How To Cut Plastic Ceiling Light Panels Without Cracking It 2024 – Types of Light Panels

Cut Plastic Ceiling Light Panels

Designers and homeowners alike are sometimes challenged by cutting hard plastic ceiling panels. They can be difficult to cut because of their thickness, strength, and smoothness. One needs the correct tools for this job in order to do it properly.

Acrylic ceiling panels made of hard plastic can be used as light diffusers and decorative printed panels. These panels are suitable for hanging ceiling tiles grids with fluorescent light fixtures.

Because acrylic ceiling panels are made from hard plastic, it can be difficult for you to cut them without breaking or cracking them. You can score the acrylic panel multiple times to make a snapping line. This works in a similar way to ripping apart perforated papers.

In this era of social distancing, one of the definite benefits is getting some time for home improvements. Learning how to cut ceiling light panels is a great first step in jazzing up your house.

How To Do It?

First, one should use a pair of tin snips or aviation shears on the corners of the panel that needs to be cut off.

To choose the spot where the hard panel will be placed, measure the ceiling. 1/8 inch should be added on each side and then recorded onto the hard plastic ceiling panel with a metal straightedge and a pencil for a professional look. Allow for 1/8 inch to fit within the railing of the ceiling tile grid for an expert appearance.

It’s important that you use heavy work gloves! The edges of hard plastic panels may be cut with a sharp knife. Place the panel of hard plastic on a flat surface.

Place the metal straightedge along the cutting line. Run the acrylic scoring instrument four to five times down that cutting line using the guide provided by the metal straightedge.

Firmly grasp the plastic panel edge with one hand while holding the main section of the panel steady with the other. To snap off the hard plastic panel edge along the scored line, pull down on the plastic panel edge in one smooth move.

The edges should then be sanded down with an orbital sander using 100-grit sandpaper, followed by 150-grit sandpaper, and finally 220-grit sandpaper before painting them white for a finished look.

Nowadays there are other anti-mold paints available as well that work well for darker colors such as black or brown if white or other lighter colors are not desired.

Don’t miss our article on how to splice low-voltage landscape lighting wire.

Different Cutting Methods

There are lots of different ways to cut ceiling panels. It all depends on your ceiling materials. A common ceiling type is acrylic.

For this, professionals score the surface and break it along the perforation. This provides a smooth line.

DIY Approaches

  • If your ceiling is soft, simply use and cut out the dimensions of the hole
  • With firm ceilings, take a page out of the pros’ book and make a score along the line (about every half inch)
  • Once you are done scoring the surface, firmly snap along the line
  • Smooth down the edge with sandpaper, if necessary
  • To save time, you can use an electric saw to expose the hole for the light
  • If you use a saw, you definitely need to sand the outside

Tools You Need:

  • Ruler/measuring tape
  • Pencil/marker
  • Exacto knife
  • Electric saw
  • Sandpaper

Cost for Project:

If you already have the tools on hand, there should be not out of pocket expenses outside of the ceiling lights.

These lights come in a range of prices depending on the style you choose.

Pick one to fit your budget. The prep for installation costs very little since all you really need is a blade and sandpaper.

How To Cut Plastic Ceiling Light Panels

Time Investment:

When thinking about how to cut ceiling light panels, you want to factor in time.

If you are fairly handy (good with tools), then it should only be a couple of hours before you are up and running. Including cleanup and installation, you can get this done within a single afternoon.

How To Install Light Panels

How To Cut Plastic Ceiling Light Panels

There are tonnes of helpful resources on installing these panels. For quick reference, the basic steps are:

  1. Find the dimensions and choose a spot with electrical access
  2. Cut the necessary size out of the ceiling panel
  3. Turn off the electricity by flipping the breaker
  4. Wire the ceiling light into the system
  5. Place the ceiling light into the panel
  6. Replace the panel and make any needed adjustments
  7. Double-check your electrical work (make sure it turns on)
  8. Repeat process for all ceiling lights

Benefits & Pitfalls

As with everything, there are some key benefits and drawbacks to using ceiling light panels.

  • Long shelf life
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Energy efficient
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Hard to damage
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Costly investment in product
  • Time-consuming to set up electricals
  • Voltage compatibility issues


Usually, the pros outweigh the cons. Though it can be costly at first, users save in the long run.

As long as you make sure you can wire in your new system, set aside the time, and understand the long-term value, you are sure to succeed.

Decorating Ideas

When it comes to ceiling lights, the sky’s the limit. You can get creative with patterns or innovative with bulb choices. You can add filters, change the paint, and everything in between.

What it comes down to is the style of the room you’re redoing. Is it professional or casual?

Relaxing or energizing? Since you can do just about anything with a good ceiling light setup, the decorating world is your oyster.

To get some insight as to what others are doing, check out this video – you’re sure to get inspired.

