Alternatives to Drop Ceiling panels?

We're finishing our basement into a 'poor mans loft'. By that, I'd like to keep it a bit 'as-is'. We've stained the concrete floor, are going to leave the steel i-beams and brick fireplace exposed. And while I like the look of exposed ceiling joists, this is an OLD house, so the ceiling is a bit of a mess. I'd like to put in a floating drop ceiling (leaving a few feet gap around the edge). I want to leave some of the joists exposed, but have a more finished look for most of it.

Big Box stores carry about 20 different ceiling tile/grid systems...ALL WHITE. Ugh.

Any ideas for alternatives? Looking for a) cheap and b) NOT white.

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johnnyboy on Apr 10, 2012:

You can do what I did, You can put up soffit, it comes in 10 and 12 ft lenths, its vinyl so never needs painting, and since its an old house if you ever have a leak you can easily access it without damage. with all the colors they have now it looks so cool when finished.

Guy on Dec 15, 2011:

Great idea is one i used to save money. I have a drop ceiling in basement, so for the tiles i bought 4ft by 8ft half inch insulation foam and painted them choice of color. you get 16 -2 by 2 ft  or you could do 2ft by 4ft, or 4ft by 4ft still using the regular metal hangers. The foam is sound proof, mold and mildew resistant and paintable. I just primed white and created my own designs. You want greater soundroof use the one inch. Be creative, use thumb tacks, push into foam, spray silver, bronze or gold and you have a tin ceiling for about $1.80 a pc instead of the 20 dollars and up stores charge. Use stone flex spray, stencil designs, have kids paint pics on them, use stamps first paint same color over entire pc and stencils leave a raised pattern, be creative and have some fun !

Joel K on Jul 01, 2009:

Hey Incubus,

You may want to check out some of the tiles at www.ceilume.com.  They have very nice decorative ceiling panels for nearly the same cost as the junky ones you found at Home Depot.

One thing I did for my project was to order their free samples.  i got the Stratford, the Southland and the Cambridge.  Its completely free and you don't even have to pay for shipping.  Heres a direct link to their sample page:



I ended up going with the Cambridge which was a bit more expensiove due to it's thickness but the result was phenominal and it only took me 2 hours to do my whole basement. 

Good luck to you!


incubus_of_habit on Mar 10, 2008:

I could leave it exposed, and may do that.


The idea was to float it, though. That way, you'd still have exposed josts, but there'd be a ceiling 'defined' for few reasons: 1) for the can lights 2) up-lighting (a crazy idea that may not turn out) 3) so it looks like there's some sort of ceiling for those home buying folks that would freak if there wasn't at least a hint of a real ceiling down there in a 'finished' basement ;o)


Painting the tiles makes the most sense. I'm lazy, so will see how far I get with that. ;o)

suzyrenovator on Mar 09, 2008:

Paint is the least expensive option for making the biggest impact or change in any space. 

I too live in an old house, so I can just imagine what your ceiling looks like.  What is the ceiling height?  Adding a dropped ceiling may take away more height than you're willing to lose.  What about spraying the ceiling as is?  It will involve some serious vacuuming first if it looks anything like mine, but it may be an option.  You don't have to spray it white - you could go for an industrial grey or blue.  Leaving the ceiling exposed would definitely add to the loft feel you're going for.

rutgersgrad on Mar 06, 2008:

Behold! The magic of paint!  Ceiling tiles can generally be painted. I only know this because we are also in the beginning process of finishing our basement and also don't care for the white ceiling tile look. In searching for ourselves, I found a couple of interesting videos at askthedecorator.com. Try this link http://www.askthedecorator.com/Search_Results.shtml?domains=www.askthedecorator.com&q=ceiling+tile&sitesearch=&sitesearch=www.askthedecorator.com&client=pub-0205094587364882&forid=1&channel=3234882765&ie=ISO-8859-1&oe=ISO-8859-1&safe=active&cof=GALT%3A%23191919%3BGL%3A1%3BDIV%3A%23FFFFFF%3BVLC%3Aacab87%3BAH%3Acenter%3BBGC%3AFFFFFF%3BLBGC%3AFFFFFF%3BALC%3A13b623%3BLC%3A13b623%3BT%3A000000%3BGFNT%3A808080%3BGIMP%3A808080%3BFORID%3A11&hl=en

Hopefully, the link will work. It should go to the askthedecorator.com search function for 'Ceiling tile'. So if it doesn't work, just try that.

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