home depot has a system with no"drop" at all. Top half of the frame attaches
right to the joists and the bottom half "snaps" into the top, sandwiching
your tiles in. I Installed this in my basement for the same reason - didnt
lose more than 2" of height. Uses standard ceiling tiles, and you dont have
to worry about leveling all of the central framework since it mounts
directly to the joists.
The down side is that to get a tile (or say a flourescent light) in the
middle, you pretty much have to start at one end and remove several tiles to
get to the desired space.
I dont recall the cost compared to standard systems. But it didnt seem
extreem at the time.
Just got finished doing one of these installs with the 2x2s myself.
Definately agree that at least 2 to 3 inches is desirable. There were some
spots that were an inch or so, and like Doug says, it was awkward - a real
pain to get some tiles into place.
If you have less than an inch or inch and a half between the bottom of the
joists and the top of the rails, installing the tiles gets _real_awkward_ .
Less than two inches, and installing the support wires gets awkward too.
What kind of light fixtures are you planning to use? Can lights can go up
between the joists, and thus don't impose any height limitations on the rails.
Troffers, on the other hand, will need about four inches between the bottom of
the joists and the bottom of the rails.
The more clearance you can leave between the joists and the grid, the easier
it is to install.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt.
And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
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