Expert Tips on Cutting Hard Plastic Ceiling Panels

For those who do not have the tools to cut ceiling panels using tin snips or aviation shears, they can also use a utility knife with an additional board underneath it for stability and safety.

Usually one uses a drill with plastic cutting bits that come in different shapes (most often round) so as to avoid fraying, but this is optional. One should remember to wear gloves while handling hard plastic ceiling panels because they tend to be sharp if even slightly damaged.

If no gloves are available, one can also use duct tape wrapped around the ends of their hands instead for protection against cuts and scrapes during the manipulation of these materials. Furthermore, small cuts and scrapes can be covered up using spackle so as to finish the ceiling project without any problems.

Other Tips

It is also possible to use a circular saw with a diamond blade (tungsten carbide tipped) and/or an oscillating tool as a jigsaw or multi-tool like a Dremel for this job, but if one does not have these then the above methods will work just as well.

For those needing further reference on how to cut hard plastic ceiling panels, there are many YouTube videos as well as guide books available on Amazon that will provide step-by-step instructions with pictures included in them at affordable prices.

Take a quick look at our article on how to remove a stuck light bulb.

Types of Light Panels

Types of Light PanelsLight panels can be used for a variety of reasons, including storing clips or cordless phones in the ceiling. These light panels are made out of hard plastic that looks similar to that of an acrylic block. If you need to cut these ceiling panels, it will be recommended to use either tin snips or aviation shears.

1. Prism Style Light Panels

The first type is a prism light panel. You can use this style of light panel to hang and store things such as hanging files or clipboards in the ceiling when doing office work from home. To install this style, you will need to snap them into place since they are designed to fit into a grid system.

2. Matte Style Light Panels

The next type is the matte light panel. These panels are designed to fit into an overlay system, which means that they can be used to hang items without having to snap them into place.

They are held in place by small plastic clips that go around its perimeter. When cutting these, you can cut them with either a circular saw or jigsaw depending on your skill level and what tools you have available at the time.

3. Egg Crate Light Panels

The last type is the egg crate light panel. These panels are designed to fit into an overlay system, which means that they can be used to hang items without having to snap them into place.

They are held in place by small plastic clips that go around its perimeter. When cutting these, you can cut them with either a circular saw or jigsaw depending on your skill level and what tools you have available at the time.

4. 3-D Style Light Panels

The 3-D style light panel is designed to fit into an overlay system, which means that it can be used to hang items without having to snap them into place.

They are held in place by small plastic clips that go around its perimeter. When cutting these, you can cut them with either a circular saw or jigsaw depending on your skill level and what tools you have available at the time.

Best Light Panels Available

It’s an investment (of both time and money) to do a ceiling light overhaul. To see the best results, opt for the best lights on the market.

This way, they install easier and last longer – not to mention perform better. Some of the most popular lights include:

01. Hykolity Architectural LED System

Hykolity Architectural LED System

These popular lights represent the classic ceiling light panel. The dual pack of fluorescent bulbs is a great way to enliven the atmosphere without causing glare.

Though there is no dimmer, the medium level of lumens produced creates a friendly environment.

Ideal for work and play spaces are generally simple to install. Since they are lightweight, there are no worries about placing them easily.

Because of the design, the uniform light spreads out both vertically and horizontally.

Through a sleek design, these handy panels add function and aesthetics.

02. Neox Four Foot Light Panel

Neox Four Foot Light Panel

Ringing it at four by two feet, these useful panels make the most of modern tech. Featuring LED lights, you get the full benefit of dimmers that go from naught to ten volts.

The flat and seamless design integrates into the ceiling for an easy installation.

Thanks to the fact that they are so sizable, you don’t need many to equip even a large room.

Since the LED lights are highly energy-efficient (without sacrificing brightness) you can save a lot of power over the long term.

Combining all the different features, you get a great lighting option for family rooms. Bedrooms benefit equally from this friendly and soft lighting option.

Coupled with proper placement, these panels have the ability to overhaul the room’s whole appearance.

03. LIFX Beam Light

LIFX Beam Light

If you are looking for a funky and modern lighting option, this is a great choice. Instead of being one single color, the multi-colored options give it some character.

Ideal for a fun-forward area like a game room or kid’s area, these panels are nothing if not fun.

Both dimmable and easy to install, these handy lights create limited heat (and thereby add safety).

Add creativity and innovation to your space with these exciting panels.

Common Cutting Issues

As with everything else crafty, there are a few things that can go wrong. Some of the most frequently reported issues include:

  • Cutting beyond the dimensions: Be precise when you make your cuts. It’s better to cut less than more, so take your time during the cutting process.
  • Breaking the panel: If you’re dealing with a firm material like acrylic, it can be easy to break the panel. Score the plastic and break along the perforation for the best results.
  • Cutting away from electricals: Make sure that you account for wiring when you cut. You want to make sure your light can seamlessly wire into the system.
  • Cutting too small: Though better than cutting too much, you want too small isn’t good either.
  • It makes it harder to get precise measurements, so take your time when cutting.

