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I have a concrete ceiling in my basement and would like to cover it with drywall. Specifically, I would like to take the flat surface concrete ceiling and put another ceiling under it so that I can install electrical, lighting, etc. The entire basement will need to be framed and I would like to add interior soffits. What is the best way to add the new ceiling?

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Yes, I am opposed to a suspended ceiling. – AndrettiMilas Feb 22 at 18:46
How high is the existing ceiling? – Tester101 Feb 22 at 18:56
@AndrettiMilas What is the total height of these concrete ceilings? I see in a lower comment you're considering 6" recessed lights. Are you considering low profile/LED cans? I worry about the end resultant height of your new drop ceiling, especially if you have any flooring to also deal with. – BrownRedHawk Feb 22 at 18:56
The basement has a concrete floor and concrete ceiling, from floor to ceiling is 9.5 feet. – AndrettiMilas Feb 22 at 18:58
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In apartments that I have renovated it is standard to install metal channel furring strips. If you want depth you cross these with 1x or 2x4. The channels you glue and screw into ceiling. The wood is screwed into the channels. There are plenty of LED lighting kits that are sold now that can fit into 2-3 inches of space (remember you have the drywall thickness too).

Just to add some clarity we use channels that look an awful lot like

enter image description here

The difference is ours has preset holes on the lips for drilling, the lips are a little wider and I am pretty sure it is a thicker gauge than this. Do not use the cheap/thin metal furring strips from big box. They might work for concrete walls but not ceilings.

Also to give more detail:

  1. We install these every 12-16". 12 if doing 2x lumber which I think we have done once. The installation is dependent on the type of concrete. Often the owners of the property have told us what other have used and we follow that. Most of the time it is tapcon with semi-predrilled holes. Note that the strips should be glued before being drilled. Also note that the stronger the glue the more chance you take out chunks when uninstalling - that's a different question though. For the screws practice before you go in with a plan. Don't buy 300 of a type of screw and then find it will take 20 mins per screw doing it that way. How many screws you need is dependent on the flatness/shape of concrete and how well the furring strips have contact. Most installs I have done were two screws on the ends and then stagger sides every 12-16". A 20' strip might have just 15ish screws.

  2. We leave a small gap (1/8th") on each wall and try to run them the entire length.

  3. We then install L channels on the two walls that hold the ends. We try to get a very thick gauge and hammer L channel up so that it is effectively holding the channels.

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Do you add any blocks between the ceiling and the furring strip to add vertical depth for electrical? (Sorry, I just reread your question and realized you answered it... but DIY doesn't allow me to delete. – AndrettiMilas Feb 22 at 19:10

I have done this a few times using 2x4” anchored flat to the ceiling, then attaching the sheetrock to the 2x4. The only problem doing it this way is you have to use shallow boxes for electrical. The standard boxes you can have a splice to feed other boxes but the shallow boxes you need 4x4 with a mud ring to provide enough room (box fill) for a splice to go to another fixture. If you have more head room Hat channel can be used to attach the sheetrock or suspended but you did mention sheetrock. I like using Tapcon screws to anchor the 2x4 or hat channel. They do make drive in anchors but these always feel loose to me for an overhead install but are great for walls. Here is a link for hat channel This is the same thing that Dmore repeated. If you want 120V lights the connections need in a box.

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Hi Ed, thank you for your response. What would be your suggestion if I want to install standard, 6" recessed lights? – AndrettiMilas Feb 22 at 18:54
@AndrettiMilas If you want to install standard 6" recessed lights, you'll need to install a drop ceiling. – Craig Feb 22 at 21:33
Perhaps there is a type of L-bracket that you could use to anchor a 2x6 sideways rather than flat, finish out the drywall like you would a normal wood joist ceiling, and use shallow-mount recessed LED cans? Also, be sure to check your fasteners directions for hanging applications. Might have to use expansion bolts over tapcons. – Colt McCormack Feb 22 at 22:56

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