The false ceiling is a construction work consisting of a flat horizontal structure placed at a lower level than the floor or roof. It is a light type accessory work through which, we can modify and enrich environments quickly and effectively.
Its use in recent times arises from the need to hide or cover architectural elements such as beams, electrical and plumbing systems, which cannot be housed or drowned inside the floors or roofs and which would therefore be visible. Furthermore, its use has remarkable insulating and hygienic characteristics.


Example of a continuous false ceiling with recessed and external spotlights. Source Pexel

History

In less recent times, its use consisted in the creation of a light structure made of wood and intertwined reeds, under which a layer of plaster was applied. The flexibility in the use of this material made it possible to model the ceiling by creating curved surfaces or more complex shapes, such as the barrel vault and the rib vault.


Possible interweaving of a ceiling made of natural material and plaster finish, source Pexel
   

Function and use of suspended ceilings

In most cases, the false ceiling is made to house inside the space created between the light structure and the ceiling, one or more systems, such as lighting, hydraulic and ventilation systems, allowing also the insertion of high-performance insulating panels, necessary to satisfy the needs of insulation and thermo-acoustic comfort.
  
The cladding of the structure is made with different types of heat-insulating and sound-absorbing materials, or with fire resistance characteristics, but as we have already mentioned, its functions can be purely aesthetic or technical, in fact it can be inserted inside the ventilation system for mechanical ventilation, in this case the false ceiling constitutes to all intents and purposes an equipped technical compartment in which pipes and ducts, electrical, hydraulic and telematic networks, as well as machines such as the unit can be distributed mechanical ventilation. In this case it will be necessary for the false ceiling to be inspectable.

Like other building works in buildings, the false ceiling must respond to a series of parameters defined by the legislation, it can prove to be an excellent solution for adapting existing structures to fire regulations, as specific products allow the creation of a fireproof false ceiling with adequate fire resistance. In addition, within this space, we can host retractable stairs useful for making the attics accessible, or more simply it can be used to adjust the space heights. When calculating the useful height of a building whether it is a new construction or existing buildings, it will be necessary to take into account the minimum living standards defined by the legislation, since the introduction of a false ceiling will determine a reduction in the useful height of the local.

Usable height means the total useful height of a floor or room, represented by the net distance between the floor and the soffit of the ceiling or false ceiling. When calculating the net useful height of a room, the main beams, the thickness of the floors and / or structural elements that decrease the net useful distance of the floor must not be taken into account.

The minimum standard height established by the legislation for homes is 2.70 m, while for corridors, hallways, bathrooms, toilets and closets, it can be reduced to 2.40m.
  
Main characteristics of suspended ceilings:

  • Aesthetic yield.
  • Adaptability of shape, materials, colors.
  • Ease of application.
  • Ease of maintenance.
  • Ease of use.
  • Variety in the choice of material.
  • Possibility of housing systems.
  • Possibility of housing insulating materials.
  • Flexibility in the insertion of lighting fixtures.

   
Furthermore, with regard to safety, the EC legislation establishes that each individual element must comply with the following parameters:

  • Static and dimensional resistance.
  • High flame retardant performance.
  • High thermo-acoustic performance.
  • High hygienic sanitary performance.


Typology

The types of ceilings can be divided into numerous categories and each of them can offer specific advantages and features. The main distinctions can be:

Based on their conformation, they are divided into:
    

  • Continuous: consisting of a single visual element, characterized by a hidden warping with joints between the joints covered in the case of plasterboard or in adhesion to each other in the case of other materials, this kind of false ceiling cannot be inspected if made of plasterboard.
  • ​​​​​Discontinuous: the individual elements can be disassembled for inspection and maintenance needs of the systems contained within it.

     

Example of a discontinuous modular false ceiling for the office, source Pexel
   
Based on the technical performance, they are divided into:
  

  • Thermal insulation and sound absorbing
    Present in public places such as theaters, concert halls, offices, lecture theaters, etc. where it is necessary to satisfy a high degree of thermal or acoustic insulation or sometimes both. Examples of heat-insulating and sound-absorbing materials are rock wool and glass wool.
     

  • Fireproof: it is a material with high fire resistance characteristics. Used both in private homes and in public places.


It can be made of metal, wood, aluminum, fabric, drywall, PVC, etc.

