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REMODELING : Suspending a Ceiling With No Hang-Ups

July 09, 1994|From Associated Press

Go ahead, suspend your disbelief. And your ceiling.

Installing a suspended ceiling is relatively easy and often an ideal way to cover exposed pipes, wiring or ducts.

Suspended ceilings consist of lightweight fiberglass or acoustical fiber panels set into a framework of metal strips. The framework, or grid, is suspended by wires from an existing ceiling or from exposed ceiling joists. It's easy to get the hang of it.

And because the panels are laid atop the grid and not attached to it, they are easily removed for access to lighting fixtures or other overhead systems.

Gird yourself for the grid. Planning and installing the grid is the first and most important step. Home centers and decorating supply stores that sell suspended ceiling materials usually offer personalized planning help. Ceiling kits come with complete instructions, often including a videocassette showing assembly procedures.

Generally, a grid consists of 8- or 12-foot-long T-shaped main runners spanning the length of the room, perpendicular to the joists; 2- or 4-foot-long T-shaped crosspieces that snap into slots in the runners, and 10-foot-long right-angled strips called wall angles. Panels are either 2 feet square or 2-by-4 foot rectangles. They are easily cut smaller with a utility knife.

The starting line. To install grid pieces, start by marking a line in each wall corner at the desired height of the new ceiling. Stretch chalked string between the wall's corners, then pull it away from the wall near the center and let it snap back, leaving a chalk line on the wall. Check the line with a carpenter's level.

Cut strips, not corners. Locate and mark the wall studs' positions along the chalk line. Cut the wall angle strips to length with tin snips and nail them to the walls at the stud marks, aligning the lower edge of each strip with the chalk line. When finished, the wall angles form a ledge around the room for panels to rest on.

Joist remarks. If the joists are not exposed, locate and mark their positions on the ceiling with chalk lines. Next, mark the positions of the main runners with chalk lines across the ceiling with exposed joists. Then, just under those lines, stretch strings across the room marking the main runners' positions. Also run strings perpendicular to them to show the locations of the crosspieces. Attach the strings temporarily to the wall angles by tying nails to the ends of the strings and wedging the nails between the angles and the walls from below. Make sure the strings cross each other at right angles.

Cut the runners to length so that the slots in them for crosspieces align with the crosspiece strings. If the room is longer than the runners, cut additional runner sections to make up the difference and join them to the ends of the uncut runners by snapping their interlocking ends together. Rest the runners in place on the wall angles, directly beneath the chalked lines.

High-wire act. Insert screw eyes (included with ceiling kits) into the joists along the chalked lines at intervals of about five feet. Thread a foot-long length of soft wire (also included with kits) through each eye, wrap one end around itself to secure the wire to the eye and run the remaining end through a round hole in the runner. Adjust the wire so it supports the runner at the same height as the wall angles, then wrap the end around itself to secure it.

Continue installing wires and securing the runners. When the runners are in place, cut and fit crosspieces between them by snapping their ends into the runners' slots.

Keep a level head. Check the grid for level, adjust any errant wires and then remove the strings. Install the panels by inserting them through the grid at an angle and then letting them drop into place. If desired, use translucent acrylic or fiberglass panels to cover recessed light fixtures and molding where the panels meet walls.

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