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How to Replace Ceiling Tiles in 3 Steps (with Pictures)

Installation of ceiling tiles made of polystyrene

Ceiling tiles are an efficient way to refresh the aesthetics of a room. Unlike drywall, tiles either rest in a framework hanging from the ceiling or adhere directly to the ceiling’s surface. They’re much easier to install than a new ceiling, and with a variety of available styles, they provide a convenient option if you want to update the style in your home.

Unfortunately, these tiles are also fragile, and it doesn’t take much for moisture or damage to ruin the look of your ceiling. Before long, you may need to replace worn or broken sections.

The good news is that a drop ceiling tile replacement is a simple three-step process. Here’s how you can replace damaged ceiling tiles in just a few short minutes.

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Tools Needed

Tools You’ll Need
  • Utility knife
  • Pencil

How to Replace Ceiling Tiles (3 Steps)

1. Remove the Existing Tile

Ceiling tiles sit on the lip of a drop ceiling grid system, so there is usually no need to unscrew or otherwise detach them from the ceiling. Remove the damaged tile from the grid by pushing it up into the ceiling cavity and then slipping it down through the hole.

2. Trim the New Ceiling Tile

If you’re replacing a ceiling tile with the same type of tile, you likely won’t have to make any adjustments to the size. But for a brand new style, you may need to cut the new tile to fit.

Lay the old tile over the new tile and trace the outline with a pencil. Use your utility knife to cut the tile along the line so that the old and new tiles are the same sizes.

3. Install the Ceiling Tile

Slip the new ceiling tile up into the ceiling cavity and adjust it into place so that it sits on the lip of the grid, completely covering the hole.

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Replacing Glued-On Ceiling Tiles

Some tiles are affixed directly to the ceiling with adhesive. It’s an easy way to change a popcorn ceiling if you don’t feel like scraping.

1. Pry Off the Old Tile

You can usually use a putty knife to pry and scrape the old tile off the ceiling. Sand and scrape any rough patches left by the adhesive after taking down the tile.

2. Glue the New Ceiling Tile On

Apply a few dollops of a strong construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails to the center of the tile. Run a line of adhesive around the perimeter of the tile too, keeping it about 1-inch from the edge. Press it firmly into place on the ceiling and use a generous amount of tape to hold it in place until the adhesive dries.

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How to Replace Ceiling Tiles with Interlocking Designs

Other ceiling tiles have a tongue and groove interlocking pattern. If you have to replace one of these tiles in the middle of your ceiling, it’s impossible to make it interlock on all sides. But because they are so light, you can use your construction adhesive to make quick work of an interlocking ceiling tile replacement.

1. Cut the Old Tile Out with an “X” Shape

To prevent damage to adjacent tiles, cut through the damaged tile with a utility knife in an X shape. Next, create four triangles in the tile by cutting around the perimeter of the tile, staying roughly 1 inch from the edge. You can then easily remove the tile in pieces.

2. Prepare the New Tile

If the damaged tile is surrounded by other tiles that you don’t have to replace, you will have to cut the tongue off of the new ceiling tile so that it only locks in on one side. Use your utility knife to cut the tongue off of the new tile.

3. Install the Ceiling Tile

The groove side of the ceiling tile will lock into the installation without issue, but you still have to secure the side where you removed the tongue. Apply construction adhesive to the edge of the new ceiling tile so that it grips the adjacent tile. Situate the tile in place and use tape to hold it up while the adhesive dries.

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Remember that damage may be a sign of a deeper issue that could cause recurring issues. No matter what kind of ceiling tile you use, try to find and fix the source of the damage to avoid future problems.

A drop ceiling tile replacement doesn’t take a ton of time or effort. With a few simple tools, you can repair the look of your ceiling in a matter of minutes. Look for opportunities in your ceiling installation and see how easy it is to revitalize the look of your space with new tiles!

Featured Image Credit:, Shutterstock


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