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Question DetailsAsked on 2/15/2018

Want to remove panels drop ceiling and paint ceiling black. Currently have flex ducts/drop in fluors. 1600 sq ft

Small commercial space. Only removing ceiling and painting 1400 sq feet of it. Currently has white drop ceiling. 2x4 lights. Flex duct. Would love to just remove all of the ceiling panels and paint above all black if this was a more affordable option. . Help. I’m open.

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2 Answers


Because you are talking a commercial space, you should talk to an Architect dealing in small property remodeling. Depending on the design and materials, it is likely (actually, quite likely) that the drop ceiling (actually probably suspended ceiling, but deal with it about the same) is part of the fire protection system, plus you have exposed conduit and HVAC ducting in the plenum (the space between false ceiling and the actual ceiling) which will either have to be converted to legal exposed mounting (if you like that look) or rerouted around the area you want to open up.

If a "suspended ceiling", like typical in schools and many public buildings, there is no "structure" supporting it - just metal frame and insulation panels. Easily checked by popping a few panels up and looking in the space above - the "plenum". If a true "dropped ceiling" then there will be joists or similar structural supports across the plenum, supporting the existing "ceiling". Though with a true dropped ceiling it would normally be drywalled, not insulation board. A third variation is a truss-supported roof or overlying story in the building, with the "white drop ceiling" on the underside of the structural framing (ciomon before about 1960's).

"Suspended ceiling" can usually be removed with zero structural impact, though you do still have the utility runs up there and fireproofing to deal with. In the case of joists many times they support only the dropped ceiling and can be eliminated - but not always. Trusses in plenums are pretty much always going to be structurally supporting the overlying floor or attic and cannot be taken out, and if left exposed generally have to be treated with fireproofing.

You are also very likely (almost certain) to have to enclose the sides of the open ceiling area (if you do part of the area) with fire-resistant materials (typically just boxing it out as a recessed ceiling area with drywall), and if the currently-hidden but then newly exposed ceiling is not concrete will probably have to drywall that too for fire resistance.

And the lighting you have now is almost certainly troughers - flourescent fixtures designed for mounting in dropped ceilings, not allowed generally (and ugly) in exposed use, so you will need to put in new lighting for that area. Plus in a recessed ceiling like that (if doing only part of the area) you would normally use drop lighting anyway, to get the light below the boxout and illuminate the area below - though boxouts can also be internally lighted with colors or reflective materials or such as a decorative feature.

Anyway - you have fire code issues, maybe structural check on what is structural and what is not, need for adequate ventilation coverage and lighting coverage, almost certainly modifications to the fire protection and alarms (at a minimum remounting to the upper ceiling), etc - basically almost any change in a commercial building other than repainting or replacing floor coverings you should have an architect involved to be sure you are meeting code - plus in most cases you will need plans and specs from an architect to get a building permit, and they are a significant part of the bidding and construction contract package so your bids are realistic and all based on the same assumptions.

Course, the first thing to discuss is WHY you want to effectively "raise the ceiling" and how much is that worth to you to get that ? And can replacing the panels or overlaying the existing ceiling with a new covering achieve the same goal - like just spray painting the panels and grid, or spraying only the grids and replacing the drop-in insulation panels with ones with a different appearance ?

Answered 2 years ago by LCD


BTW - in some locales (like NYC and SFO and BOS, as I recall), especailly those which have had large deadly nightclub fires, any painting of the suspended ceiling hjas to use special low-flame-spread paint. Does not add a lot to the cost (maybe 10-15% of the paint job cost) but get it wrong and the fire inspector will make you tear it out - KEEP the paintcans until the inspection is signed off so you can prove what was used. Generally required in bars and nightclubs and performance venues with more than about 50-100 occupancy limit, also in kitchens in many area, some times in restaurants, schools, daycares, etc also.

Also - unless it is done pretty lightly, the paint will clog the pores in the ceiling panels, reducing the sound absorption characteristics. Significantly if thickly enough done to actually start filling the pore openings solid.

And because you are talking messing with part of the fire-resistant interior finishes, in pretty much all areas will need a building permit to do the work, AND a fire inspection and approval afterwards. With annotation on the building Certificate of Occupancy file of the remodeling and inspection approval. You want to keep up to date, and keep a complete fire file yourself, of all permits, inspection reports, approvals, etc - otherwise a random building or fire inspection which brings up (due to error or mis-filing or bureaucratic incompetency or whatever) an incomplete record or no record of your changes could result in being shut down until it is sorted out - crippling to most businesses.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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