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How to get the perfect false ceiling

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Architect and interior designer, Jyotsna Bhagat sheds light on the details involved in installing a false ceiling

False ceilings are a great way to add an interesting focal point to a space but they are quite an undertaking. Says Mumbai based Jyotsna Bhagat of The Blue Ceiling, “Always freeze on a layout before beginning work, and unless there’s a technical snag, do not change designs while construction is in progress. Also, they can be messy and cumbersome while getting installed, try getting it done before you move into your new house.” The most important tip she feels is to research and hire professionals who know what they are doing and will carry out the job quickly.

Should you go in for a false ceiling?
There are many styles, visual effects, textures, shapes, sizes, colours and materials to work with when it comes to drop ceilings and you are likely to find something that works well with your tastes and the space. There are also other advantages to consider. “False ceilings provide ample choice for housing different types of light fittings to achieve varied kinds of mood and ambient light effects,” says Jyotsna. “It also helps with temperature control, and concealing electrical and other networking cables.”

False ceilings help with absorbing noise from the upper floor and can partially conceal sprinkler systems without hindering their functionality. “They are quite energy efficient as the air-filled gap between the two layers controls temperature within a room. This is especially true for spaces which are directly below building terraces. Also, they help in better optimisation of air conditioning as they reduce the overall volume of a space, hence cooling required is lesser.”

With its many advantages, keep in mind that a suspended ceiling can close-up a space, so smaller rooms or those with relatively low ceilings may not benefit from having one. They can also become a breeding ground for pests and insects hence regular pest control is required. Proper waterproofing is a must as water damage, mildew and fungus can sprout over time and you may end up needing to replace the entire false ceiling after a few years.

•    Height:
 One of the most important considerations is the height. Jyotsna suggests a minimum of 9-feet from false ceiling to floor to avoid a
      sense of claustrophobia. “For safety, one must ensure that if you raise your hand, there should be sufficient space between the ceiling and the
      hand, so you don’t accidentally knock off chandeliers or any hanging curios. Special care should be taken to ensure fans are placed at spots
      where the hand doesn’t accidentally encounter it.”

•    Wiring: Plan your wiring layout beforehand as in some cases, this will end up determining the shape and design of the false ceiling especially if
      you only want a partial one or a border.

•    Ceiling fans: “Ceiling fans are heavy and require a hook to be installed on the main ceiling slab prior to false ceiling work. This holds specially
     true in case of gypsum or any other light weight ceilings,” recommends Jyotsna.

•    Lighting: While cove lighting enhances the ceiling, concealed down lighters enhance the elegance of a space. In all cases planning wiring
      beforehand is key. “Recessed lights can be planned in advance, so that when you cut the false ceiling to house these lights, there should be no
      framework at the same spot as the light to be installed.” Pendants and chandeliers require hooks to be installed on the main ceiling

•    Hanging features: “In case of hanging a heavy item like swing, one needs to install a sturdy hook in the ceiling slab before creating the false
     ceiling to take the weight,” suggests Jyotsna.

•    Small rooms: Jyotsna recommends minimal designs with clean lines and without fancy mouldings. “Try to maximise the space between the
     slab and false ceiling by concealing all electrical wires, AC ducts, copper piping etc. within them.”

•    Large rooms: “Choose from double layered ceilings to unusual shapes, textures and finishes to create drama if the space is large,” she
     suggests. You can also mix and match materials, textures, colours, and finishes to create an impact.

•    Border: As a border along the walls, you still get the full height of the ceiling but you now have a framework within which you can hide wiring
     and place ambient lighting.

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Materials and maintenance
Whether you opt for an exposed grid system or a concealed grid system there are quite a few materials to choose from.

•    Gypsum or Plaster of Paris: The most commonly used materials, gypsum or POP sheets are less expensive, light weight and easy to install.
      Explains Jyotsna, “They can be easily shaped into any design, painted or covered with wallpaper. For safety, it is recommended to install a
      piece of plywood right above the sheet for providing strength.” Low on maintenance, they need to be dusted and cleaned occasionally with a
      sponge. Regular painting or covering with wallpaper every 3-4 years is recommended.

•    Acrylic, Fibre or Glass: Easy to install, these sheets are placed over a wood or metal framework. These are a great way to introduce ambient
     lighting and require little upkeep.

•    Wood: Wood naturally adds charm to a space but these ceilings are more expensive, heavier and look bulkier hence best suited for large
      rooms. “Wooden ceilings look richer and are sturdy. Hanging heavy pendant lights etc. is relatively easy as they tend to support more weight,”
      says Jyotsna. These require regular polishing once installed.

•    Metal: Polished metal false ceilings can inject drama to a space and tend to last. Aluminium and galvanised iron are the most commonly used

•    Modular / Grid: “These comprise prefabricated and pre-finished ready-to-install panels, which sit directly on a framework. They are lightweight,
     easy to install, come in an array of finishes and looks,” says Jyotsna.

•    Cost estimate: The cost of a false ceiling depends on many factors like material used, design, site conditions, added effects and installations,
      etc. Jyotsna estimates the following:
      •    Gypsum: upwards of Rs. 80/sqft
      •    Acrylic or fibre: upwards of Rs. 125/sqft
      •    Wood: upwards of Rs. 250/sqft
      •    Modular ceilings: upwards to Rs. 200/sqft

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