finishing basement


I plan on finishing my basement in the next few months and for the ceiling am not sure if I should use 4x8 drywall or go with a drop ceiling. The problem is that that house is pretty small and if the ceiling was dropped then anyone tall would hit their head.
advantage of drywall - no drop required and a more clean look disadvantage - if I ever need to get at the hotwater pipes or home theater wiring then I have to punch holes
What would the minimum drop be using a drop ceiling?
Has anyone found a perfect solution to a problem like mine?
miker
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Don't finish the ceiling.
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I never understood the idea that you'd have to get at the hot water pipes more often in the basement than in any other floor.
I'm personally going with a drop ceiling, but I do have more headroom than you have. Running wires could be a concern, but except for speaker wires, nearly everything else is wireless now. There's video distribution, audio distribution, etc. system. If you might need to run satellite coax, just do it now and have the cabling ready just in case.
I think the mfg says 6" is a minimum drop, but depending on your lighting, you just need enough room to be able to pop the tile up and slide it over. I have trusses in my house, and I believe I could have a 1" drop if I wanted, because there's plenty of room between the trusses to fit a recessed light.
The reason I'm going with drop is that you have some really cool options with the tiles now that would be difficult, if not impossible to reproduce with drywall. And at that point, it's be too much time to try to reproduce something you can buy.
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How about painted plywood on the ceiling, in areas where you might want access later? Install with screws...problem solved.
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For headroom issues, there are a few solutions. If your basement isn't finished, then build a reduced-height subfloor (DRICore and similar systems seem to be good products). If you're not installing a subfloor (i.e. you're putting carpet directly on slab), I would be concerned about moisture.
As far as ceilings go, I have considered drywall, but access is a real problem. I thought that suspended ceilings were out for me as well, due to the 6"-8" loss in height. However, consider:
CeilingMax, a surface-mount grid/panel system http://www.acpideas.com/index.cfm?XlinkID 
CeilingLink, similar to CeilingMax: http://www.ceilinglink.com /
Supposedly, CeilingLink is cheaper and a bit easier to level. Either product should be easier/cleaner to install than drywall. Ceiling panels aren't what they used to be either...these ceilings can be made reasonably attractive. For example, Armstrong sells 2x2 decorative panels: http://www.armstrong.com/resclgam/na/ceilings/en/us/browse.asp ? type=type&shapeId=1
One other option is to run thin strips of wood, maybe 1-2" wide parallel to your joists, spaced 0.5" apart. It's not a "fully- finished" look, but it can be an attractive ceiling, depending on species/grain/staining. Access panels in this type of ceiling are relatively easy to build, and can be hidden much easier than with drywall. Not sure if this would violate building code or not...but I have seen it done in some older homes.
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Last house I owned the previous owner had sprayed the entire ceiling flat black. You didn't even notice the wiring or pipes because it all blended together. Probably makes a giant mess but no need to finish the ceiling.
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