What is a Suspended Ceiling?

A suspended ceiling–also known as a drop ceiling or false ceiling–is a ceiling hung from structural framing. There is usually a gap of 3” – 8” between the structural ceiling and the suspended ceiling–which is where the name comes from.

Why Have a Suspended Ceiling?

What is a Suspended Ceiling?

Suspended ceilings are very popular in basements and commercial buildings. They provide quick and easy access to the services running under the floor above–such as electrical, ducting, and plumbing.

There are no long and expensive repairs required when removing and replacing suspended ceiling panels. The sections lift out easily and drop back into place when the repairs are complete. Replace the panels that were removed and the job is done. Even a few damaged panels can be replaced for a small cost.

Suspended Ceiling Systems

Many suspended ceiling panels have acoustic properties. They can absorb and dampen sound waves. The suspended ceiling also reduces the volume of the air inside a room. This makes for fewer echoes in the space.

Suspended ceiling systems also may be designed with metal or hard PVC panels. They are very decorative and available in multiple designs and colors. Although the room will be made smaller, these panels will not dampen the noise.

T-Bar and Panel Suspended Ceiling System

T-Bar suspended ceilings are the most common systems. They are user-friendly for DIY installations. The parts are interchangeable and widely available. Panels come in 2’ x 2’ and 2’ x 4’ sizes. Most manufacturers offer light panels and HVAC panels that fit into the grid where needed without any modifications.

Concealed Grid Suspended Ceiling System

The picture above shows the type of suspended ceiling system most people are familiar with. Concealed grid suspended ceilings have a smoother finished look because the panels cover the grids.

The panels fit together tightly edge to edge. They are also easy to remove and replace for access to pipes, ducts, and electrical. Arktura manufactures some truly awesome suspended ceilings.

Stretch Suspended Ceiling System

Stretch suspended ceilings are made of one large panel installed in a custom frame. Frames can be made to fit tight to the walls. Or hang independently in part of the room. The stretch material is thin plastic such as PVC or vinyl that can be colored as desired.

Stretch ceilings are also made of wood and fabric. Frames are usually custom made and material is “stretched” inside the frame.

SnapClip Suspended Ceiling System

Canadian-made SnapClip ceilings only reduce head space by 1 ⅛”. This feature eliminates one of the biggest drawbacks of suspended ceilings. The system is technically a suspended ceiling but without the wires used by other suspended ceilings. It is only available in white.

SnapClip ceiling systems are easy and quick to install as a DIY project. Attach clips directly to existing floor joists. Snap in the tracks and install the panels.

This short YouTube video describes the system and how it is installed.

Custom Suspended Ceiling System

Customizing a suspended ceiling is easier than ever. Many manufacturers specialize in making out-of-the-ordinary products. Some of them–like Arktura–offer off-the-shelf ceilings or they will work with architects and designers to create something special for offices or homes.

Suspended Ceiling Finishing

Suspended ceilings provide almost unlimited finishing options. Combinations of color, material, and design make for interesting and sometimes spectacular drop ceilings.

  • Color. Ceiling panels are available in almost any color imaginable. Most panels can be painted or powder coated to match or accent specific room colors.
  • Material. Fiberglass, gypsum, metal, plastic, and mineral fiber are common materials used in off-the-shelf suspended ceilings. Custom panels are often made of plastic, hardwood, metal, fabric, and glass for even more spectacular looks.
  • Sizes. Standard panel sizes are 2’ x 2’ and 2’ x 4’. Both are around ¾” thick. Accessories such as HVAC and light panels are made the same sizes.
  • Acoustics. Most manufacturers are acutely aware of acoustics. Especially in large open office applications. Sound attenuating and dampening products provide pleasant work and/or entertainment environments.

Most suspended ceiling systems have some fire resistance properties. Painting or powder coating may change that. Make sure the fire rating still meets the requirements after painting.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Suspended ceiling panels–especially acoustic panels–can be made of soft absorbent material filled with small holes to absorb and diffuse sound. These can be difficult to keep clean and the location of ceiling tiles does not make it easier. Check cleaning instructions of products before choosing and installing a suspended ceiling.

Regular maintenance such as painting is usually not necessary for most suspended ceilings. Many suspended ceiling manufacturers warranty their products for 30 years (some Armstrong and Certainteed products).

Suspended ceilings have come a long way from the fiberboard products of years ago. Not only do they enhance a room’s appearance, they can make the entire design. Many suspended ceilings become a focal point and should be considered for any construction project–residential or commercial.

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Written by murat

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