Based on the aesthetic performance and functionality, they are divided into:
  

  • Open: their function is mainly aesthetic, given that, since they do not form a closed compartment, it is not possible to insert any type of insulation.
     
  • Inspectable: equipped with inspection hatches, they can be included in the category of removable false ceilings and consist of elements that can be removed individually to access the inside in case of inspection.
  • Not inspectable: they are made up of panels that adhere to each other continuously.

  • In caissons: usually introduced for sound insulation. They generally consist of large structures.

  • Gratings: the effect is that of a light but continuous false ceiling since the panels, made in a modular way, adhere to each other without the need to insert other materials in the joints.

  • With Panels: they can be of different materials such as aluminum, steel, wood, gypsum fiber, PVC.

  • With tension: also made of PVC.


Most false ceilings allow us to insert modular lighting fixtures, air vents, smoke detectors, etc.

  
In the photo on the left: example of a non-inspectable continuous plasterboard false ceiling, source Pexel.
In the photo on the right: example of an inspectable grated false ceiling and continuous false ceiling, source Pexel
   

Structure

it is a suspended frame suitable for supporting the weight of the entire structure, which can be made of either wood or more commonly of metal.

The floor structure consists of a set of framed support elements (load-bearing profiles in galvanized steel) and a closure or shielding depending on whether it is solid or grid false ceilings, the framework is anchored below the intrados of an attic or a roof or along the perimeter walls.

Its anchoring takes place through the use of metal dowels and hooks to which the steel cables are fixed; the hangers and dowels have the task of supporting the entire structure.

The shielding is usually made with modular elements, which constitute a grid organized in square meshes with the exception of the curved areas where the covering material is most commonly modeled.
The suspended ceiling is to be made with a metal structure and adjustable hangers. In some cases, bracing may also be required, also made with metal elements (hangers), installed at 45 °.

The frame of the false ceiling can be hidden, semi-hidden or visible:
   

  • Hidden: its structure is located entirely above the last layer of covering material. The latter will indicate whether it is a closed or open ceiling.

  • Semi-hidden: its structure is only partially visible. The most common method is that achieved through the use of inverted T profiles on which modular panels that are easily removable and inspectable are positioned and which allow easy and quick disassembly in the case of ordinary or extraordinary maintenance of both the false ceiling and the elements housed in the inside of it.

  • Visible: Its structure is totally visible. Commonly used in offices and public places, although today it is often used inside homes when you want to achieve a high level of design. The visible structure consists of a wooden or steel structure under which different materials are placed in the form of lamellas or other, arranged in a modular way and maintaining a spaced weft.


From this division comes the definition of closed or open false ceiling.

You have a closed ceiling when the structure is not visible, usually they are made of panels made of wood or plaster. While an open false ceiling means a false ceiling whose structure is visible and easily accessible.
  

Example of plasterboard false ceiling with continuous elements and hidden warping, source Pexel


Materials:

Among the most common materials, certainly the main one is plasterboard which remains the most accessible in economic terms together with wood, which is decidedly more expensive, followed by polystyrene and mineral fibers. The false ceiling market offers solutions for any design and aesthetic need. But now let's see what are the main characteristics of suspended ceilings based on the choice of material:
   

  • Plasterboard ceiling: Suitable for any commercial or residential use; it is a very common building material in light construction and consists of pressed gypsum panels, enclosed within two cardboard sheets, which in turn reach certain performance characteristics depending on the solutions adopted. material with simple, linear and minimal characteristics, as well as particularly elastic, light and easy to use. The slabs are always presented in the form of thin panels of variable thickness according to the needs. Its diffusion in construction is due to the speed of execution that its use allows.
    The addition of additives can give the product a high degree of surface hardness, mechanical strength and resistance in the presence of high levels of humidity; moreover, the additives make it possible to give the panel high water-repellent and fire-resistant characteristics. The gypsum that makes up the slabs is partially dehydrated inside which glass fibers, perlite and vermiculite are inserted.
    Thanks to the use of plasterboard sheets, it is also possible to easily model curvilinear shapes.
     

  • Suspended ceiling in mineral fibers: this is a product containing rock wool or glass fibers, specially developed for the acoustic correction of rooms.
     

