When you walk into a store or some other commercial building and look up at the ceiling and see something that looks akin to a tic-tac-toe board, chances are you are looking at a suspended ceiling.
It gets its name from the way it is held in place. Some refer to it as an acoustic ceiling, because it contain panels that “deaden sound.” Another term is a “T-bar ceiling.” The channels that make up the grid that hold the panels in place are T-shaped.
The suspended ceiling is one of the easiest and inexpensive ceilings to install — especially when the task calls for a flat surface that can be used to hide an existing ceiling or unsightly building components at roof or ceiling level.
Although suspended ceilings are typically used in commercial applications, you can take advantage of one in your home if, for example, you are building a music studio, a hobby center, a computer room or office or for some other use where a quick and easy to install a ceiling is needed to lower a higher ceiling or is needed to conceal mechanical devises, cables, piping, ducts or other overhead equipment or machinery. The neatest thing about a suspended ceiling is that it can be removed without major damage to the existing structure.
Installing the ceiling is easy. But first you will need the following tools:
—A long level (a 3-footer will do, but the longer the better).
—Hammer and nails or a screw gun and screws.
—A measuring tape.
—A razor knife.
—Wire cutters and a pair of pliers.
The suspended ceiling materials you will need include:
—Three kinds of track.
—Bailing wire and hooks or eyes.
—The panels of your choice.
Before purchasing the track, you will need to select the panel style, color, and the panel size. When it comes to suspended ceilings, size is really important. The bigger the panel, the fewer tracks are needed and the quicker the installation. However, keep in mind that in small rooms large ceiling panels can make the room seem smaller. There are two basic sizes that are readily available: 2x2 foot and 2x4 foot. As you might have already guessed, the 2x2 panels take twice as many crossties as the 2x4 panels. Keep in mind that the most popular light fixtures for suspended ceilings are 2x4. Loudspeakers, smoke alarms, heat register supplies and returns all fit into any size.
Wall angle pieces are attached to the wall, continuously, all the way around the room at the exact same height. Professional installers use laser levels to establish a height (elevation), but you can get away with a regular level or a measuring tape. Once the perimeter is attached, then the runners are placed. Placing runners is simple if you hang wires above each course first. Wires are attached to the existing ceiling by twisting each one around a screw eye. Runners interlock with the perimeter track and each other end to end while the wires are threaded through the track to raise or lower them, maintaining a level plane.
You can install all of your runners first and then the crossties. But we like to complete the grid as we go installing light fixtures, ducting and other elements that will connect to the grid.
The last step is to install the panels. Sliding them into place is a bit tricky at first time but once you get the hang of it, the process goes quickly.
Keep in mind that installing a suspended ceiling is like installing floor tiles. Some measuring is appropriate so that perimeter panels will be reasonably uniform in width. Without this consideration, a course of full tiles could exist at one side of the room with just a narrow slit at the other side. Planning is important here.
When we did the ceilings in the showroom of our remodeling company offices, we used wallboard everywhere except in the main area where the ceiling was 20 feet tall. We selected 2x2 panels with a deep texture because we wanted an interesting look. However, fancy suspended ceilings aren’t one bit better than the simplest ones. Not in any way. So, choose what makes you happy and enjoy.
For more home improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com.