Introduction to Suspended Ceilings

Introduction to Suspended Ceilings

There are very few commercial building projects, new build or refurbishment, which do not have suspended ceilings as one of their key construction components. Usually representing the largest uninterrupted surface, they make a major contribution to the overall appearance and acoustic quality of the finished space.

 Suspended ceilings are a linier membrane hung by a suspension from a steel framework from the soffit above. They provide acoustic and can provide fire performance as well as light reflectance, and provide a void to hide mechanical electrical and plumbing services (MEP)

Advice for contractors

Suspended ceilings are a finishing trade and require installation by specialist contractors. The specialist contractor will provide the high levels of management, operative skills and resources, essential to deliver a high quality product. Their considerable experience on similar projects will be of significant assistance to the construction team.

The cost of getting it wrong can be severe:

Abbots Green Academy in Bury St Edmunds (2019)

Pontins Brean Sands: Ceiling collapse injures 18 (2019)

Children hurt in Tranent Church Hall ceiling collapse (2018)

Ceiling collapse at Birmingham primary school prom (2017)

Top 10 reasons why ceilings collapse

1 Incorrect selection of fixing

2 Incorrect installation of fixing

3 Additional load applied

4 Insufficient number of fixings

5 People walking/crawling on ceilings

6 Failure to follow manufacturers guidance/instructions

7 Modification by other trades

8 Insufficient supervision/training

9 Structural vibration causing fixings to fail

10 Substitution of specified components

Source: FIS member survey 2010

Improving sustainability in the supply chain

All construction projects over a certain value will have a sustainability / carbon footprint agenda which will have to be embraced by all specialist contractors to share in the process.

As a best practice principle, all specialist contractors should have an ongoing carbon footprint reduction programme, which can then become applicable on all projects. This will include the disposal of all materials from the strip out, and offcuts from the installation. Materials may be selected to comply with systems that are designed to measure the environmental impact of the fit out such as Ska.


Ceilings Sustainability Partnership


The Ceilings Sustainability Partnership (CSP), which is made up of manufacturers, distributors and installers of suspended ceilings, was established to ensure that the resources used to manufacture Mineral Wool Ceiling Tiles are not wasted or having a detrimental impact on the environment.

Ceiling Sustainability Partnership

CSP List of Recyclers 

Mineral Wool Ceiling Tiles: A Resource Efficiency Action Plan

Fit-Out Environmental Good Practice – Ciria Guide

Advice for specifiers

The installation of suspended ceilings is a key element in the construction programme. A finishing trade that also provides a platform for many of the services trades, its progress can be pivotal to the completion of a building. Installation is relatively fast and early planning with the ceiling contractor and interfacing trades is vital.

A wide range of suspended ceilings are available and they are being constantly developed and expanded to meet changes in regulations, standards and building design requirements.  The most common types of suspended ceilings are:

Exposed or Layin grid

A system where the grid is visible and into which panels are laid.

Concealed grid (for tiles other than steel/aluminium)

A system where, after the tiles are installed, the grid is not visible.

Semiconcealed grid

A system where the grid is visible in one direction only.

Metal strip

A system of rolled narrow (300mm or less) panels fixed to the underside of ‘carriers’ that may be concealed or visible

Open cell ceilings

Open cell systems consist of panels of metal blade construction, mineral wool, mdf or glass reinforced gypsum (GRG).  Metal blade products can be supported directly, but some will require a supporting grid. Mineral fibre, mdf and GRG will require a grid system.  Generally the products are designed to create a ‘non‐modular’ appearance, with the grid (where required) blending in with the panel.

For a basic introduction to suspended ceilings and common terminology click here 

Ceilings – consider the options and achieve the performance

FIS Members are regularly vetted against a strict code of conduct, to find a member of the FIS click here

FIS are happy to support the specification marketplace, so if you any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the FIS team.

British and European drylining standards

Relevant Standards

Suspended Ceilings British Standards

BS EN 13964:2014 BSI Standards publication/ Suspended ceilings – requirements and test methods – Current

BS 8539:2012 Code of practice for selection and installation of post-installed anchors in concrete and masonry – Current

Skills and competence

The FIS has a dedicated Skills team that work to address skills development – led by a Skills Board that helps to focus and prioritise what we do. Each year we complete a TNA (Training Needs Analysis) of the fit-out industry to see how we can best support the future of a skilled workforce and drive training initiatives to help with funding, employability and sustainability.

FIS Apprenticeships – modern apprentices without the pain
CSCS Card Support – see our range of specially tailored packages for those working towards a fully competent and qualified workforce

For more information on FIS Skills click here

Health and safety

To conform to the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 the specialist contractor and main contractor must provide a method statement and risk assessment of the work that has to be undertaken on each project. All members of the construction team have a duty of care to their site colleagues.

Working to agreed programmes and to formalised method statements can contribute to site safety. Identifying hazards and assessing potential risks should cover the working environment, the work to be done, the tools and equipment to be used and the materials to be installed. 

Guidance can be sought from the ‘FIS Health & Safety Handbook’ and also the ‘FIS Site Guide for Suspended Ceilings’, which has particular reference to working at height.

FIS is working with members to improve Health and Safety in the sector.  For extensive Health and Safety Support from the FIS – click here

FIS Suspended Ceilings working group

FIS has an active Suspended Ceilings working group that brings together the wider supply chain to focus in driving quality, safety, productivity and burning market issues.  You can find out more about this group and how to get involved here.

FIS is also supporting a working group focussed on managing penetrations in buildings, for more information on this activity, contact the FIS team.