Suspended ceiling tiles, which are suspended ceilings by snap clip, are very popular today in office, industrial, retail, and even home applications. This is mostly because they help conceal electrical wiring, ductwork, and plumbing even when allowing for easy access of the same. Suspended ceiling tiles, also called drop ceilings, are also popular because they help conceal structural damage.

The first recorded use of drop ceilings and ceiling tiles is the Muromachi Period in Japan (between 1337 and 1573, where they were used for aesthetic purposes. Another recorded early application of these ceilings is the Blackfriars Theater in London, where the ceiling was installed in 1596 for acoustics. In modern times, U.S. Patent for the drop ceiling was given to E. E. Hall in 1923. The original design involved the use of interlocking tiles, which meant you could only start at one edge of the ceiling for repair and inspection purposes. The tiles then had to be re-installed after the work. This was very time consuming, which led to the filing of a patent for Accessible Suspended Ceiling Construction by Donald A. Brown, which was granted in 1961.

There has been several patents since then and there are many ways to install suspended ceiling tiles today. The way you install your drop ceiling should be guided by the intended purpose, and all the while you should strive to strike a balance between acoustics, integration with the rest of the building infrastructure, aesthetics, and environmental factors. Cost considerations should be secondary if you want the best. The international best practice for installing suspended ceiling tiles include:

1.Suspension grids

Drop ceilings are made up of grid-work of metal channels in an upside-down ‘T’ shape, suspended wires handing from overhead structure, and ceiling panels (tiles). The channels span together to make a pattern of regularly spaced cells, with each cell then fitted with the lightweight panels. The grid types available today are 15/16 face (Standard 1), 9/16 grid (Slimline), and concealed grid. Suspension grids are either 2 feet × 2 feet or 2 feet × 4 feet in size in the U.S. The size of the ceiling tiles is uniform. The long metal strips that make up the grid are called mains while the shorter metal pieces are called tees. Since most rooms are not evenly divisible, it is often necessary to cut some of the tiles so that they fit the border areas.

2. Bandraster

This system is made up of exposed grid that is wider than the suspension grid. This way, the system can accommodate both square and rectangular tiles. This unties your hands, allowing you to create a ceiling that looks exactly how you want since you can play around with the shapes and patterns. The system is also ideal where you have several light fixtures that you want to work around.

3. Suspended drywall ceiling

This type of ceiling uses wires and hangers to hold drywall sheets below the ceiling. This is easy to deploy since there is no extensive framing or drywall arches required. You simply hang flat drywall panels below the ceiling for a nice look.

4. Concealed grid

Concealed grid systems are less popular but are used in some applications. Concealed grids have an interlocking mechanism where the panels interlock with each other and can ‘slide’ in and out of the grid. The interlocking mechanism is achieved through the use of ‘splines’ which are small metal strips. Accessing the top part of the ceiling is a lot more difficult with this type of ceiling because of this interlocking mechanism – the panels have to be destroyed to gain access.

To get around this problem, concealed grid systems usually come with a “key panel” which is usually installed in one of the corners. This can be removed and put back in position as required. Given the challenge with access, concealed grid systems are usually used in situations where access to the upper area of the ceiling is considered to be unnecessary. The diminishing popularity of this type of ceiling makes finding the panels very difficult.

5. Stretch ceiling

Stretch ceilings are primarily used to conceal pipework. These ceilings are similar to dropped ceilings in many ways. They are made up of 3 major components namely a perimeter track made of Plastic PVC or aluminum, nylon or PVC membrane, and harpoon or catch. Stretch ceilings get their name from the fact that during installation, the membrane is stretched and then the harpoon or catch used to catch the edge and to clip it into the semi-concealed track.

6. Drop out ceilings

Drop out ceilings allow you to install drop ceilings beneath fire sprinklers. For this reason, the tiles used (melt-out ceiling tiles) need to be heat sensitive so that the fire sprinkler system can be triggered. As the term suggests, the tiles ‘drop out’ of the ceiling whenever there is a fire so that the fire sprinklers can work as intended. These types of ceilings are popular where fire suppression is a major factor such as in factories. The most common material for this type of ceiling is expanded polystyrene or vinyl.

In the U.S., drop out ceilings have to meet certain standards if they are to serve their fire retardant function. There must be no use of fasteners, clips or impediments of any kind so that the ceiling can drop. Painting the tiles can void approval as the paint can hinder the fire sensitivity.

Whether you are installing basement ceilings by snap clip or ceilings in your business premises front office, try to balance between the different advantages of the ceilings. Other than concealing ductwork, plumbing, and wiring and concealing structural damage, other benefits of suspended ceiling tiles are that they provide for acoustic balance and control, are fire retardant, easy to install, offer insulation, and they offer moisture resistance, among other benefits.

You should also take note of local requirements such as FM Global (Approval Standards for Plastic Suspended Ceilings), NFPA 13 (Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems), and ICC-ES – AC-12 Section 4.4 (Foam Plastic Drop-Out Ceiling Panels and Tiles).