

Whether you choose ceiling tiles or plasterboard you will also get an opportunity for extensive customisation. There are many materials and finishes available, which can provide certain textures and features such as insulation.

Should You Choose Plasterboard or Ceiling Tiles?

Plasterboard and ceiling tiles each use a metal frame to support the weight of the ceiling. Many people call ‘metal frame’ ceilings ‘MF ceiling systems’. The main difference is simply in the materials used in the ceiling material - tiles use mineral fibre whereas plasterboards use gypsum, in addition to other fibrous layers.

The different materials create a slightly different appearance to each type of suspended ceiling, which you can see below:

Suspended Ceilings
 A typical plasterboard ceiling, note the lack of seams - creating its uniform appearance.
Suspended Ceilings
A suspended ceiling grid using ceiling tiles, note the light systems in place of certain tiles - to provide even light coverage.

When it comes to the question of whether you want to use plasterboard or ceiling tiles for your suspended ceiling, the key detail to look out for is how often you anticipate requiring access. In commercial offices, there may be a legitimate need for frequent access and ceiling tiles are much more versatile in this area. Ceiling tiles are also quicker to install.

Of course, it is possible to combine both - by installing ceiling tiles in the frame where services run and then plasterboard where access is unnecessary.


Average prices are relatively low for a suspended ceiling, thanks to its simplicity and minimal use of materials. However, the cost will depend on the size of the installation, and extra things such as lighting or cable management and other services such as the internet, as well as painting, decorating and other finishes.

You will also have to incur the cost of the tiles or boards. The average cost of a suspended ceiling in 2021 is £28.50 per m2, but this can vary widely depending on the type of tiles or boards you choose. 

Your supplier can also affect the costs you face for a suspended ceiling. Slow deliveries in a business setting, a key setting for suspended ceilings, can increase installation costs and a company’s ability to do business.  

Make sure you always select a reputable supplier, you can look for fast delivery and extensive product lines as a sign of good quality services.

In Summary

Suspended ceilings are usually made from plasterboard or tiles, and use a metal frame to provide a gap above the structural ceiling. This gap can contain wiring, services, lighting and other materials such as acoustic insulation. Suspended ceilings are cost-effective and most suitable for commercial areas. 

Dry lining is an excellent skill to learn and when you know how to dry line, you can apply it to a thousand useful renovation projects. There is a lot to it, however, so the best place to start is knowing exactly what materials are involved. 

Luckily for you, we’ve broken this all down in Drylining Materials.

  1. £51.44 £61.73
  2. £248.71 £298.45

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