Good Questions Getting Rid of a Drop Ceiling Apartment Therapy

Good Questions Getting Rid of a Drop Ceiling Apartment Therapy

Good Questions: Getting Rid of a Drop Ceiling?

Apartment Therapy DC reader Jonathan is looking for help eliminating a drop ceiling:

«Hi! I’m trying to figure out an alternative to the standard (ugly) drop ceiling in my condo’s entrance hallway. I just replaced the Heating/AC unit with an Energy Star model so I’m replacing the old ceiling that hides it as well. I want the solution to be as eco-conscious as possible so I’m looking for renewable or recycled materials. Because the space is so tight, I only have 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in height to work with and it needs to allow HVAC maintenance access once a year or so. The dimensions are 43″ by 12′ and the material needs to be strong enough to support recessed lighting (probably low voltage so small), a smoke alarm, and an air intake vent near the door. Creative solutions are welcome!


I’m not sure that just because you may need to get to the AC unit in the ceiling you have to use ceiling tiles. You can create an access panel (a square piece of drywall) and put up a nice piece of trim (painted in the ceiling color) around it. Then you just pop it up if you need to get up into the ceiling. All you need to worry about is size and placement.

Jonathan here: Thanks for the suggestions already! I think I would be pretty worried about walling in a piece of machinery that needs maintenance and eventual replacement. Plus, an access hatch would need to be a full 6 feet long to allow people to get to the electronics panel, the drain, and the overflow emergency shutoff switch they installed. The photo makes the unit look much shorter than it is: it takes up half the length of the hallway!

You could always try the bamboo — just buy one box and see how it looks/works. Personally I love tongue and groove ceilings (and we have them planned for our back patio), but they definitely could be a bit much on a lowered ceiling. You probably won’t know until you try it.

Most wood floors come in boxes with random lengths about 12-48″ (or is it 60?), which could mean a lot of waste, I’d think, with an upside down application. We just installed 100 boxes of engineered wood, and several of the boxes seemed to be made up of mostly short pieces.

You might want to check into actual tongue and groove planks meant for ceilings — I am pretty sure they would more likely come in standard lengths. They also are available in panels that look like T&G, I think.

maybe no dropped ceiling at all, but the entire space painted flat black—it would allow for more head room, and unify the disparate elements.

Granted, the ceiling may be too low for this to work, but with all the wiring and piping and stuff, it might.

I had the same problem in my former condo. One solution I considered was to install a corrugated steel panel, which could unscrew for easy access. Let untreated, it would also reflect light coming from the entry. I would imagine it would be pretty easy to rig it with recessed lights if you wanted, too.

Good Questions Getting Rid of a Drop Ceiling Apartment Therapy

You could do as they do aboard ships and use metal ceiling panels — To do this, you could use metal panels that are intended for use as standing-seam metal roofing, have it cut to the sizes you need and slide them in on the existing rails, using the tabs and grooves to interlock the panels without permanently connnecting them.

These are great ideas. So far I’m really intrigued by the suggestions of painting everything black and leaving it open, using plain metal panels like a standing seam roof, or putting in corrugated tin. I think all of those would look so much better than a boring drop ceiling, not cost a lot, and not add more foam or plastic to the environment. Excellent!

I wonder if you could use those pierced metal panels made for radiator covers instead of standard panels? You could paint them any way you liked and they would add textural interest as well as provide ventilation., but even their «reclaim» areas can be a bit pricey.

Might be possible to DIY something similar with some plexiglass panels and some creativity (i.e. spray paint, organic thin paper, fabric)—you could even add some subtle dimmer controlled backlighting.

I was thinking the same this as geojenn suggested. It will be a more interesting space if you do something unique and creative.

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