What Is a Dropped Ceiling?

Ken Black

A dropped ceiling, also known as a suspended ceiling or false ceiling, is a ceiling that is hung from the structural ceiling. A number of reasons exist for why such a ceiling would be installed. In some cases, if a building is being retrofitted for electricity or air conditioning, it may be a cheaper option. Acoustics can often be better in a room with a dropped ceiling. A builder can utilize many different types of materials when looking at installing such a ceiling.

Acoustics can often be better in a room with a dropped ceiling.
Acoustics can often be better in a room with a dropped ceiling.

Construction of a dropped ceiling begins with wires that a worker attaches to the ceiling. Once the installer attaches the wires, the next step is for the channels to be run, which are suspended above the ceiling by the wires. Channels are typically plastic, but may also be metal. When the channels are in place, the next step is to place the tiles inside the channels. Placing the tiles is typically not very difficult, but some may have to be cut, especially around the corners and the walls.

A number of materials can be used for the tile portion of the dropped ceiling. The most common of these are fiberglass and mineral fiber. Other materials include plastic and glass, some of which may be translucent and provide a different effect on the entire room. Wood and metal may also be a choice in some situations.

Typically, the tiles come in a number of standard sizes, though some additional sizes may be special ordered. The most common sizes are 12-inch squares (approximately 30.5 cm) or 24-inch squares (approximately 61 cm). Some standard sizes also come in rectangular shapes.

These false ceilings offer a number of advantages. It is an easy way to hide wires, ducts, and other things that may otherwise be visible on the ceiling structure. These objects are often hidden between the structural ceiling and the ceiling portion that is dropped, an area known as the plenum. In some cases, the tiles used in a false ceiling can help reduce echoes and other unwanted sound effects, helping with the sound environment, which is especially useful if the room is used for sound recordings or live performances.

While expense and aesthetics provide some advantages, a dropped ceiling may also be a disadvantage in some cases. Typically, it may give a room more of an industrial or institutional appearance, which is not often desired for a home environment. Further, these types of ceilings reduce the overall height of the room. If the reduction in height is a concern, then it may be possible to reduce the distance from the original ceiling to the dropped ceiling.

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