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Suspended ceiling with plasterboard panels

Rooms with high ceilings are indeed very beautiful, but there are many reasons to go for a suspended ceiling with gypsum plaster boards.

First of all, a lower ceiling and better insulation help you save heating costs. Another advantage is that the drywall ceiling absorbs sound better. There is also an aesthetic advantage. A false ceiling gives the room a modern look and hides ugly cables. In this blog we will give you clear instructions that will make the job of installing a false ceiling very easy.

Starting point

A house that needs redevelopment or improvement can be an eternal and continuous construction site or an exciting "playground for the DIY enthusiast".

In my case, I had what was once a farmstead with walls that were over a hundred years old and at least one metre thick in some places. The room that I wanted to redevelop (23 m²) had a height of almost three metres. The existing wood-beamed ceiling had a level difference of over 10 cm. The stability and load bearing capacity of the wooden beams were checked by a structural engineer.

By suspended ceiling I would like to create the following advantages:

  • Reduction of height to 2.5 metre
  • Sound absorption
  • Saving of heating costs
  • Better aesthetics in the form of a smooth flat surface and concealed cables/pipes.

General

There are many different ways of laying a suspended ceiling using gypsum plaster boards. In general, it is also quite a challenging DIY project as there are many possibilities of going wrong. It is hence advisable to first exactly understand what it involves and read up on the subject.

The materials and methods I used were partially my personal prefence, provided the best value for money and were best suited for what I wanted to achieve.

Material list

  • Hangers
  • Different types of screws (plaster boards, wood, concrete)
  • Dowels
  • Wooden battens (5x5 cm x 4 cm) dry/distortion free
  • Sound proofing felt
  • Gypsum Plaster boards (RIGIPS)
  • Plaster board putty
  • Fibreglass sliver
  • Acrylic sealant
  • Primer
  • Paint

Tool list

  • Laser measuring tool (TC-LD 50)
  • 360° Cross laser level (TE-LL 360)
  • Jig saw or sliding mitre saw
  • Rotary hammer
  • Cordless drill
  • Aiming stake
  • Cutter knife
  • Plaster board planer
  • Putty knife set
  • Drywall grinder / handheld grinder
Regarding tools, I can in retrospect recommend the following:
  • The laser measuring tool and the 360° laser made things extraordinarily easy when aligning and measuring things (especially when one is working alone) and saved a lot of time and stress. 
  • The Power X-Change system helps you work really smoothly - no cable clutter, no need for different batteries and lot more freedom when you are working on the ladder.
  • Since you are already saving money on skilled labour, you should at least invest in high-quality tools! They simplify things tremendously for the "layman".

Execution

Step 1 - Installing the framework

Using the 360° Laser tool, project a laser beam all around the room at a height of approx. 2.51 m.

Fix the wooden battens (lower edge at 2.51 cm) all along this laser beam and fasten the battens to the wall using screws and dowels around the room.

We will now fix the hangers from the ceiling for the longitudinal battens. When spacing the longitudinal battens and calculating the distance between two battens, use the width of the sound proofing felt as reference. By doing this, you will save the trouble of having to cut the felt to size later.

The number of hangers you will use will depend on the false ceiling system/ type of ceiling / weight. You must ensure that the stability and load bearing capacity is safeguarded. In my case, I fixed one hanger every 80 cm.

Now position the 360° Laser, at the height of the upper edge of the battens fixed on the wall (i.e. 2.56 m) and align the hangers to this height. The hangers I used had a split pin fastener. This helped me do this alignment with millimetre precision. I could very easily offset the small variations in the original ceiling height.

The longitudinal battens will now be fastened securely to the hangers from the ceiling and also to the side battens fixed to the wall. If you are using large screws, it is recommended to do pre-drilling to prevent splitting of the wood.

The next step is fixing the counter battens. While doing this, there are a couple of things to watch out for. Since the gypsum plaster boards will be fastened to these wood battens, we must make sure that the interval between them is right. The gypsum plaster boards I used had a length of 2 m, which meant that the wood battens had to be fixed at a distance of 61.66 cm from each other. Ensure that the counter batten is screwed exactly at right angles to the wall.

If there is some electric work to be done, this is the right time. Lay the cabling for lights and do not forget to check whether it is working.

Step 2 - Insulation

We will do now the insulation! When doing this step, please make sure to wear appropriate protective gear - breathing masks, protective glasses and gloves are a must! The sound proofing felt is stuck in two places - between the longitudinal battens and once between the counter battens - to avoid cold air gaps. In total I used a sound proofing felt of 12 cm thickness.

Since the ceiling of my room was next to another heated room, I did not have to use any vapour barrier here. However if there is an unheated floor above, a vapour barrier has to be installed and it should be done at this point.

Step 3 - Mounting the boards and finishing

For the work that follows, it is best to have another person to assist you: Mounting the gypsum plaster boards! These are fastened to the framework with special screws. I used around 30-40 pieces per board.

When working on the boards, you must take into account the following

  • To decrease the size of the board, make a shallow incision on one side with a box cutter and snap it at an angle, then cut it through from the back of the carton
  • Special shapes can be cut using the jig saw
  • Lay the boards so that there are no cross joints (these could rip open after applying putty)
  • Always taper the edges (you may use a planer) so that there is enough place for the putty
  • Leave approx. 1 mm space between individual boards
  • Leave approx. 2 mm space for expansion between the wall and boards all around the ceiling

The next step is to fill the joints. The joints should be free of dust and dirt. This ensures better adhesion. It is hence recommended to clean the joints with a vacuum cleaner and a wet brush. We will now mask off all the joints with self-adhesive fibreglass lining tape. For the edges, we will use specially designed edge protection strips.

The putty is now put into the joints. This has to be done multiple times as the putty shrinks on drying. The cleaner you do this step the less work you will have to do in the next step.

To get a smooth surface, you must remove the irregularities on the surface by sanding them off. You can do this by hand or if the surface area is large there are electrical tools like the Einhell Drywall polisher TC-DW 225.

The expansion joints near the wall are now sealed off with acrylic sealant. This can later be quite easily painted over.

We will now give the ceiling a final coat. As gypsum plaster boards have a strong absorbent surface, we must apply a primer before painting to avoid eventual colour differences. There are also special paint mixes where you do not have to apply a primer. But in this case you will have to apply several layers of the paint mix.

Done!

AuthorPhilipp Weiler
Reading time10 minutes