The number one large project I see homeowners take on themselves is finishing their own basement. This can be a rewarding project for do-it-yourselfers out there and the most common question I get is: What type of ceiling should I choose to use, drywall or acoustical?
The answer I give them is not the simple, clear cut ‘one or the other’ they were hoping for. There are many items to think about when making this decision. Imagine the basement as the nervous system of your home. All of the plumbing, heating and electrical elements that control the entire home originate in the basement and, in most cases, will travel along the basement ceiling before they go up to the rest of the house. There are certain items along that system that you will always want to have access to, electrical junction boxes, plumbing shut off valves and heating dampers to name a few. When you are trying to decide whether to cover your ceiling with drywall or to use an acoustical ceiling, it is best to examine your current ceiling to see exactly how many of these access areas you have throughout.
Drywall ceilings are great. They give the basement a nice finished, clean look. In most cases, they allow for more ceiling height in the basement, since you will have minimal build down to get the framing set for drywall (usually only about 1 ½”). If you have a low basement ceiling to begin with, then a drywall ceiling might be the best option for you. The problem lies in having to incorporate way too many access panels along your nice drywall ceiling, making it look like Swiss cheese. If this sounds like your situation, it might be time to consider an acoustical ceiling.
Acoustical ceilings give you the flexibility to make changes to your house along the way. The ceiling tiles can be moved in and out to allow access to any part of your ceiling should you ever need it. If you select a reasonably priced ceiling tile, the cost of the acoustic ceiling will be about the same as a drywall ceiling, with all factors considered (hanging, finishing, painting, etc.). That being said, there is one benefit to an acoustical ceiling that you do not get with drywall: choices.
There are hundreds of styles of ceiling tiles and grids to choose from, ranging from a standard white grid and flat white tile to a colored grid with patterned tiles. They even have tiles that have a sound deadening layer to help isolate the sound between the basement and the first floor of your home.
Whatever style you choose to go with, acoustic or drywall, my best advice to you is to plan the ceiling out ahead of time. Making the wrong decision early, can lead to costly repairs later.