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Are Ceiling Tiles Cheaper Than Drywall? Let’s Compare!

When it comes to choosing a type of ceiling for your home, there are numerous factors to consider. Ceiling tiles (creating drop ceilings or suspended ceilings) and drywall ceilings are the two most common ceiling types, and which of these is the best for your application depends on aspects such as cost, labor and aesthetics.

Ceiling tiles used in suspended ceilings are generally considered to be the cheaper option when compared to drywall ceilings. This is due not only to the lower cost of the material itself, but also to the lower labor costs associated with this type of ceiling installation.

There are several factors which must be considered in determining the best type of ceiling for your specific project, and overall cost is also affected by numerous considerations such as labor and subsidiary materials. These two ceiling types, however, are not the only option, and there exist a host of other options which can be considered in choosing the correct ceiling for your home.

Are Ceiling Tiles Cheaper Than Drywall?

Drywall ceiling costs range from around $1.50/sf to $3.00/sf in total, while suspended ceilings usually cost around $1.00/sf to $2.00/sf on average.

While drywall itself is relatively inexpensive, costing between $40 and $60 per 32sf panel, there are a number of additional costs which quickly push the price up. These include the lumber needed to mount the drywall, screws and finishing materials. The finishing materials usually consist of multiple coats including plaster and paint, as well as covering screw heads and sanding.

There is significant labor involved in this process, and multiple stages involving a major cleanup operation at the end of the project, bringing the price up further.

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The drywall, made of compressed gypsum board, is attached to the framework of the house, and it is a heavy material which requires a minimum of two people to lift and install it.

This material also tends to dry and crack with age, with the result that additional maintenance must be done, bringing up the cost even further in the long term.

Drop ceilings or suspended ceilings are relatively easy to install and can be completed by one person. Due to the simplicity of installation and the fact that additional labor is often not required, the cost is brought down significantly for this type of ceiling.

Individual ceiling panels are placed in a framework that is attached to the structure above, and in the event that a panel becomes damaged, it can simply be removed and replaced. 

Due to the ease of installation and the fact that a major cleanup is not needed after installation, the labor costs are brought down significantly for this type of ceiling.

All in all, one can expect to pay around 50% for a drop ceiling versus a drywall ceiling when all costs are considered. Drop ceilings can be installed in one day and require very little to no finishing work.

Pros & Cons of Drywall Ceilings Versus Suspended Ceilings

One of the biggest benefits of installing a drop ceiling as opposed to a drywall ceiling is the fact that suspended ceilings allow you to access plumbing, wiring and ducting by simply removing a panel. 

This is especially useful in buildings with major HVAC systems which need hiding, and it can come in particularly handy in a basement setting.

Basements usually contain high volumes of plumbing, air ducts and wiring, the majority of which can easily be hidden with a suspended ceiling. In the event that access is needed to the plumbing for repairs and maintenance, individual ceiling panels in the suspended ceiling can be removed and replaced as needed while embarking on any required maintenance.

The acoustic properties of ceiling tiles are significantly better than drywall, and while there do exist numerous drywall types with additional soundproofing capabilities, these come at a significantly higher cost when compared to the ceiling tile option.

Height considerations may become a determining factor when considering whether to install a suspended ceiling or a drywall ceiling.

Drywall ceilings can be affixed directly to the framework of the building, or to joists which are fixed to the concrete slab above. This means that the drywall ceiling takes up very little to no headroom.

Suspended ceilings require a significantly larger amount of vertical space to be installed, with the result that a minimum of around 3 to 5 inches of headroom is lost in a room with this type of ceiling.

Aesthetics are perhaps the most significant consideration when deciding between a suspended ceiling or a drywall ceiling. The standard dropped ceiling with the metal framework and the white boards is objectively less attractive than a smooth plastered ceiling.

New technologies, however, have allowed for the creation of new suspended ceilings which can transform the aesthetic of any room for the better. These options, however, are significantly more expensive than the standard options.

Other Ceiling Types to Consider

There are numerous other ceiling types which can be considered in a building project, however this are often significantly more expensive than both drywall ceilings and suspended ceilings.

Some of these include coffered ceilings, vaulted ceilings, beam ceilings, popcorn ceilings, tongue and groove ceilings, tray ceilings and beadboard ceilings.

The most expensive of these is the vaulted ceiling which can cost anywhere between $18,000 and $26,000.

A coffered ceiling, which is most often considered as the most attractive option, can cost between $20/sqf and $30/sqf. 

This is significantly higher than the price of a drywall or suspended ceiling.

How Do You Disguise An Unattractive Ceiling?

An unattractive ceiling can detract significantly from the aesthetic appeal of a room. There are numerous ways to hide an unattractive ceiling.

In some cases, corrugated tin can be installed as a false ceiling to create an industrial aesthetic in any room.

Faux beams are another consideration which can enhance the look of a room, as well as the installation of contemporary metal ceiling tiles which mimic the original 1920s pressed tin ceiling tiles.

Decorative ceiling tiles, whether Styrofoam or other materials, can be installed on an existing ceiling using an adhesive.

Other solutions for covering unattractive ceilings include wallpaper, paint and fabric draping.


Overall, suspended ceilings are by far a more economical option when compared to drywall ceilings.

The choice depends, however, on the aesthetic requirements of the room in question, as well as the practical implications such as the need for access to plumbing and wiring.