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Metal Ceilings: Unique Challenges and Opportunities


By David Bailey on November 30th, 2021

Major considerations during the specification process

Ceiling contractors are constantly on the hunt for products that make their jobs more efficient. From drywall grid systems that save time and labor costs, to lightweight large-format panels that install quickly without sacrificing durability and functionality, the right product can make or break a project and a budget.

When these ceiling products also provide design stakeholders with visually appealing solutions that address modern commercial design aesthetics, it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Enter the world of metal ceilings. Never before have these unique panels been so easy to specify and install. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important things general contractors and installers should know to ensure the success of their next project.

A Not-So-New Trend

Commercial specifiers have turned to metal ceilings for decades to create visual impact in lobbies, atria, and other high-traffic areas. Not only do metal ceilings offer a unique design aesthetic, they also come with many functional benefits. Metal panels are durable and less prone to cracking and sagging, as compared to traditional ceiling panel materials. They are also stain-resistant and can be finished to match nearly any appearance or color.

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Our High Profile Series™ – Horizontally Curved Baffles display a fun and elegant ceiling in the Avery Dennison building, CA.

Aesthetics are only part of the story. In addition to design flexibility, metal ceilings can deliver strong acoustic performance. Today’s metal ceiling panels are available in a wide range of perforation options and noise reduction coefficient values to accommodate unique acoustical needs. This impressive acoustic performance, in addition to reflective properties that enhance daylighting and reduce electricity usage, make metal ceiling panels especially suited for modern design.

Avoiding Visual Deformations

While metal ceilings provide a sleek look, some panels are prone to visual deformations that can seriously impact the overall aesthetic of the project. For example, as traditional metal sheet panels become larger to create monolithic designs for contemporary open spaces, the more likely that metal will exhibit oil canning.

Oil canning often manifests as waviness in the flat areas of the metal. This natural phenomenon can be extremely apparent at times and then seem to disappear due to the angle of natural light striking the metal surface. Regardless of the severity, it can have a negative impact on the final design, and can create a challenge for both installers and specifiers.

Plus, oil canning doesn’t discriminate. Whether installers are working with snap-in or lay-in panels, it is a cause for concern. For decades, contractors have had to guard against this by using smaller panels or searching for alternative materials that achieve a similar aesthetic.

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© Bob Perzel

The George R. Brown Convention Center in Texas uses our Continuous Linear Grille for its sleek design and great acoustics. Photographed by ©Bob Perzel.

Since oil canning is not easily engineered out of sheet metal panels, manufacturers have turned to a combination of innovative new materials instead. One of these advances is the use of painted and powder-coated surfaces that mimic the look of traditional sheet metal.

By developing lightweight honeycomb composite substrates, engineers can build large-format panels without sacrificing rigidity, acoustic performance, or the unique aesthetic of metal. Some metal ceiling products also have swing-down features that allow point-access to the plenum. The maintenance ease this provides is a major benefit for facility managers and building inspectors.

Common Installation Methods Save Time

Specifying the proper suspension system is just as important as selecting the right metal ceiling panel. Thankfully, contractors and installers have familiar options that combine heavy-duty, load-bearing capabilities with speedy installation and ease of use.

Torsion spring and drywall grid are two common systems with which ceiling installers are universally familiar. By moving away from complicated custom suspension systems to standard configurations, installers have a simplified process, and labor costs decrease as a result. Major manufacturers provide a variety of installation options for metal ceiling panels using these systems.

Buffalo Bills training facility.
© Bob Perzel

Torsion Spring Geometries offers freedom of design with it’s multiple shapes and custom fit in the ADPRO Sports Training Facility, New York. Photographed by © Bob Perzel.
Additionally, by using familiar systems from trusted manufacturer partners, contractors can protect themselves from catastrophic underbids. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the labor portion of a bid is able to be competitively priced from the get-go, helping contractors win projects—keeping their team employed.

It is critical for ceiling contractors and installers to educate themselves on different types of metal ceiling products and installation systems. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that while many manufacturers offer similar looking products, they offer varying levels of installation and engineering support.

Originally published by Metal Construction News:

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