Renovation & Design

Above the grid

Suspended ceilings provide functionality and access

The grid layout for a suspended ceiling in a rectangular area is usually centred within the perimeter mounting surfaces.

The grid pattern must remain consistent.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

Pre-cut panels with holes were set at every slim LED pot location, the wiring was run, and the remaining tiles were placed.

The preferred choice for ceilings in a basement is often utilitarian. However, functionality need not always undermine aesthetics. Suspended ceiling tiles come in a wide range of styles, materials, and colours these days. For the most part, it is the typical white-textured, mineral fiber panel that decorates the majority of lower level ceilings. And choosing a tile with reveal edge provides a polished look.

In most basements, access to services run below and through the above floor joists is imperative. Although strapping an entire area for the subsequent mounting of drywall can also be achieved, this process would involve lacing the ceiling with a series a potentially unsightly access panels whereas suspended tiles provide access throughout. For suspended ceilings, the initial determination the grid; layout and elevation.

When establishing the primary layout of a quarantined area of suspended ceiling grid, centering is fundamental. For a rectangular area, this process is straight-forward, based on the length and depth of the area. Most grids accommodate either 24-inch by 48-inch, or a 24-inch by 24-inch panels. At a recent jobsite, the latter was chosen in a reveal edge to avoid the customary rectangular “office” look. As such, the grid would be created to retain the square panels throughout. The elevation of the grid is pre-determined to both provide enough gap between the lowest amenity below the upper floor joists to allow the subsequent insertion of the tile panels, while maintaining an adequate height that caters to the various windows and doors trim throughout the basement. Because the average height of the basement walls at this jobsite never exceeded 84 inches, it was necessary to finish the window cavities with drywall, mud and bead to gain an extra inch or so of gap, without affecting window trim (which was no longer needed). The bulkheads had also been framed with the impending suspended ceiling grid structure in mind.

Once the intended grid layout and elevation is known for an area, the “L” channel is mounted. With the entire level channel in place, the main “Ts” of the grid are set perpendicularly with the floor joists above, secured to the proper elevation using a wired hanging approach, through holes along the topside of the “T” and fastened to the joists above by wrapping the wires around a pre-set screw, and twisting the ends tightly until the “T” is held by the wire, to the elevation of the adjacent “L” channel along the walls. With the mains in place (set at four-foot intervals in this instance), the grid is built by using 4-foot “Ts” in between the mains, and 2-foot “Ts” throughout to create the 24-inch by 24-inch grid required for the chosen ceiling tiles – these smaller “T” lengths all snap into place on 24-inch centers, ensuring the consistent grid pattern layout. The “Ts” along the perimeter are cut to accommodate the fractional distances to the respective walls, created by centering the entire pattern.

With grid in place, the panels that will feature slim LEDs pot lights are pre-cut with 4-inch holes, and set into position. The wiring is run from one hole to the next, from the tie-in point. To accommodate any ceiling ventilation, holes are also pre-cut in pre-measured placement on those tiles affected, mounted so the ducting edge meets the elevation of the visible side of the panel. In this case, the 5-inch round ducts are then fitted with round tension-held adjustable vent covers.

Once the entire middle section of panels has been filled with full panels, the LEDs are connected one by one and tested. With the lighting configuration functioning, the perimeter tiles are then cut one at a time to fit within the tailored grid sizes that remain along the walls, facing the cut side of each tile (including reveal) towards the “L” channels pre-mounted on each wall. This concludes the panel implementation process.

Non-rectangular areas present a series of grid layout and mounting challenges, but essentially follow the same process despite the odd shapes that are sometimes encountered. This is why it is important to first establish the most efficient grid layouts for each quarantined ceiling area, before the installation process begins, keeping in mind how every modified tile along the walls will be positioned, and where all lighting will be placed. For example, along the main hallway area, a main “T” could have run directly down the middle. However, it was determined that two main “Ts” set at a two-foot interval was the only way to run the slim LEDs down the center of the ceiling, instead of a main “T”.

No matter the area in question, a suspended ceiling provides both functionality and access, while maintaining a streamlined and polished “look” in any basement setting. The precursor to a successful suspended ceiling installation is the planning ­— an improper or poorly established grid pattern often cause unexpected and unsightly ramifications. Although there technically is no “wrong” way to suspend a ceiling, there are better approaches than others. Finding an approach that best suits the ceiling needs of each basement area is key, and due diligence is crucial.


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