Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

Approved drop out (or drop-out) ceilings permit the installation of a dropped ceiling beneath existing fire sprinklers because the tiles, sometimes called melt-out ceiling tiles, are heat-sensitive and are designed to drop from the dropped ceiling suspension grid iduring a fire, allowing the sprinklers to do their job.[14]

Drop out ceiling tiles can add to the aesthetic appeal of a ceiling since the fire sprinklers are hidden by the tiles. Commonly made from vinyl or expanded polystyrene, drop out ceiling tiles are available in multiple sizes and finishes from a variety of manufacturers.

Installation is subject to the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and, in the United States, must meet the standards listed in the section under at a minimum.

Drop out ceiling standards (United States)

The following standards are in addition to those for ceiling tiles in general. No clips, fasteners, or impediments of any helpful can be used to limit the ceiling tile’s ability to drop from the suspension system without restraint in the event of a fire unless they own been used in the testing process.

Painting can void an approval, and additional local requirements may exist.


Fire safety

To address fire safety, ceiling tiles made from mineral fibres, plastic, tin, composite, or fire-rated wood panels can be used within the construction to meet acceptable standards/ratings. Some tiles, in specific situations, can provide the needed additional resistance to meet the «time rating» required for various fire code, city ordinance, commercial, or other similar building construction regulations.

Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

Fire ratings for ceiling panels vary based on the materials used, the preparation of each panel, and the safety testing and third party evaluation done to determine where and how they can be safely installed. In the United Kingdom, tiles from certain manufacturers may be required be clipped into the grid with special ceiling clips to provide a fire rating; there are special tiles designed for the underside of mezzanine floors however that can give a fire rating without being clipped.

Drop out ceilings own a further advantage since they can be mounted underneath fire sprinklers, thus hiding the sprinklers for a more attractive appearance. When they are installed under fire sprinklers, materials, applications, installation, and maintenance of drop out ceilings may bec necessary to comply with fire safety regulations.[19] (The white paper Drop-out Ceiling Panels–A Discussion on Their Use With Fire Sprinklers, referenced by the article, is available here)

Ease of modification

Another advantage of a dropped ceiling is that the easily-removed ceiling panels offer instant access to the plenum, which greatly simplifies repairs or alterations.

Wiring and piping installed behind traditional plaster or wallboard ceilings areextremely hard to modify once the finished ceiling is in put. Wires must be fished through hollow spaces in the walls behind the finished ceiling, or the ceiling must be demolished for changes to wiring or piping to be made.

In contrast, the tiles and other parts of a dropped or stretch ceiling can be easily removed to permit access to the area above the grid to do any necessary wiring or plumbing modifications. In remodelling, almost every components of the grid can be dismantled and reassembled elsewhere.

In office buildings, drop ceilings are often used in conjunction with hollow steel studs to construct little office spaces out of a much larger cavernous space. Wiring and other services are run through the open ceiling, below through the hollow stud walls, and to outlets in the work areas.

Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

If trade needs change, the office spaces can be easily dismantled, with the overall cavernous space reconfigured with a diverse floor plan.

In older buildings that own had multiple renovations, a dropped ceiling has often been installed in one renovation and then subsequently removed in another since its installation having been an inexpensive repair to prolong the time between major renovations.

Design objectives

Effective building design requires balancing multiple objectives: aesthetics, acoustics, environmental factors, and integration with the building’s infrastructure—not to mention cost of construction as well as long-term operation costs.[7]


Acoustic balance and control was another early objective of dropped ceilings.[9] A noisy room can overstimulate occupants, while a too peaceful interior may seem dull and uninviting.

The acoustic performance of suspended ceilings has improved dramatically over the years, with enhanced sound absorption and attenuation. This is sometimes achieved by adding insulation known as Sound Attenuation Batts (SABs), more commonly referred to as «sound batts», above the panels to assist deaden sounds and hold adjacent rooms quieter.[10]


Modern dropped ceilings were initially created to hide the building infrastructure, including piping, wiring, and/or ductwork,[4] by creating a plenum space above the dropped ceiling, while allowing access for repairs and inspections.

Drop ceilings may also be used to hide problems, such as structural damage. Further, drop out ceilings can also conceal the sprinkler systems while still providing full fire suppression functionality.

Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

For numerous years, dropped ceilings were made of basic white tiles, but modern innovations now offer a plethora of options in sizes, colors, materials (including retro designs and faux leather, wood, or metal), visual effects and shapes, patterns, and textures as well as support systems and ways to access the plenum.[8] Custom runs of specialty ceiling tiles can be done at relatively low cost compared with the past.

Environmental factors

Integration with infrastructure

Integration with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) is significant with dropped ceilings, since most of these systems are by definition above the ceiling.

Fortunately, most ceiling system products are now designed with this integration in mind. Decisions here can also affect aesthetics as well as access and maintenance.[7]

Indoor environmental quality

Indoor environmental quality includes ventilation, VOC emissions, lighting and thermal system control, thermal comfort, use of daylight for natural illumination, acoustics, and optimization of outdoor view availability.


Many manufacturers of modern dropped ceilings include sustainability as an objective. Sustainable features may include:

  1. Reduced resources needed for construction of the tiles
  2. Energy efficiency, including daylight efficacy and thermal insulating qualities.

    This uses the ceiling plane to reflect daylight as well as electrical illumination to maximize lumen efficacy, which also improves the comfort and usability of interior spaces. A common measure of the light reflectance of a ceiling material is ASTM E for Light Reflectance (LR-1). A level of about 75% is considered excellent, although higher levels are possible.[8]

  3. Recyclable/reused/renewable materials


Dropped ceilings may own an improved return on investment (ROI) over open ceilings[11]

Safety issues

In older buildings, the space above the dropped ceiling was often used as a plenum space for ventilation systems, requiring only enclosed ducts that deliver unused air into the room under, with return air entering the ceiling space through open grilles across the ceiling.

That practice is now used less frequently in new buildings.[citation needed]

It the dropped ceiling is used as a plenum, low-voltage cables and wiring that are not installed inside conduit must use a special low-smoke and low-toxicity wire insulation, which will tend to char and stop burning on its own. That helps to protect building occupants so that they are not poisoned with toxic chemicals sucked through the ventilation system during a fire, and it helps to prevent fires from spreading inside the hidden plenum space.

The special low-smoke cable is typically referred to as plenum cable or Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH or LS0H) cable. While twisted pair cable for networking and telephone service is the most common form of plenum cable, coaxial cable also needs to be plenum-rated for safety.

High-voltage electrical equipment (generally regarded as being over 50 V) is not permitted to be exposed in the plenum space above a drop ceiling but must be enclosed in conduit or raceways and be physically isolated from low-voltage wiring.

High-voltage electrical devices similarly must be enclosed in a plenum space, inside a metallic container. Similarly, electrical outlets for domestic powered devices may not be inside the plenum space, but outlets can be installed on ceiling tiles inside electrical boxes, with the sockets exposed on the exterior bottom face of the drop ceiling. The purpose of these restrictions is to limit flame spread inside the unseen plenum space, in the event of high voltage equipment or wiring failure.

Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

Low-voltage cabling is permitted because current flow is typically negligible and so the risk of overheating and fire is limited.

In earthquake prone areas, such as California, diagonal wire stays are often required by building codes to prevent the ceiling grid from swaying laterally during an earthquake, which can lead to partial or entire collapse of the ceiling grid on the occupants under during a severe tremor. Compression posts may also be added to hold the ceiling from bouncing vertically during an earthquake.

Lighting fixtures and other devices installed in a dropped ceiling must be firmly secured to the dropped ceiling framework. A fire above a dropped ceiling often requires firemen to tug below the ceiling in a hurry for quick access to the conflagration. Loose fixtures resting in the framework only by gravity may become unseated, swing below on their armorflex power cables,a nd hit the firemen under. Binding the fixtures to the framework assures that if the framework must be pulled below, the fixture will come below with it and not become a pendulous swinging hazard to the firemen.


Dropped ceilings and ceiling tiles were being used in Japan for aesthetic reasons as early as the Muromachi Period ( to ).[1] These could be made with simple planks,[2] or coffered.[1]Blackfriars Theater in London, England, built in , had dropped ceilings to aid acoustics.[3]

U. S. Patent No. 1,, for modern dropped ceilings was applied for by E. E. Hall on May 28, and granted on October 16, [4] Initially modern dropped ceilings were built using interlocking tiles and the only way to provide access for repair or inspection of the area above the tiles was by starting at the edge of the ceiling, or at a designated «key tile», and then removing contiguous tiles one at a time until the desired put of access was reached.