  • Wooden ceilings: gives a warm tone to the environment in which it is used, very common for both homes and offices that require an extra touch of elegance.
    Wood is a naturally occurring material that is easy to process and apply. A wooden false ceiling can be made using only wood both for the construction of the warp and for the plugging or alternatively you can opt for a mixed false ceiling with wooden cladding and load-bearing framework of other material. Wood is also a highly insulating material and lends itself to a wide range of uses for both residential and civil buildings. The use of wood has ancient origins given the ease of finding the material.
    Natural wood alone can increase the thermal and acoustic insulation of the roof or attic, and also reduces humidity problems.
    Wood ceilings can be slatted or coffered panels.
     

  • Suspended ceilings in aluminum and steel: Suitable for offices and public buildings both for their versatility and for the wide choice of solutions available on the market. They can range from linear, to thin and wide or as an alternative to open cells. Curvilinear panels can also be found on the market.
     

  • PVC ceilings: PVC ceilings have high performance in terms of humidity in the rooms and can be in the form of slats and squares, with different surface finishes such as mirrors, glossy, opaque, colored material, etc.
     

  • PVC in tension: it is a decorative material that can be molded under the effect of heat. For this type of ceiling, as for all the others, it will be necessary to design the entire structure ad Hoc, making use of suppliers and highly skilled labor.


    
Examples of wooden ceiling, source Pexel
  
Example of modular false ceiling with integrated light, source Pexel
 

Maintenance and inspection of the false ceiling in public and private buildings:

The control and maintenance of all building works is important for the protection of the environment and the safety of people.

But what are the necessary checks that must be carried out during an inspection or a check of the health of a false ceiling? Let's start by saying that the controls are born already in the design phase and during the execution of the work, in any case it will be essential to take into account the following checks:
  

  • Stability control of the plates.

  • Check the anchoring system of the structure, such as the number of hangers present.

  • Control of the center distances of the structure.

  • Check that during the installation phase, the installer has performed the fastening of each component in a workmanlike manner according to the provisions of the technical data sheet provided by the manufacturer.

  • Presence of cracks, defects, detachments, deformations, breaks and / or failures of the structure or of the closing panels.

  • Presence of accidental weights placed above the slabs.

  • Correct execution of the positioning of the lighting bodies.


The main causes of total or partial collapse of a false ceiling can be:
  

  • Presence of external factors that can compromise the performance guaranteed by both the manufacturer and the installer such as, for example, substantial infiltrations from the upper floors or roofs.

  • Inadequate or poor maintenance.

  • Improper execution during the installation process.

  • Decay or aging of materials.

     

Example of irregular hanging of a false ceiling anchored to the wall and ceiling with improper use of residual parts of the frame. Unsuitable screws and anchoring plugs.
   

Seismic behavior of the false ceiling:

The seismic risk is determined by the combination of 3 factors such as: hazard, vulnerability and exposure.

Danger = strength and frequency of an earthquake.
Vulnerability = ability to react of the structure based on the damage it can suffer during a seismic event, given a certain density.
Exposure = nature of the exhibited element (such as cultural, historical and artistic assets inside a museum) and of people, due to the population density whether it refers to a building for public use or whether it refers to a building private.

During the design phase, the intended use of the building must be taken into consideration, whether it is a public or private place, in both cases it is the designer's faculty to create buildings resilient to earthquakes, this resilience is achieved through a '' adequate design as well as through the use of suitable materials, with high characteristics of resistance to stress; characteristics necessary to make them operational both during and after the catastrophic event.

The anti-seismic legislation regulates the minimum requirements for checking the components of a building, including false ceilings.
All primary and secondary elements, structural or non-structural together with the systems, must be taken into consideration during the design phase.

These considerations also apply to false ceilings; in fact, when a building is stressed by a shock, whether you are inside an office, a hospital, a school or a home, the fall of material from the ceiling can jeopardize the safety and safety of objects and people, just know that the materials must also have a certain mechanical resistance.

What is the mechanical strength or breaking voltage? mechanical resistance indicates the maximum stress that a given material is able to withstand before its breakage occurs.
    

The lighting of the false ceiling

The lighting of the false ceiling is a fundamental aspect in the design of an environment. Depending on the type of lighting that will be integrated, countless lighting effects can be obtained. The lighting effects have always contributed to the transformation of a space, giving the environment a unique, original and welcoming aspect.
  
