Innovative Steel Ceiling

Looking for an innovative steel ceiling for your basement (or maybe a garage)? If you are living in a ’50s-’60s era house with a basement you are probably well aware of the shorter ceilings that are often found in older homes.

We are currently in the middle of “finishing” our basement.  This is our second home basement remodel project.

At our first house, we went with the more standard drop ceiling – you know – the 2’x2’ grid system.  We chose to use the plastic strips that could be mounted to the floor joists and then medium-grade tiles. It was relatively easy to install and provided great access, if needed, to get to hidden wires.

Hello, new house – well new to us at least. We wanted something different, more cutting edge. Sure, we could have just spray-painted the ceiling black, which tends to look good when done, or we could think outside the box.

We chose to go with steel sheets that you sometimes see roofing done in. Menards has quite a few color options available. There are also a wide variety of lengths to select from.  We chose to go with the galvanized, which is cheaper than other colors.

When purchasing supplies at the store we mentioned what we were going to do they looked at us like we were maybe a little crazy, but we're looking forward to us reporting back with photos of how the project went.  Our first attempt was a basement bedroom – our guinea pig before taking on the main basement living space.

Valuable Lessons when installing a steel ceiling…

Some valuable things we learned while installing the bedroom ceiling.

1) Using 1 sheet the length of the room was very challenging to get installed without scraping the wall.

2) The edge did not end up nearly as neat looking as we had hoped.  To help remedy the edge issue we ended up installing some painted wood pieces. It looked better, but still not that great.

channel and steel install, basement ceilingFor the main room, we installed a 5/8” J-Channel to provide a clean finished edge – it looks way better!  Again, there are a few colors available at Menards. We choose to go with white since the rest of the molding in the basement is white. Be sure to mark where the studs are before starting!

We chose to use shorter lengths of steel this time, which turned out well.  Sure there are extra seams, but all in all, it was MUCH easier to handle/install.

How to install a steel ceiling

Getting started, installing J-Channel and cutting steel

Cutting the lengths of steel was achieved by using an angle grinder, sure it did not smell great, but it got the job done in a short time.  If you are lucky you might be able to get lengths that work better for the size of the room you have.

You can also overlap the steel more, but at some point, too much overlap would be difficult to get into place. We used some wooden T-frames to support the steel to the ceiling – on a side note, the J-Channel also worked well to hold the steel sheets up.

cutting holes in steel, basement ceiling


What about lighting?  Can lights are the way to go. To get the hole for the light in the steel simply measure (twice!) and use the can light template to draw on the steel (sharpie markers work well).

Drill a large hole into the steel and then use a handheld metal cutter to completely cut out the circle that you drew. Wha-la, time to install the steel!

Installing the steel ceiling sheets

We used self-tapping screws (#8 – ¾”) to attach the steel sheets to the floor joists. In our case, we had to shim down the floor joists to account for a water line, not a big deal but it did add some time to the project.

There were also some cases where we added additional wood to the joists to have someplace to attach the steel.  I would recommend adding some wood to your steel sheet overlaps. This would let you have additional places to screw into, making the surface smoother.

We did try to go back and use some heavy-duty tape to close up some little places of drooping steel, but it did not work the best, so add some wood to screw into!

Steel Ceiling Outcome

Overall, we are happy with the way it looked.  We hope you enjoyed this step-by-step guide on how to install an innovative steel ceiling. If you attempt this project, we hope you will take note of the lessons we learned. Good luck!

steel basement ceiling, basement ceiling, ceiling

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