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Once the repair or inspection was completed, the tiles had to be reinstalled. This process could be extremely time-consuming and expensive. On September 8, Donald A. Brown of Westlake, Ohio filed for a patent for Accessible Suspended Ceiling Construction. This invention provided suspended ceiling construction in which access may readily be obtained at any desired location. Patent Number US 2,, A was granted on May 23, [5] Brown has sometimes been credited as being the inventor of the dropped ceiling [6] even though other patents preceded his as shown in the table under.

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U. S. Dropped Ceiling Patents to September 8,
Date Filed Patent No. Applicant Title Comments
05/28/ 1,, Hall Suspended Ceiling
09/03/ 1,, Danielson Suspended Ceiling Hanger
10/24/ 2,, Bibb, Remmen, Bibb Suspended Ceiling Construction First fully developed grid system concept
12/13/ 2,, Wong Modular Ceiling First integration of tiles and grid.

Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

Wong founded Cepco Manufacturing, a company now absorbed into Ceilume, a division of Empire West, Inc.

05/11/ 2,, Wilde Suspended Ceiling Grid Construction
07/31/ 2,, Sorenson Suspended Ceiling System
10/25/ 2,, Byssing Suspended Ceiling
02/07/ 2,, Fuss Supporting Electric Lighting Fixture from Suspended Ceiling Framework
09/08/ 2,, Brown Accessible Suspended Ceiling

Suspension grids

A typical dropped ceiling consists of a gridwork of metal channels in the shape of an upside-down «T», suspended on wires from the overhead structure.

These channels snap together in a regularly spaced pattern of cells. Each cell is then filled with lightweight ceiling tiles or «panels» which simply drop into the grid. The primary grid types are «Standard 1» ( 1516» face), Slimline ( 916» grid), and concealed grid.

In the United States and its neighboring countries, the cell size in the suspension grids is typically either 2 by 2 feet (mm ×mm) or 2 by 4 feet (mm ×1,mm), and the ceiling tiles, light fixtures, and fluorescent light tubes are the same size. In Europe, the cell size in the suspension grids is ×mm, while the ceiling tiles and fixtures are slightly (5mm) smaller at × mm or × mm, and the T5 fluorescent and LED tubes are shorter by 37 mm to permit for easier and safer insertion and removal without breakage.

Concealed grid

An older, less common type of dropped ceiling is the concealed grid system, which uses a method of interlocking panels into one another and the grid with the use of little strips of metal called ‘splines’, thus making it hard to remove panels to acquire access above the ceiling without damaging the installation or the panels. Normally, they own a «key panel» (usually in the corner) that can be removed, allowing for the other panels to be slid out of the grid (a series of metal channels called ‘z bars’) one by one, until eventually removing the desired panel.

This type of ceiling is more commonly found in older installations or installations where access to above the ceiling is generally considered unnecessary.

This system has some major disadvantages, compared to the more common «drop panel» system, most notably the difficulty in removing and reattaching panels from the grid, which, in some cases, can cause irreparable damage to the panels removed. Finding replacement panels for this type of dropped ceiling is becoming increasingly more hard as the demand for them and the production of parts slow. Little clips are still available that permit tiles to be inserted into gaps in the ceiling where a tile is missing and work by being placed on the edge of a concealed tile and then being slid along as the tile is placed to ‘lock’ it in put.

Stretch ceiling

With similar advantages to a dropped ceiling, a stretch ceiling is often used to conceal pipework, wires or the existing ceiling. There is also generally a wide choice of colour or texture, and the membrane can be manipulated into a variety of shapes.[12]

A stretch ceiling is a suspended ceiling system and it is made of three main components

  1. Membrane — Typically a PVC or Nylon material, lightweight sheets are made to size/shape from roll material.

    Diy drop ceiling tile ideas

    Can be printed or painted to achieve the desired effect.

  2. Perimeter Track — Aluminium or Plastic PVC.
  3. Harpoon or Catch — This is ultrasonically welded to the edge of the membrane or sheet in the factory, the edging slots into the perimeter track to hold the ceiling in place.

When a stretch ceiling is being installed, semi-concealed plastic/aluminum track, the preferred choice for most architects and designers, is cut to size and fixed to the perimeter of the ceiling area. The membrane is stretched and the harpoon or catch edge is clipped into the track.[13] Stretching is aided by heating up the membrane or sheet prior to fitting.