Stained. Sagging. Nicked. Look up - is this what you see?
Establishing the right ceiling system for a retrofit or new construction project
may seem difficult. With so much to choose from and consider - design, properties,
performance attributes, etc. - you may feel a migraine coming on. Hopefully,
the following tips will ease your brain strain.
Acoustical ceiling panels have been progressively shrinking in size - from the
2-foot by 4-foot panels favored previously to the 2-foot by 2-foot panels currently
preferred. When retrofitting a ceiling to accommodate this smaller dimension,
the suspension system can be outfitted with cross tees that allow for the look
of contemporary 2-foot by 2-foot layouts. "Survey the grid," warns
Rosa Lee, marketing manager, architect and owner segments at Chicago-based USG
Corp. Make sure that the existing suspension system is in good shape before
modifying and adding new panels.
If the suspension system requires replacement and the layout of the space is
unchanged, existing hanger wire locations can often be reused, cutting installation
"You should expect at least 10 years out of your system," says John
Mandel, manager of corporate communications at USG Corp. However, some manufacturers
offer lifetime warranties.
Be sure to read the fine print. When only one component of a system is purchased
(i.e. panels), the length of the warranty often diminishes. Installing new ceiling
panels in an existing grid during retrofit could limit the duration of time
the panels are covered under warranty.
With so much above the ceiling (sound masking, HVAC plenum, and wire/cable),
the removal of ceiling panels for accessibility purposes is inevitable - and
frequent. "Most ceiling tiles have direction," Lee says, and can easily
be replaced incorrectly. To lessen the chance of this, companies like USG are
offering non-directional products that simplify replacement and installation.
Investigate whether non-directional panels are right for your application.
In areas where durability is a priority, cast panels are recommended. With a
more impact-resistant surface and integral color throughout, they can sustain
more abuse. However, because panels will suffer from nicks and smudges during
removal and replacement, replacing panels may be necessary occasionally to keep
the ceiling in "like-new" condition. Check with the manufacturer to
see how long the product you are purchasing will be available.
If indirect lighting is a source of illumination in your facility, the ability
of a ceiling panel to reflect that light down, evenly dispersing it over a workstation,
should be a primary consideration during ceiling system selection. Higher light
reflectance (LR) values can minimize the number of lighting fixtures needed,
which will also reduce the number of lamps that require changing - saving both
time and money. An LR rating of 0.85 or higher is recommended.
Moisture over time can cause ceiling panels to sag in the middle, creating a
pillow-effect. If you live in an area of the country that experiences high humidity
or are installing a ceiling system in a moisture-prone area, choose products
with this in mind. Many manufacturers incorporate sag-resistant formulas into
Jana J. Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior associate editor at Buildings.