Step 1: Create a plywood underlayment

Creating a plywood underlayment.
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Turn off the room's power at the circuit breaker and remove ceiling fixtures.

Use a drill/driver with a -inch bit to make exploratory holes to find a joist. Mark its center. Measure across the ceiling in 16-inch increments to locate other joists.

Snap chalk lines along the center of every joist, and mark their locations onto the walls.

Use the chalk lines as guides for securing the plywood to the joists with 2 ½-inch decking screws spaced every 8 inches.
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    Tools List

    • circular saw
      Circular saw,
      for cutting plywood sheets
    • jigsaw
      Jigsaw,
      for cutting holes in plywood
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • chalk line
      Chalk line,
      for snapping layout lines
    • gloves
      Gloves,
      used to protect hands from sharp-edged ceiling panels
    • brad nailer
      Brad nailer and compressor,
      rent for about $40 a day
    • pencil compass
      Compass,
      used to mark round cutout holes
    • framing square
      Framing square,
      used to mark square or rectangular cutout holes
    • metal cutting snips
      Tin snips,
      for cutting ceiling panels
    • hammer
      Hammer
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level,
      used to mark cornice layout lines on wall

    Shopping List

    1. Pressed-metal ceiling panels

    come in 2x2- or 2x4-foot sizes



    2. Press-metal cornice

    come in 4-foot-long sections



    3. 3/8-inch plywood

    creates solid nailing surface for ceiling panels



    4. 2 1/2-inch decking screws

    for attaching the plywood underlayment



    5. 2x4s

    used to build T-braces for supporting plywood during installation



    6. 11/4-inch-long, 18-gauge finishing nails

    for brad nailer to fasten ceiling panels; or use special cone-headed nails



    7. Latex caulk

    used to fill gaps at the seams



    8. Metallic touch-up paint

    for concealing caulked gaps and mistakes on an unpainted ceiling



    9. 1x4 tapping block

    used to seal panel seams



    10. Fine-point indelible marker

    for marking cut lines on ceiling panels



    11. 1/8-inch drill bit

    used to locate ceiling joists



    12. 3/8-inch drill bit

    for boring tin-snip starting holes in ceiling panels