A first distinction on lighting must be made depending on whether it is natural or artificial light sources. In both cases, natural and artificial lights can be distinguished between direct and indirect lighting sources. Direct lighting sources emit a more direct light flux towards an object or a certain limited area, but sometimes they can be very intense in some points and almost zero in others, thus generating a sharp contrast between the illuminated and shaded areas. An example of direct light sources are fixed spotlights or downlight luminaires. These are directional luminaires, as the beam of light emitted is directed downwards or towards a specific object. which with adequate sources of directional lights, the work can be highlighted by also defining the perception that the human eye will have on it.

In the workplace, direct lights are recommended when carrying out tasks that require particular attention, such as a laboratory where small components are made, on which it will be necessary to have a direct light source. In this case, in addition to the diffused lighting coming from the false ceiling, it will be necessary to integrate direct artificial light sources into the workstations.

Indirect light, on the other hand, will be more diffused, ensuring homogeneous lighting throughout the room, in fact this type of lighting allows the light to be distributed evenly throughout the room. To date, indirect light represents the best solution for offices, where a high level of concentration is required that guarantees the performance of tasks during working hours. Indirect lights are also widely used in warehouses or alternatively in hospitals, schools, etc. in short, in those places where you want to create a warm and welcoming environment.
  
A further distinction can be made according to the tone of the colors emitted by the light, which can be distinguished in warm light, natural light and cold light. Light sources are perceived by the human eye through a scale of the color temperature of the light defined in degrees Kelvin (K). This gradation is represented by a color scale ranging from red / orange, passing through white up to blue. The closer we are to red, the more the light is considered warm, if the gradation is close to white, we can consider it neutral, while approaching blue, the light is considered cold.
   
    
Example of modular and direct diffused lighting on track, source Pexel
 

Types of lighting according to the position of the LED light:

Light cuts: they are real cuts, in which, with the use of an aluminum profile, led strips are inserted that run the entire length of the cut.

Groove: the groove is created by a recess in the false ceiling in which a led strip is positioned.

Floating ceiling: it is a suspended ceiling, whose dimensions can be similar to those of the room or alternatively if it is a portion of the false ceiling, the space will be very close to the wall creating a small area, in which to place the lighting body, the latter will project its light towards the wall, creating a light diffusion effect.

The plasterboard offers multiple solutions that can be adopted both according to the volumes that will be created, and in terms of light; its versatility allows you to more easily diversify the lighting effect you want to obtain, without however having to resort to the use of other luminous elements such as wall lights, ceiling lights or suspension lamps, which in the absence of adequate lighting coming from the false ceiling, they may be necessary to achieve the minimum levels of comfort established by the legislation. The plasterboard ceiling can accommodate any type of lighting, from LED to point lights.
   

Types of light elements:

Depending on the needs, the false ceiling can be integrated with: fixed, adjustable, recessed, outdoor spotlights, LED light, chandeliers, ceiling lights, etc. Whatever the solution, it is important to harmonize the elements with each other, creating a perfect combination of shapes, geometries, functionality, materials and lighting.
  

Example of false ceiling with luminous grooves and spotlights integrated and harmonized together, source Pexel
 

Integration of lighting in offices:

In offices and in any work environment, the legislation establishes that lighting must be sufficient and that it guarantees adequate contrast based on the tasks to be performed.

The workstations must be correctly illuminated and directed towards both natural and artificial light sources. But unlike homes, offices require special precautions, given that they should guarantee high quality standards necessary for carrying out work in an optimal situation of comfort, for example, try to think about the case in which the work is carried out using technological equipment / video terminals; in this case it will be necessary to ensure a level of lighting such as to avoid any eye strain or glare caused by the positioning and intensity of the light source. The light in the workplace must ensure a homogeneous distribution of lighting, facilitating concentration and facilitating productivity in the best possible way without disturbing the worker.

In offices and work environments, the use of modular ceilings is very common; in most cases, the modules are arranged in an alternating linear fashion and can be directly installed in the frame through various interlocking methods.


Example of modular false ceiling with integrated modular light and ventilation system, source Pexel
  
Whether it is plasterboard, wood, PVC, stretched PVC or other materials, the false ceiling is a versatile element with multiple performances and can also be defined according to the type of lighting that will be integrated into it. Its use provides numerous advantages and innumerable functional and aesthetic results can be obtained.
    

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