Insulating Above a Suspended Ceiling
Illustration: Harry Bates
Q: I have two rooms that tend to be a little cold in the winter, but both have suspended ceilings a foot below the original ones. Could I blow insulation on top of the ceiling panels to help warm them up?

—Gerald Perry, North Baltimore, OHIO

A: Tom Silva replies: I wouldn't do it. Blowing insulation into a space like that would make a real mess. And if you or anyone else ever had to lift up one of the ceiling panels to get access to the original ceiling in order to, say, fix some plumbing—well, it would be like opening the hatch of a submarine while still underwater.

Paper- or foil-faced batt insulation is a better bet. Unless you encounter air ducts or drain pipes, you should have more than enough clearance for 8-inch-thick batts. But first, check with the company that made the ceiling panels to be sure they'll support the insulation. Fiberglass panels aren't strong enough; wood-and-mineral-fiber panels should be at least 5/8 inch thick. You'll also have to beef up the grid that the panels rest on by adding a new hanger wire between each existing pair of wires supporting the grid's long "beams."

Place each batt between the beams snug against its neighboring batts, with its facing down. You might want to temporarily remove some or all of the cross tees—the pieces of the grid between the beams—to give yourself some elbow room. Don't take down the ceiling panels; just push them up and slide them one row over. Once a batt is in place, hold it up with one hand as you slide each ceiling panel back into place with the other. One more thing: If there are any light fixtures or hanger boxes above the ceiling panels, keep the insulation at least 3 inches away from them unless they're rated for contact with insulation.
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