Common Installation Issues

  • Wiring troubles: The trickiest part of the setup is making sure it wires in properly. Check the voltage compatibility before starting and take your time so see good results.
  • Awkward placement: Though it usually isn’t too difficult, it can be tricky to get the panel in place. If you’re struggling, enlist a friend or family member for help.
  • Bulb Compatibility: Usually panels come with bulbs; but, if not, make certain that you place the proper bulbs in the unit. Using the wrong ones not only won’t work – it risks breaking the system.
  • Overheating: Especially with older models, you risk creating too much heat for the system and upping your chances of fire.
  • This is exacerbated by poor installation. For best results, make sure you clean up dust and debris and choose modern, energy-efficient bulbs.

Plastic Ceiling Tiles vs Wooden

Plastic Ceiling Tiles vs Wooden

There are many different types of ceiling tiles out there for people to choose from when it comes to their own personal preferences.

Some people prefer wood because it adds warmth and elegance to any room along with being strong enough where children cannot easily break them like glass panels could if dropped accidentally.


Cut Plastic Ceiling Light Panels

Especially if this is your first time installing a ceiling light panel, you probably have a few questions.

The good news: you aren’t alone. This section outlines some quick answers to some of the most common inquiries.

How do you cut ceiling light panels?

It’s actually pretty simple to cut ceiling light panels. Basically, you measure the area you need first.

Next, you make sure you are close enough to electricals so that you can wire it in.

Turn off the electricity with the breaker and use an Exacto knife (or a saw, depending on the panel’s thickness). Once you make the cuts, sand down the sides until they are smooth.

Is it different from fluorescent lights?

Ceiling light panels are often made of the same material as fluorescent lights, which is a type of plastic known as acrylic or polycarbonate. However, ceiling light panels and fluorescent lights are used for different purposes and have different designs.

Fluorescent lights are long, tubular lights that are commonly used in commercial and industrial settings. They require a separate fixture and ballast to function, and are designed to provide bright, even lighting over a large area.

They are energy-efficient and long-lasting, making them a popular choice for businesses and institutions.

Ceiling light panels, on the other hand, are flat panels that are designed to fit into a grid system in a drop ceiling. They are typically smaller than fluorescent lights and are used to provide diffuse, even lighting in spaces such as offices, schools, and hospitals. Ceiling light panels are often more decorative than fluorescent lights and can be printed with custom designs or patterns to match the décor of a room.

While ceiling light panels and fluorescent lights are made of the same material, they are used for different purposes and have different designs. It’s important to choose the right type of lighting for your specific needs and to consult with a professional if you have any questions about which type of lighting is best for your space.

How can I cut plastic panels?

The most challenging part of cutting plastic panels is if you are facing a harder than normal plastic.

Especially when it comes to acrylic, you want to avoid cracking the plastic. If you cut too liberally, it can crack through the whole system and ruin the panel.

Avoid this by scoring the outline of the cut. If you make a lateral cut along the side, it makes a perforation.

When complete, you can snap the side creating a relatively smooth line. The scoring takes the pressure off the panel, thus taking away the risk of cracks.

Why are my ceiling lights not working?

 ceiling lights are misfiring

If your ceiling lights are misfiring, then you are on to the troubleshooting component. There are three main causes of issues in this form.

The first is a dead light bulb. If it was working before (or if a different bulb was) and it suddenly stopped, this is probably the culprit. The quick fix is just to replace it.

The next thing it could be is an electrical problem. Is there a power outage? Did the breaker flip off?

Check that both of these are fixed before taking any more drastic measures. Chances are, it is just an issue with the power.

Lastly, if it is an issue with the installation, you need to do some more work.

If you just set it up and it isn’t working, then you want to double-check all of your work.

Make sure everything from the bulb to the wiring is in place.

If you address all of these concerns, then your lights should be bright and beaming before you know it.

How do I make the hole in the ceiling smaller?

Yes, for small-scale issues, you can use stucco. Unfortunately, for larger issues and more massive cuts to the system, then you need to replace the panel itself.

The good news is that it only takes a quick stop to the hardware store to be back up and running.

For best results though, cut precisely when you do the installation.

Chalk it up to a learning experience and use that knowledge to cut more carefully.

If you are new to construction, remember the old adage: measure twice, cut once. By following this suggestion, you can prevent issues with installation.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know all the ins and outs of how to cut ceiling light panels, you are set to go.

This is not only a fun activity; it is an investment in the home.

You can completely change a room’s appearance with this one simple step. So, get your tools, bring your ceiling panels, and have an afternoon of adventure.

Not only will your home value improve, but you will also have a more welcoming and enjoyable environment?

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