Innovations in ceiling grids: An unexpected tool for keeping projects on time and budget

Pre-engineered locking tabs allow cross tees to quickly twist and lock into place without the need for screws, pop rivets, or crimpers.

Say goodbye to hanger wires
One way to speed up a ceiling project is by minimizing hanger wires and simplifying the installation process. Within the last decade, major industry players introduced new systems that allow for large unsupported spans of flat drywall.

Engineered and designed to offer quicker, easier installation in hallways, corridors, and small spaces (e.g. offices, meeting rooms, and copy rooms), these products can be installed without hanger wires for unsupported spans up to 2489 mm (98 in.) with 16-mm (5/8-in.) drywall. The reduction in the number of hangers required is a boon to contractors because it decreases installation time.

Designed mainly for new construction applications, systems like these generally will not integrate with older grid systems in repair or renovation projects. In addition, specifiers should be aware that wall-to-wall gypsum assemblies are exempt from seismic codes.

These technological advancements represent a larger movement by major ceiling and drywall manufacturers to provide products that assist contractors. One of these advancements, for example, is a locking system for solid cross tees. The tees audibly click into place for a positive lock. The system comprises a heavy-duty metal material for maximum rigidity, with knurled flange faces for screw grip. Greater strength and stability in this system is achieved with a meticulously constructed double-stitched web.

While industry standard places studs every 406 mm (16 in.) on center (o.c.) spacing for drywall, new systems have pre-engineered tabs spaced every 203 mm (8 in.) o.c., providing installers with more starting points. The locking tabs, which quickly twist and click into place, prevent lateral and upward movement or deflection, providing installers with assurance the layout is accurate and the channel is set.

Easily accommodate fixtures
In addition to new grid systems, manufacturers are beginning to offer accessories accommodating fixtures. This includes pre-cut acoustic panels, which can help cut down on labor and installation headaches on the jobsite, as well as grid accessories designed to help installers quickly and easily accommodate space for HVAC systems, lighting, and other mechanicals.

While some new systems have a slightly higher material cost than traditional grid systems, the additional expense is greatly offset by labor savings, which may provide architects and designers with the ability to reduce project costs. Labor typically makes up more than 70 percent of the total cost of a drywall ceiling installation, so a 10 to 20 percent higher cost for premium materials is compensated by labor savings from faster installation.

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