Boxing Around Basement Windows
Build a three-sided valance around each window. You can use .25-inch plywood for the top and 1x6-inch pine for the three sides. Be sure you build the valance wide enough to allow the window to open and long enough to provide for an open drapery. In most cases, allowing 9-inches on either side is sufficient for open drapes. Attach the top of the valance to the bottom of the ceiling joist and install the wall molding for the lay-in panels at the desired level. Curtain rods can be attached to the inside of the valance.
Boxing Around Iron Support Beams and Ductwork
Many basement areas have horizontal iron support beams that support the first floor. First, construct wooden lattices to attach to both sides of the support beam. Use 1x.5-inch wood strips. Enclose the support beam by nailing the finishing material, drywall, and paneling to the lattice.
Cover the bottom of the beam with the same material to the bottom of the lattices. Attach outside corner molding. Onto the finished box, simply snap a chalkline at the height of the new ceiling and nail the wall molding along this line. Use this process for ductwork as well.
Fitting Around Columns and Posts
Cut the panel at the midpoint of the column. Then cut semicircles to the necessary size for rejoining panels to fit snugly around the post. Make all of the cuts with a very sharp utility or fiberboard knife. Once the two pieces of panel are rejoined in the ceiling, glue scrap pieces of material to their backs.
Installing Electrical Lighting Fixtures
Electrical lighting fixtures are easy to install in suspended ceilings. It is usually best to install your rough wiring before you begin the project; however, there is often a cavity between the panels and the joists. Since the panels can be removed, it can be done afterward. Keep in mind that doing so takes considerably more effort. You can use either incandescent or fluorescent fixtures. The fluorescent fixtures often come with a translucent panel that fits directly into a panel cell.
Incandescent fixtures are either flush mounted or recessed. You need to be more careful with these types of fixtures because they get a lot hotter than fluorescent options. The incandescent fixtures come with adjustable arms that are attached to the ceiling joists to carry the weight. A hole is cut in the panel for the fixture. A finishing collar fits around the fixture to hide the rough-cut hole. The details of wiring are discussed more fully in our electrical section.
Care of the Ceiling
Caring for a suspended ceiling is an easy matter. Should a panel become water damaged, marred, or very dirty, it can simply be replaced. The panels are washable and can also be painted.
The second type of ceiling I discuss in this chapter is the kind composed of standard ceiling tiles. These tiles are usually 12x12-inches and come in assorted patterns. They attach directly to the old ceiling, or to wood/metal furring strips. They leave no cavity.
Unless you use the clip method described below in Steps 1-7, you attach them permanently. They cannot be removed as easily as the suspended panels. They are quick and easy to install and work well where you do not want to lower the ceiling height. They are excellent for covering up existing ceilings, especially old cracked plaster. If your ceiling is water damaged, be sure you correct the leak problem before you begin.