Though the terminology may seem confusing, a suspended ceiling is the exact same thing as a drop ceiling, also called a dropped ceiling. These terms refer to a type of ceiling paneling separate from the higher structural ceiling, and it serves a specific and important purpose in home construction.
A drop ceiling, or suspended ceiling, consists of panels or tiles that hang a few inches below the main structural ceiling. In other words, the suspended ceiling does not make up a permanent structural foundation, but rather serves as a covering for the more solid framework above. Suspended ceilings are especially useful in one-story homes and directly beneath upper-level bathrooms in multiple-story homes, according to Popular Mechanics.
A suspended ceiling has aesthetic advantages, as it covers up beams and studs that would otherwise be exposed. The space between the structural ceiling and the drop ceiling can also be used to run wires, cables, pipes and ventilation systems discreetly throughout the home. With a suspended ceiling, you can easily access and modify these hidden vents and pipes whenever necessary, without needing to tear apart the ceiling or gain access to the attic.
Installation can vary depending on the suspended ceiling materials that you purchase, so always consult your documentation before getting started. In general, though, you drill the perimeter brackets usually included with the ceiling grid kit approximately 4 inches below the ceiling joists, and then put the runners approximately 4 feet apart along each bracket. The brackets are the main supports placed along the wall, and the runners extend across the room to support the actual ceiling panels. For added support, hang the runners to the ceiling joists using wires, attached to every third ceiling joist. Put the panels along the runners, and if you need to cut the panels to fit your ceiling, do so using a utility knife.
You can find the materials for a suspended ceiling at almost any home improvement store, but in most cases, you must purchase the tiles separately from the ceiling grid kit. The grid kit features all of the brackets and runners that you need to hold the ceiling tiles in place, and then the tiles will slide directly into place without any further complicated construction.