Suspended-grid ceiling
If there are exposed pipes, ducts or electrical connections in the ceiling you want to make over, a suspended-grid system may be your best bet. A 10x12-ft. package from Armstrong, using mineral-fiber panels (the cheapest and most common panel type, these are often called acoustical tiles), costs about $100. It contains galvanized-steel main beams, cross T-fittings, hanger wires, wall molding, hanger-wire screws and wall-molding screws. Systems and components are sold at home centers and lumberyards. Panels come in 2x2- and 2x4-ft. sizes. A good strategy for any space that needs to be well lit is to intersperse flat fluorescent fixtures and lenses among the regular opaque panels. Because mineral-fiber panels absorb sound well, they're a good choice for a playroom. They can be painted with latex paint, while tin tiles take an oil-based paint. Installation is pretty straightforward, but because the system is cumbersome, it's a two-person job. You attach the hanger wires to the ceiling joists with nails or screws, then suspend the main beams and cross T-fittings from them. The open metal grid is then filled in with panels. Forget the myth that this treatment results in a drastically lowered ceiling—the new one can hang down as little as 3 in. from the original.
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