Can You Replace a Drop Ceiling With Drywall? (How-To Guide)

Drop Ceiling With Drywall

If you have a drop ceiling, you may want to get away from that old-fashioned look and replace it with something more modern. One of the possible options is drywall. But can you replace a drop ceiling with drywall?

You can replace a drop ceiling with drywall by removing the drop ceiling panels and then the framing. Switch off the electricity and remove the lights. Repair the plaster, and install the drywall using a drywall lift to help you lift the panels into place. Install the drywall and finish it.

The answer is that you can replace a drop ceiling with drywall, and I will tell you how to do this yourself. 

List Of Tools And Materials

  • Ladder
  • Flashlight
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Voltage tester
  • Electrical extension boxes
  • Screw gun
  • Wire cutters
  • Plaster washers
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Drywall fiberglass mesh tape
  • Drywall sanding sponge
  • Drywall
  • Drywall lift
  • Drywall screws 2 1/2 inches
  • Utility knife
  • Drywall saw
  • Drywall circle cutter
  • 4-inch wide drywall knife
  • 6-inch wide drywall knife

How To Replace Drop Ceiling With Drywall?

Step One

Climb up the ladder and lift a drop ceiling tile. Tilt it a bit, and lower it from the grid. Go up the ladder until you have a clear view over the drop ceiling, and you can inspect its condition and that of the plaster ceiling above it.

Step Two

Remove other ceiling tiles. I’ve found that older drop ceilings often have a thick coating of dust, rodent nests, droppings, or old electrical wiring, so be cautious.

Don’t do anything with the ceiling lights until you have removed all the tiles.

Step Three

Head to the circuit breaker service panel and switch the breaker toggle for the room in question to the “off” position.

Step Four

Check that you have turned off the power to the room. Remove the wire nuts from a ceiling light. Do not touch the bare wires. I repeat, do not touch the bare wires.

Put the ends of the voltage tester to the black and white wires, and if the voltage tester light remains off, you have shut off power to that room.

On the other hand, if the light comes on, then the electricity to the room is still on. Go to the circuit breaker service panel, turn off another breaker and then retest the voltage.

Repeat this procedure until you are certain that the electricity to the room is off.

Yes, it’s a pain. I still recommend that you do this step thoroughly.

Consult a licensed electrician if you cannot locate the correct circuit breaker.

Step Five

remove light from ceiling

Unscrew all the light fixtures from the ceiling. Carefully tuck the electrical wires into the plastered ceiling cavity to use when you install new lighting.

Step Six

Remove the drop ceiling’s metal framing system unless you will be installing drywall onto the framing system (see the caveats I’ve inserted below).

Use wire cutters to twist off or snip wires suspended from the ceiling. You will have to use a screw gun to unscrew the angle frame pieces from the room’s walls.

Step Seven

If necessary, repair any damage to the plastered ceiling. You may need to replace plaster or screw plaster washers. 

Step Eight

Use a scraper to remove debris from the screw holes that held the drop ceiling system. Use the scraper to smooth the surrounding area so that no loose debris hangs from the holes and there are no bulges.

Step Nine

Use joint compound to patch the screw holes. Use drywall fiberglass mesh tape over larger holes before applying the joint compound. Allow the joint compound to dry.

Step Ten

Use the sanding sponge to sand the compound smoothly before applying another joint compound layer with the 6-inch drywall knife. Feather out the edges around the area. Allow the compound to dry, and sand smooth. I’ve found it’s worth taking the time to do the patching properly.

Step Eleven

Unless you can persuade someone to help you, and we both know that’s probably not going to happen, you will need a drywall lift for this step.

Place a drywall panel on the lift and spin the wheel to raise the board to a corner of the ceiling. Ensure that one end of the board abuts the room’s corner and the other ends over the center of a ceiling joist.

If the end of the board extends beyond a joist, lower the board, measure the length from the wall to the center of the closest joist, and cut the board. 

To cut drywall, I recommend you use the utility knife to score along the measuring line a few times until you have broken the paper’s surface. Press down the section along the line, and it will snap, creating a clean break.

Raise the panel into position once more.

Step Twelve

drywall screws

Use drywall screws to screw the drywall panel to the ceiling joists. Place one screw every 8 to 12 inches.

Drive the screws so that the heads press just below the paper’s surface, making a dimple. You don’t want the screw head to pop the paper’s surface, so don’t drive too hard.

Step Thirteen

Measure and cut the next board, ensuring that the long ends of the boards rest on ceiling joists. Lift the board and screw it into place.

Step Fourteen

Continue placing drywall boards. I recommend that you stagger the seams so that the ends of the rows do not line up with each other. Doing so helps prevent a bumpy, jagged look and brings a more seamless appearance.

Step Fifteen

Mark circles with a compass and cut away round holes in the drywall to accommodate the new lighting boxes, using a drywall saw. Alternatively, and this is what I prefer, use a drywall circle cutter.

Measure the distance between the wall and the lighting fixture, and mark the measurement on the drywall.

Step Sixteen

Place the extension box into the electrical lightbox and secure it with screws. Get the wires out of the plaster ceiling to hang into the room for later installation of lighting.

Step Seventeen

Use drywall mesh tape to cover the seams between the boards, and use the 4-inch drywall knife to apply a joint compound over the seams and all of the screws. Allow the compound to dry.

Step Eighteen

Use the 4-inch drywall knife to add another layer of joint compound to the seams and screws. Ensure that you feather out the edges. Allow to dry and use the sanding sponge to sand it smooth.

Step Nineteen

Use the 6-inch knife to apply a third layer of joint compound. Feather the edges further out. Allow to dry and sand it smooth. Your drywall is now ready to paint.

Caveats When Replacing A Drop Ceiling With Drywall

drywall ceiling

The drop ceiling you wish to replace may conceal ductwork, electrical wiring, and utility pipes, which you probably don’t want to reroute.

You can either use wood framing and drywall to create boxes for them and install drywall around the boxes, or you can install drywall onto the drop ceiling’s metal framing system.

To do so, I recommend bracing any suspension wires with short sections of metal framing studs and adding additional cross-pieces of metal framing. Screw the whole thing together to make a rigid framework to hold the drywall, and then install the drywall.


You can replace a drop ceiling with drywall, and with the right tools, it is a relatively painless process. Remember to stay safe by wearing a dust mask and safety glasses and test whether you have turned off the correct circuit breaker. I’d hate for you to electrocute yourself.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.