How to Remove Old Ceiling Tiles

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The level of difficulty involved in removing old ceiling tiles depends upon how they were installed. Suspended ceiling tiles are simple to remove, but interlocking tiles require more time and effort. Before removing ceiling tiles, however, you must determine if the tiles in your house contain asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in ceiling tiles prior to the 1980s. The OSHA suggests that if your house was built prior to the 1980s, you should assume the ceiling tiles contain asbestos. The only way to know for certain is to send a ceiling tile to a government-authorized testing center. If the ceiling tiles in your house do contain asbestos, hire a professional contractor to remove them.

Things You'll Need

  • Tarps
  • Garbage can
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife
  • Pry bar/claw hammer
  • Needle-nose pliers

Suspended Ceiling Tiles

  • Cover the floors with painter's tarps, as removing ceiling tiles may dislodge dust and debris. Place a large garbage can in the room.

  • Press up on a ceiling tile. Lift the ceiling tile to pop it out of its track.

  • Angle the ceiling tile. Find the best angle that allows you to remove the tile through the opening between the tracks. Remove the ceiling tile and toss it into the garbage can. Continue until all tiles have been removed.

Interlocking Ceiling Tiles

  • Cover the floors with painter's tarps and place a large garbage can in the room

  • Determine how the ceiling tiles are attached. The tiles are either stapled or glued to furring strips. Glued tiles require a little more work. Score the edge of the tile with a utility knife to loosen it. Push the tile up with putty knife. Determine if it is glued or stapled.

  • Remove the molding that borders the ceiling. Lightly tap a putty knife along the edges with a hammer and use the putty knife to pry the molding away from the wall.

  • Remove the ceiling tiles with a pry bar or claw hammer. Work the edge of the pry bar or claw hammer under the edge of the ceiling tile. It helps to tap it with a hammer. Rock the bar back and forth to loosen the tile. Glued tiles require a little more elbow grease.

  • Remove the ceiling tile. Discard it in the garbage can. Remove the staples, if present, with needle-nose pliers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Working with asbestos is dangerous. It is best left to professionals. If you do decide to remove ceiling tiles containing asbestos yourself, you will need a respirator, protective eye glasses and protective clothing. Each state has specific laws and regulations for discarding asbestos. Check with your local and state agencies.

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