Ceiling drywall installation is a tough job that will require at least two people to complete. If at all possible the drywall or plaster should be repaired instead, but if a new ceiling is a must this page contains some tips for layout, adding furring strips and supporting the drywall sheets while you're attaching them to the ceiling.
Find the ceiling joists and mark their location on the walls. Tap on the ceiling with a hammer and listen for a solid sound indicating wood framing, a hollow sound will indicate open space.
Go across the ceiling tapping with the hammer and listening for the different sounds, use a drill with an eighth inch bit to bore into the ceiling where you expect to find the joist. If the bit passes right through, drill at one inch intervals until you meet resistance and wood is ejected from the hole, indicating the location of the joist. Measure out 16 inches and check for another joist with the drill. If none is found, use the tapping and drilling method to find it.
Locate all the joists and mark their center on the wall at both ends of the room. Have a helper and stretch a chalked string tightly between each wall mark, pull it away from the ceiling and let it snap back to leave a chalk mark indicating the location of the joists across the ceiling.
Plan to fasten the first strip along one wall and then place the center of the next one 16 inches from the wall. Measuring from the wall, install the rest at 16 inch intervals across the ceiling. Fasten each so the center is right at the 16 inch mark to be sure the 4x8 ft drywall sheets will be supported along each edge. At the end of the ceiling there will be something other than 16 inches left, here install the last furring strip butted against the wall like the first one.
Use 1x2 or 1x3 furring strips placed perpendicular to the joists. Hold them in place, and to avoid splitting the board, drill a pilot hole through it and into the joist. Drive a 2 inch drywall screw to fasten the strips to the joist, use longer screws if you're dealing with thick plaster or the 2 inch doesn't engage the joist. Countersink the screw heads to be sure the drywall will lay as flat as possible over the strips. Go across the room and drill and fasten the strips at each joist, use two drill/drivers to make this part easier.
When all the strips are in place, go along the walls and mark the mid-point of each with a pencil or other non-staining marker. Make the marks far enough down the wall to see them when the drywall is in place.
Plan to hang the drywall with a full sheet along the first wall, running parallel with the first furring strip. Install the second sheet, running parallel with, and butted to the first along the finished edges. This will form a dip between the two that can be finished with tape and joint compound to level and blend them together.
Lay as many whole sheets as possible to fill out to the next wall. At the end plan to cut a small piece of drywall lengthwise, so a finished edge is available to butt against the edge of the last full sheet.
Back at the first wall, extend the first drywall sheet butting an open edge to it. If a whole sheet won't fit in the remaining space, cut one crosswise to fill the remaining space. Always butt the open edges together, don't join a finished edge with an open edge, it will create a very noticeable bulge in the finished ceiling. For this reason drywall should always be joined mating open edges with open edges and finished edges with finished edges.
You can use a construction adhesive to help secure the new drywall sheets in place. This is not absolutely necessary and if you decide to do it, use a caulk gun to apply the adhesive along the furring strips just before lifting the drywall into place.
To install the first sheet, lift it into place and push it tightly into the corner and against both wall surfaces. Check to be sure about half the furring strip is showing on the outer edge and hold or support the sheet (see tee support below) while fastening it to the strips with 1¼inch drywall screws. Use a screw gun with a clutch function to uniformly sink the heads just below the drywall surface.
Drive a few screws at the first strip along the wall and then put a few more along the outer edge to hold the sheet temporarily. To drive the remaining screws accurately, use a chalked string to mark the furring strip location along the sheet. Drive the screws along each strip about every 8 to 12 inches, keeping the outer ones back an inch or so from the edge.
Using a homemade tee for support will make hanging a drywall ceiling much easier. After a sheet of drywall has been lifted into place, wedge the tee under it to support the weight while adjusting the position and driving the screws.