How to measure and cut a suspended ceiling tile

Want to know how to measure and cut a suspended ceiling tile? Then you’re in the right place!  When you’re looking to replace ceiling tiles you will very often have to cut them yourself, below are some instructions on how to do this.

Before we go through the basics, I’ll just cover a few quick points.  When referring to a ceiling tile in this post I am referring to mineral fibre or wet felt ceiling tiles; the process for cutting a metal ceiling tile is very similar you just require different cutting tools, but we’ll cover that in another post.  A perimeter ceiling tile that is required to be cut to fit is called in the industry a ‘cut’ – this is how we will refer to them from now on.  Below we will cover how to cut a board (square edge) ceiling tile and also microlook / tegular (rebated) edge tiles.

What you may also find on some ceilings with tegular or microlook tiles is the use of ‘teg blocks’, which are either little plastic or metal blocks that sit under the ends of, or clip onto the ends of,  the grid sections where they sit on the trim.  If these have been used when installing the ceiling you do not need to cut your own rebated edges to the tiles, to just need to cut the tiles as you would a square edge tile and then just sit them in the grid.  This is much easier, but the end result doesn’t look quite as neat around the perimeter of the ceiling.

The process for cutting 600×600 ceiling tiles and 1200×600 ceiling tiles are exactly the same, you’re just cutting a bigger tile!

Tools required:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Sharp knife (Use a new blade for nice easy cutting)
  • Straight Edge

How to measure and cut a board (square edge) ceiling tile:

  1. Measure the size of cut – carefully measure from the trim (metal wall angle) out to centre bulb of the grid.  Ensuring to take a measurement from both sides of the gap in case the wall isn’t square to the ceiling.  When you have your tight measurement subtract 5mm to ensure the tile is snug without being too tight.
  2. Transfer these measurements to your ceiling tile so that when the tile is fitted the cut edge will be against the wall; ensure that the tile is placed on a solid, flat surface when doing this (ENSURE that whatever you are cutting on will not get damaged by the cutting, a work bench or similar is perfect).  Mark, with two small pencil marks, each dimension on the face of the tile.
  3. Place your straight edge of the ceiling tile ensuring it lines up with your two pencil marks.  Hold the straight edge firmly, so that it will not slide or move, and draw your sharp knife blade in a firm controlled manner down the tile using the straight edge as a guide.  You do not need to cut all of the way through the tile in the first go in most instances – a deep score will allow you to neatly snap off the un-required piece of a wet felt tile or give you a guide to cut all of the way through a mineral fibre tile.
  4. If you have an untidy edge left on your cut, you can carefully tidy this up with your knife blade, but this is only required if the edge of the ceiling tile is protruding and causing problems with the fitting.

To measure and cut a tile with a tegular or microlook (rebated) edge:

  • The process is very similar to a board tile:
  • Carefully measure from the perimeter trim (metal wall angle) to the centre bulb of the grid.  Take measurements from both sides of the gap to ensure to allow for an out of square wall.  When you have these measurements subtract 5mm again to allow the tile to fit snugly but not push at the grid.
  • Make sure you place your ceiling tile on a solid surface that won’t get damaged by the cutting.  Transfer these measurements to your ceiling tile (ENSURE that the edge you are going to cut is the one that will end up against the wall), taking care to make sure that you are measuring from the very outer edge of the ceiling tile, not the top of the rebate – if you measure from the top of the rebate you need to subtract 5mm or xmm for the size of the rebate on microlook or tegular tiles respectively.  Mark the points with a small pencil mark.
  • Line your straight edge up with your pencil marks, ensuring you hold it firmly so that it won’t slip or move, and firmly draw your sharp knife down the length of the straight edge.  A deep score is sufficient to snap the unrequired part of a wet felt tile off or give a guide to finish cutting a mineral fibre tile.
  • Now you should have a ceiling tile cut to the right size to fit but without the required rebated edge.  To cut the rebated edge:
  • Sit the tile in its final position and pull the rebated edge ‘into’ the grid edge opposite the wall trim, so that when it is finished the face will sit neatly against the wall trim and the grid, then neatly score, using the wall trim as a straight edge, across the width of the tile.  What you are achieving here is a neat score which is going to form the edge of the rebate of tile tile, this line is where the tile will ‘drop’ past the trim so that it sits neatly along all four edges.  (It can make the scoring easier if you remove the tile in front of the cut to allow you to place your hand behind the tile and exert a little pressure so it doesn’t move – this isn’t vital can be a useful tip if you are a novice.)
  • When you have this score line, lift the tile back out of the grid and place it back on your work bench.  If you only lightly scored the tile when it was in place score a little deeper; you want to cut about about half the depth of the tile, or to about the same depth as the other edges.
  • When you have this deeper cut, place your knife at 90 degrees to the edge of the tile and cut ‘into’ the tile.  Start at the top of the tile then firmly slide your blade down the length of the tile to cut out the rebate.  You should end up with an edge that looks like the other 3, except that it is unfinished with paint.
  • Then take your tile and carefully place it back in the grid, ensuring that it fits neatly along all four edges and that the cut rebated edge looks neat against the trim.

When you come to a corner tile the process is exactly the same as the above:

  • You are just measuring two different ways.  When cutting a corner tile ensure that each of the cuts next to it are in place, this ensures that you are measuring from a square piece of grid that won’t move.
  • The only slightly tricky bit in cutting a corner rebated tile is making sure that the edges you cut are the ones that will end up against the wall trim; once you’ve cut a few it becomes easier, if you have to just hold the tile up to help you envisage which edge you need to cut.
  • Then measure and cut the tile to the required size into the one wall, then measure and cut it into the other wall (as detailed above).
  • Place the tile into the grid, score along the two edges, remove it and cut the rebates, then place it back into the grid (all as detailed above) and you’re done.
  • If you’re cutting a normal board tile (square edge, no rebate) you just have to measure into each wall, cut the tile down and place it in the grid.

When you’ve done this all you need to do is repeat as many times as required in order to install of your cuts.

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