Home Repair

what the heck is my ceiling made of?

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Hi Guru!

The kitchen ceiling in my new house is a horror. The ceiling height is only 82", and I can't quite figure out what it is made out of. I beleive it is a false ceiling of some sort. Here is what it looks like- 1' squares of a rigid, white material. It looks like it might have been a pre-runner to an acoustical ceiling tile, but it is definitely NOT an acoustical ceiling tile like they make now. There is about 1/8" recessed white strip in between each tile, I'm not sure how they are held up, or connected to each other...

Do you have any idea what this stuff is? Or do you have any idea where I could go to look at different types of ceiling materials so I can figure out what this stuff is?

In the end- what I want to do is tear this stuff out and raise the ceiling height up, so that it is not so claustrophobic in the kitchen. This part of the house was added on, we think, in the depression. It is a single story addition, and the roof line is gabled, so I think there should be room above the weirdness of the ceiling to expand up...

Any ideas?

Karen Smile
Those are the ceiling tiles of the 70's. They are made of a compressed cardboard type material. Kind of like Homasote. (I think some MAY be made of asbestos. You could take a small piece to any lab and have them check it out first or call any asbestos abatement company and ask them.) They are tongue and groove with two sided of each. They are put up with a staple gun through the tongue then the next tile is put over the staple and so on. There is a 1x3 furring strip that is nailed up first 1 foot from center to center so there will be a solid place for the staples to go into.
If you tear it down wear a good breathing mask or respirator. The tiles aren't dangerous, but there may be some sort of cork insulation above which is nasty to breath. That was also big around the 70's.

If you do want to make the ceiling cathedral, seek the advice of someone experienced with framing and / or structural framing. You want to keep the two sides of the roof from spreading apart under load. You maybe would have to put 1 or 2 beams across (from the wall where the gutter is to the opposite wall).
Thanks!!! That's really good to know, as I definitely want to get that stuff out of there. Once we've closed on the house, I'll have someone come in and look at the structure above to see what can be done with it.

Is it very expensive to put in a new ceiling? The room is roughly 13'x14'. I'd like to sheetrock it and then put up decorative tin ceiling tiles (I know those are 12$ per 2' square tile- I've priced that out already).

Is it a tough job to do, or within the realm of possibility?

Thanks for the help Guru!

Karen Smile
You might want to open up a box and read the directions... I was on a job where the tin was being installed and they put plywood up first. Then nailed the tin to the plywood. That way there was wood wherever a nail was needed. It looked pretty easy to install. Just don't miss with the hammer!!!!!!
Surprised I looked again at their website- and they even have 2'x 2' drop in tiles for acoustical ceiling grids... 8$ a piece. Not bad for something that is attractive and easy to install.... I'm pretty tempted.

Can you put in lighting fixtures into ceiling grids, or is weight an issue?

Karen Smile
You can put any type of lighting into a suspended ceiling. The grid is wired to the ceiling, and then you would put a piece of plywood over the tile to support the weight evenly. That way the tile wont sag.
You can use recessed lighting or regular lighting fixtures.
Thanks!!! I think I've stumbled upon the answer to my ceiling and lighting issues!!! Hopefully I can raise that ceiling up to be at least 7'. How low does a ceiling grid have to be from the rafters? Is there any recommendations for minimum hang height?

Karen Smile
You need room to get the tiles up above the ceiling grid. Armstrong suspended ceiling systems require about 6". But I have installed them 4" down. The tiles are a little difficult to get in but it is do-able. Sometimes you can leave a section out at one edge and slide the tiles up and then over from there. It's easier just to lower the grid if you can. Armstrong also makes systems that get attached directly to the existing ceiling so you wouldn't lose nearly as much ceiling height. They come in 12" x 12" and 6" x 48" and 5" x 78".

Go somewhere that sells armstrong ceilings and check them out!


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