Friday, November 16, 2007

Installing a suspended ceiling


Tools needed:
ceiling kit
soft wire
wire cutters
pliers (booth needle nose and regular just in case)
drill and bits for the wall angles
tape measure
chalk line
utility knife (for cutting ceiling panels if necessary)
roll of string
push pins or small nails

Parts needed:
t shaped main runners
t shaped crosspieces
wall angle strips
soft wire hangers for the ceiling


Nothing improves the look of a garage ceiling, basement ceiling, or other room with a plain or unfinished ceiling like a bright suspended ceiling. Installing one is not hard to do, even if you have no experience with one or haven't even seen one being installed.
We inherited a home in Dallas, Texas. It needed a lot of work, which is shown in many of the accompanying pages. It had a 2 ½ car attached garage with bare stud walls and bare ceiling joists exposed. It was un-insulated and uninviting.
We first insulated and dry walled the walls. We decided to finish off the garage by installing a suspended ceiling with suspended lighting.
Suspended ceilings are made of acoustic fiber panels, or sometimes, panels made of fiberglass. They are put into a grid framework of metal runners that are hung from ceiling joists or from the ceiling. Ours was hung from the existing ceiling joists.


The frame is constructed by creating 2 foot by 4 foot spaces between t-shaped main runners that run perpendicular to the walls across the ceiling and t-shaped crosspieces that intersect the main runners at ninety degree angles. This forms a grid across the ceiling in which you will put these 2 by 4 panels as you finish the project. The outside of the grid frame is held to each of the side walls by screwing right angle strips in a straight line along the side of the wall. These right angle strips form a lip on which the outside of the 2 by 4 fiber panels will rest against the wall.
The panel size that I prefer are 2 by 4 panels. The t-shaped main runners usually come in 8 or 12 foot lengths. These are cut to length with tinsnips. These are installed by hanging them in a perpendicular direction to the ceiling joists and running them to the angle strips on the walls. The 2 foot or 4 foot long t-shaped crosspieces snap into slots in the main runners and at to finish off at the walls into 10 foot long wall angle strips that you have already screwed into the walls.

The goal is to have the 2 by 4 foot open rectangles to later insert the panels into. When you but the materials, take the ceiling measurements to your home supply store, and they will tell you exactly what ceiling supplies to buy.

When you start measuring where the ceiling will hang, first mark a line in each corner of the wall at the height you want to install the ceiling. Be sure you have purchased a chalk line at your home supply store, because you will not have a straight ceiling without using one. Make sure that the chalk line container is full of chalk.

Have a helper hold one end of the chalk line at a corner mark, and let the chalk line container unwind until you have reached the line at the corner at the other end of the same wall. Stretch it tightly between the wall's corners, and pull it away at the center, like you would a bowstring, (several inches will do because you're not shooting at an apple) and let it snap back to mark a chalk line.

You will then mark the wall stud positions that are along the chalk line's mark. Next, cut the wall angle strips to the right length and screw or nail them to the walls at the marks. I prefer screws You need to line up the bottom edge of each strip with the chalk line you have made. If you are not working with bare joists, then find the joists and mark where they are on the ceiling with chalk lines.

You then need to find the places where the long main runners will go with other chalk lines across the joists. You will then stretch strings across the room just under those lines to mark the main runners positions. Use a push-pin or a small nail (whatever works best for you) to run the string from at one wall to the other, and attach the end of the string to a push pin or a nail at the other wall. You will need to run perpendicular strings across the runner marking strings to mark where the crosspieces will go.

Now, its time to align the runners to the crosspieces. Cut the runners to the right length so that the slots in the runners line up with the crosspiece strings. The room may be longer than the runners. If it is, then cut more runner sections to make up the extra length needed, and join them up to the ends of the uncut, factory runners. Place the runners on the wall angles right beneath the chalked lines.

Screw eyes are usually included if you get a ceiling kit. You then screw in the screw eyes into the joists along your chalk lines every 5 feet. Next, wrap a one foot piece of soft wire around itself into each screw eye hanging from the ceiling. Run the other end through a round hole in the runner. Make sure that you use soft wire, or you will have a hard time working with it. Your home improvement store can recommend the right wire for the job.You then adjust the wire until it supports the runner at the same height you attached your wall angles. Wrap the end of this wire around itself, and it's secured. Keep installing wires and fastening them to runners at the right height.

You are nearly at the finish line. When you have put the runners in position, you will need to measure, cut, and fit each crosspiece into place between them and snap their ends in place into the slots in the runners.

Make sure that everything is level. Take off the strings. Have your kids make a string ball with what's left or give it to the cat.

Now, insert the panels at an angle through the grid, and they will drop into place with a little help. If you want to install ceiling lights, there are translucent 2 by 4 foot acrylic panels available for recessed light fixtures.

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