A kitchen space with a suspended ceiling

Suspended ceilings are a popular choice for commercial premises, providing many benefits that can improve the aesthetics of any given space. Suspended ceilings have been around for years and can provide a clean and smooth finish to a room’s ceiling. A product of the Roaring Twenties, suspended ceilings have stood the test of time and still hold up today. If your interested in finding out more about suspended ceilings, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve covered everything you need to know about suspended ceilings in this guide…

What are suspended ceilings?

A suspended ceiling with light fittings

A suspended ceilings is a secondary ceiling that is fitted and suspended from the structural floor slab above. Suspended ceilings find their roots in the 1920s due to the innovation of many building and construction techniques that spawned from the boom in the construction trade.

While they are most typically used in commercial settings, they have also started to see a rise in people’s homes. Most commonly used within buildings for schools, offices, hospitals, as well as retail and industrial units.

As suspended ceilings involve installing a secondary ceiling over the structural ceiling, a space is left. Typically, the gap between each ceiling should be between 3 to 8 inches (that’s roughly between 8 and 21cm). That’s also why suspended ceilings have been coined dropped ceilings or false ceilings.

Suspended ceilings involve placing tiles between either a steel or aluminium frame. These frames are fixed to the underside of a floor slab using brackets. The frame consists of a series of interlocking sections (made from metal) that fit together to create the suspended ceiling (as pictured below).

A suspended ceiling frame

There are also other possibilities for installing suspended ceilings, which provide greater design flexibility and choice. For example, the choice between a square lay-in edge with a visible grid design or a tegular edge that reduces the visible grid design.

What choices of suspended ceilings are available?

Different suspended ceiling tiles

Suspended ceilings come in a variety of different designs and patterns that can be suited to any design preference. The tiles can also come in a variety of different materials, depending on preference and room requirements.

The tiles come in a range of materials and are usually made from recycled and natural materials. The suspended ceiling tiles are typically made from:

  • Recycled paper
  • Clay
  • Fibreglass
  • Timber
  • Vinyl
  • Metal
  • Mineral fibre and cork

You can also get exposed grid suspended ceilings that use an exposed grid-connected with tees (short pieces of metal). The two combine to create a grid system.

Each of the materials used for suspended ceilings gives the tiles unique properties. For example, tiles made from dense materials, such as clay, provide sound insulative properties. Less dense materials, such as fibreglass, do not provide much insulation at all.

To make the tiles, the materials are mixed in a water-based process. Then, the mixture is cured and bound by heat. Finally, using a laser, the tiles are cut to size and decorated with water-based paint. If any decorative patterns are being added to the tiles, these are added at the very end of the manufacturing process.

Here are a couple of creative examples to showcase the different design choices you can make with suspended ceilings:

A suspended ceiling using mental tiles

A suspended ceiling made in with hexagonal tiles

A curved suspended ceiling

Properties of suspended ceilings

You may not have realised, but suspended ceilings are used everywhere. Once you’ve read about these properties, you’ll understand why.

Acoustic properties

We’ve already briefly touched upon this, but one of the most significant properties of suspended ceilings is acoustics. A busy space can create a lot of noise, whether it’s a busy office, restaurant, or retail environment.

Depending on the material they are made from, suspended ceilings can absorb the sound by reducing feedback and blocking sound between spaces. Classrooms, meeting rooms, and office spaces can greatly benefit from the acoustic properties of suspended ceilings.

Light reflective

Ceiling tiles mostly come in light colours, such as white. Anyone familiar with physics will know that bright colours reflect light. It should come as no surprise then that suspended ceilings make a room look brighter and more visually appealing.

The highly reflective properties of suspended ceilings make them ideally suited for creating a positive, bright, and more appealing space. The highly reflective nature can also reduce energy cost and consumption too!

Moisture resistance

Another property of suspended ceilings is the moisture-resistant tiles, helping protect against dampness, mould, and mildew. The type of tile you choose will affect the extent of moisture resistance.

Depending on the room and humidity, you may feel a more prudent decision would be to have humid resistant tiles. Alternatively, to prevent damp and mildew, a tile with anti-microbial treatment would be more suited (especially in damp environments).

Fire performance

One more excellent property of suspended ceilings is their fire performance. The quality standards of tiles will affect this, with better quality tiles achieving better fire performance.

Materials can be classed into different ratings depending on whether the material contributes to the spread of flames. Grade A is non-combustible meaning fire does not spread while F is the lowest rating, where fires can very easily spread.

  • Grade A1 – non-combustible
  • Grade A2 – non-combustible material with the potential of producing smoke or flaming droplets
  • Grade B – combustible material but a very limited contribution to fire
  • Grade C – combustible material but a limited contribution to fire
  • Grade D – combustible material but a medium contribution to fire
  • Grade E – combustible material with a high contribution to fire
  • Grade F – combustible material that is easily flammable

Benefits of installing a suspended ceiling

Wiring hidden above a suspended ceiling

  • High unsightly wires – one of the most significant benefits of installing a suspended ceiling is that you can hide any wiring. The gap placed between the underside of the structural floor slab and the suspended ceiling leaves plenty of space for hiding any unsightly wiring. If you ever need to gain access to these wires, you can just lift the ceiling tiles and easily slot them back.
  • Works with fittings – suspended ceilings work excellently with any fittings you may have or need. Fittings such as smoke detectors, CCTV, and lighting can also be fitted within your suspended ceilings. Depending on where the fittings are being installed, there is easy access to install, repair, or remove.
  • Adds more character to a room – suspended ceilings in residential settings can help to transform a space and provide more character. With the stylish design choices available, you can be sure that a suspended ceiling will help a room to look more spacious and bigger. They can be fitted in almost every room in the house too!
  • Better acoustics – while we already covered this one before, it’s worth mentioning again. A good quality suspended ceiling will help improve the acoustics within a room.
  • Recessed lights – recessed lighting can be installed alongside a suspended ceiling. Recessed lighting is extremely popular with those having suspended ceilings due to the soft light they provide.

A suspended ceiling with recessed lights

  • Insulative properties – as suspended ceilings reduce the ceiling space in a room, they can help keep a room warmer. Hot air rises, so the less space the air has to rise, the warmer it will keep a room. The tiles used in suspended ceilings also have insulative properties helping to cut back on energy costs.
  • Cost-effective – Besides saving on your energy costs, suspended ceilings help save you money in the long run in other ways too. If you have unsightly superficial damage to a ceiling, a suspended ceiling can cover it up reducing the cost of having to repair it. A quality suspended ceiling that is professionally installed could also prove a worthy investment.
  • Easy to install – suspended ceilings can be installed easily and quickly, especially when a professional contractor, such as E&M Services, carries out the work. Businesses want to minimise the disruption caused to their business, making suspended ceilings a perfect choice. Should any part of the ceiling need replacing that can easily be arranged too.
  • Safety – when suspended ceilings are installed correctly, they can provide extra safety and protection in the event of a fire. Depending on the class, some suspended ceilings can withstand a fire for as long as an hour. The extra time in preventing any fire from spreading to upper floors gives plenty of time for safely evacuating everyone.

With so many great benefits, suspended ceilings can help transform your commercial space or home. Even though suspended ceilings are typically used in commercial premises, there is no reason why you can’t benefit from them in your home too. The vast design choice gives you the flexibility to suit any design requirement. Even in commercial spaces, they still hold up just as well today. To reap all the benefits suspended ceilings have to offer, consider a professional contractor with experience. Here at E&M Services, with over 30 years of experience, we are ready to meet your commercial or domestic needs.

Get in touch today to find out more