Suspended Ceilings

Suspended Ceilings 101 – Everything You Need to Know

Ian Mutuli
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What are suspended ceilings? You may have come across the term before, but finding an exact definition can be tricky.

In general, suspended ceilings are secondary ceilings, also sometimes called dropped or false ceilings. They are suspended 3-8 inches beneath the actual structural floor slab, creating a void.

Suspended ceilings are often used in commercial buildings, to hide unsightly elements from view. This includes HVAC, plumbing, electrical wiring, sprinkler systems, CCTV, and speakers.

But how exactly do you install a suspended ceiling? What materials can you use? And what do you need to pay attention to?

Here’s the run-down.

How to install a suspended ceiling

As a first step towards installing a suspended ceiling, you need to get precise measures of the dimensions of your room. Once you have these, your installer can determine the appropriate drop of the ceiling and mark it around the perimeter.

The suspended ceiling itself is fixed to a bracket, which is in turn attached to the bottom of the floor slab above. This bracket supports an interlocking metal framework, which forms  the grid of the new ceiling.

When you design your suspended ceiling, though, there are a couple of important considerations  you need to add to your list: building services requirements, , hygiene issues, thermal insulation, corrosion resistance, and cleaning operations. These will influence your choice of material, as well as tile sizing and thickness.

Image source: wikihow.com

An alternative is to install a system of parallel beams that supports ceiling tiles.

As soon as the metal grid is in place, your construction technicians can install any components that need to be hidden from view - from ventilation to security systems.

Finally, the ceiling tiles are slotted into the framework.

The overall aesthetic appearance depends primarily on the tiles - so you need to make sure that you choose the right material and design.

Which suspended ceiling tiles should you use?  

There is a huge variety of designs, materials, and colors for ceiling tiles. Take the time to weigh your options carefully and make the right pick - it can completely alter the atmosphere of your building.

Image source: soundproofliving.com

Common materials for ceiling tiles include metals, laminates, plasterboard, and mineral fibres.

Many of these offer come with perforated textures, which is a fantastic addition according to a suspended ceilings specialist: “It is to provide a means of controlling interior acoustics: Specific levels of acoustic absorption can be calculated and deployed to control the reverberation (echo) times experienced in the room spaces below.”

Ceiling tiles come in a considerable size range. The most common dimensions, though, are square tiles of 600 mm x 600 mm and rectangular tiles of 600 mm x 1,200 mm.

Should you add interior partitions?

One building element that often goes hand in hand with suspended ceilings are interior partitions.

These can help you optimize your floor space usage in terms of value and utility.

Like ceiling tiles, partitioning elements come in a variety of materials and designs.

Practically, partitions are implemented either by adding a construction that flows through the upper floor slab, or by letting it stop just below or within the suspended ceilings.

If you do decide to go for partitions, installing them in one go with suspended ceilings is the best option.

Conclusions: Your Suspended Ceilings Checklist

Suspended ceilings are a great way of improving your interior aesthetics and can be useful in a variety of ways, including for sound damping and absorption.

When you design your suspended ceiling, though, there are a couple of important considerations  you need to add to your list: building services requirements, fire safety, hygiene issues, thermal insulation, corrosion resistance, and cleaning operations. These will influence your choice of material, as well as tile sizing and thickness

Image source: archello.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.