HOME CLINIC — How to Install a Suspended Ceiling -

HOME CLINIC - How to Install a Suspended Ceiling -

HOME CLINIC; How to Install a Suspended Ceiling

By EDWARD R. LIPINSKI
Published: January 25, 1998

AN easy way to finish off a ceiling is by installing a suspended one. The skills required for this project are minimal, and only a few basic tools are needed.

Essentially, the suspended ceiling consists of acoustical panels that fit into a grid of metal braces that hang from the ceiling joists. The panels come in standard sizes of 2 feet by 2 feet or 2 feet by 4 feet and in thicknesses of 1/2 to 3/4 inch. They may be made of wood or mineral fibers or fiberglass. Translucent panels may be substituted for the fiber ones to allow light from a ceiling fixture to shine through.

The metal grid is made up of two types of »T» braces (called »T» braces because they have a cross section of an inverted letter »T»), main braces and crosspieces. The main braces are available in 8- or 12-foot lengths. They span the length of the room, about four feet apart, and usually run perpendicular to the joists. The shorter crosspieces (available in two- or four-foot lengths) run at right angles to the main braces. They are spaced about two feet apart and snap into slots in the main braces. The entire grid is supported in the center by wires that hang from the joists and along the perimeter by wall molding. The wall molding is essentially a metal »L» bracket that is nailed to the wall studs.

Before purchasing any materials, make a scale drawing of your ceiling. The drawing will help you to estimate the amount of materials you’ll need, and also serve as a plan for the placement of the grid and the arrangement of the panels. Some of the panels and crosspieces along the perimeter will probably have to be cut to fit within the confines of the room. Whenever possible, plan the grid so you will have equal-sized border tiles on each side.

After you have purchased the necessary materials, bring them into the room at least 24 hours before installation so the panels have time to acclimatize to conditions.

The first step in installing the ceiling is to nail the wall molding in place. The molding should be nailed on the four walls and should be three inches below the lowest point of the ceiling; this may be a low pipe, duct or joist. Mark this point on one wall, then use a level to draw a line around the room. If you work carefully, the beginning and end of the line should meet at the same height.

Locate the studs or furring strips behind the walls and mark their location. Nail the molding in place, with one nail per stud, so that the top of the molding aligns with the line. You can use a hacksaw or tip snips if you have to cut the molding to fit. The cut edges may be sharp, so be careful. When joining two lengths of molding, make sure that both ends meet over a stud. Overlap the molding at inside corners.

The next step is to install the support grid. It is essential that all the pieces are aligned properly and all intersections are square. An easy way to set up guidelines for the grid is by running strings across the room. Tie the end of the string to a small finishing nail, wedge the nail under the molding, then pull the string taught and attach it to the molding on the opposite wall. Use a framing square to adjust the strings where they intersect so the network is perfectly square.

HOME CLINIC - How to Install a Suspended Ceiling -

The main braces should be supported at four-foot intervals with wire attached to the joists. Drill a pilot hole in the joist and drive in a screw eye. Thread the wire through the screw eye and wrap it around itself three times. Thread the other end of the wire through the hole in the T brace, then bend it back enough to suspend the brace. Do not secure the wire by twisting it yet; you may have to adjust the height of the brace. Use the strings and a level to make certain that each brace is perfectly level.

Now install the crosspieces between the main braces. The main braces should be positioned so the crosspieces will fit exactly between them. Along the borders, however, you will probably have to cut the crosspieces so they fit between the braces and the wall. One end of the crosspiece will snap into the slot in the brace, while the other, the cut end, will rest on the wall molding.

Once the entire grid is in place and each piece is interlocked into its neighbor, you can use a level to check it and make adjustments in the support wires. When everything is level, wrap all the support wires, then remove the guide strings.

Insert each panel by tilting it on an angle so it fits through the grid, then straighten and lower it to rest it on the flanged edges of the braces. Border tiles will have to be cut.

Diagram (Edward R. Lipinski)

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