The 1920’s also known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was for some an era of prosperity and profitability. Not only did the 1920s give rise to the hairdryer, the lie detector and bread slicer, it also introduced an alternative to plaster ceilings - suspended acoustic ceiling systems. Continuously evolving, both aesthetically and in performance we take a look at the construction requirements of suspended ceilings and factors affecting their stability.

A suspended ceiling can usually be found in anything from commercial buildings or office blocks to schools and hospitals. It is a secondary ceiling hung below the main ceiling structure within a room or building providing benefits including a low life cycle cost and an extra margin of fire safety.

Failure of suspended ceilings generally relates to a lack of robust fixing to the soffit above, as well as a ‘mix and match’ of ceiling products and a product that is not appropriate for the environment in which it is located e.g. an area of high humidity.

What are suspended ceilings made of?

The majority of suspended ceiling systems are made up of steel grid and acoustical tiles. Other materials can be used.

What fixings are required for suspended ceilings?

The site conditions and the loads to be supported will determine the appropriate fixings and must be installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications.

Fixings should be at the correct designated centres using the correct wires/brackets that are compatible with the suspended ceiling.

Pull tests should be carried out on ceilings with an area exceeding 100m2 and a factor of safety of 2 is applicable.

What standards apply to suspended ceilings?

BSEN 13964 is the current Euro code that applies to suspended ceilings in general and test methods.

Suspended ceilings in high humidity environments

If the ceiling is above a high humidity area or is an external suspended ceiling, you will need a third party certificate confirming that the ceiling is suitable for these environments. This should also include any fixing schedules/requirements.

Fire resistance in suspended ceilings

Suspended ceilings are designed to give a period of fire resistance, but in order to confirm this period of resistance a fire test certificate is required and should take into account any recessed light fittings which could bypass the fire resistance layer.

The quality of workmanship should be considered when installing suspended ceilings and when it comes to the design of the supporting structure and fixings of the ceiling construction, the additional weight of materials used to achieve fire resistant specifications or sound insulation requirements should also be taken into account.

References

British Standards – BS EN 13964 – Suspended ceilings – Requirements and test methods

By Frzana Ferguson