By Emmanuel Onsomu
[quote_box_center]An elegant ceiling is the perfect finishing touch for any room. A good ceiling must do more than just hold the room together.[/quote_box_center]

Besides contributing to the overall décor and aesthetic characteristics of a facility, a ceiling should be able to play a role in fire protection, thermal insulation and controlling acoustics.

Ceilings have frequently been decorated with fresco painting, mosaic tiles and other surface treatments. While hard to execute, a decorated ceiling has the advantage that it is largely protected from damage. Ceilings are normally classified according to their appearance or construction. We highlight some of the trends in ceiling designs.

USG Corporation: Increased Versatility and Flexibility
Mark Joseph, senior manager for corporate communications at USG Corporation observes that for years, architects and designers have been searching for a solution to make the ceiling plane more monolithic and less constrained by the standard acoustical panels.

Yet as aforementioned, in an open plan office environment, acoustical ceilings play an important role in the overall design.

The architectural and design community has accepted the functionality of the acoustical ceilings, but with limited design options, until now.

With the advent of more energy efficient lighting, the trend is moving from florescent and incandescent bulbs towards more efficient LED lighting. As a result, ceiling designs are changing and becoming more versatile.

Once the standard, a 600 x 600 mm or (2’ x 2’) panel is now a thing of the past; new technologies from ceiling manufacturers offer more flexible design options. As such, manufacturers of ceiling panels and grid now have complete responsibility for the ceiling plane. They are charged with better organizing the ceiling plane, but how?

Best known for its Sheetrock Brand of gypsum panels, but also for its leading acoustical ceiling panels, grid and specialty ceilings, USG Corporation through innovative design concepts has come up with a unique solution called Logix™ which offers unlimited expression on the ceiling plane.

With Logix, designers can create ceilings planes that meet building requirements without being constrained by the limits of traditional acoustical ceilings. Logix transforms visual distractions such as lighting, air vents and other utilities into dramatic design elements by concentrating these fixtures in narrow bands that run the length of a ceiling.  This allows for open ceilings that are uncluttered by ceiling utilities.

All of the elements in the ceiling plane are now neatly organized, contained and most important meet the design community’s needs.  Beautiful, flexible ceiling designs are easy to design, specify and install.

Pelican Systems: Adapting to the Green Trend with Suspended Ceilings  
South African based Pelican Systems perceives that since the introduction of green buildings there have been some interesting innovations and changes to the ceiling industry.  Some of these are noticeable in the supply chain where producers are all attempting to reposition themselves and fall in line with this new trend.

The company additionally notes that the old fashioned residential ceiling using timber battens and nailing up gypsum board has undergone a change, where steel battens are used instead of timber.  The cost is very much the same but the finish is more accurate and true. These same ceilings used h-strips or cover strips and this trend has also moved to a tapered edge board which can be taped and jointed (similar to drywall partitioning) to give a flush effect ready for painting.

Obviously when thin board is used the new trend is plaster finish, and whilst this looks great it is time consuming and requires a decent scaffold or platform to work off, which again adds time on to the job because no other work can be done whilst the platform or scaffold is in place.

Another aspect is the skill level required to produce the required finish, not so with a tape and jointed system. Where suspended ceilings are concerned, Pelican Systems highlights that the interlocking of main tees and cross tees is vital to a sound installation and the lineup should be true to give a good perception, often spoilt by a shadow at joints because the tile used does not sit squarely and properly in the grid.

The suspended ceiling was originally developed to conceal the underside of the floor above and to offer acoustic balance and control in a room.

The acoustic performance of suspended ceilings has improved dramatically over the years, with enhanced sound absorption and attenuation. Tiles can be selected with a variety of materials, including gypsum, wood, metal, plastic, or mineral fibres to name a few.

Important to note is that mineral fibre has however often failed in humid areas. This is quite natural because by design this material will absorb moisture and tend to bow if not installed in the correct conditions.  Most manufacturers have suffered and today the RH readings are all above 80˚ and fewer problems are experienced.  Extra care and selections are necessary where acoustics are vital as well as reliable unlikely to bow product.

Still on tiles the low end of the lay-in tile market has also changed, where today you can install a vinyl covered tile in 9mm or 12mm with an aluminium foil backer which also acts as an insulator.  Many of these tiles have added features where the edges are encapsulated to give extra protection from moisture and dust fall out; excellent where dust free conditions are required in health areas such as hospitals and clinics.  Whatever the base product, it is designed not to bow and most reputable companies will guarantee the products.

Light fixtures, HVAC air grilles, and other fixtures are available which can fit the same space as a tile for easy installation. Most tile material is easily cut to allow fixtures in other shapes, such as incandescent lights, speakers, and fire sprinkler heads. Another advantage of a suspended ceiling is that the tiles and other parts of a drop ceiling are easily removed to allow access to the area above the grid to do any necessary wiring or plumbing modifications. In the event of remodelling, nearly all components of the grid can be dismantled and reassembled somewhere else.

An older, less common type of dropped ceiling is the concealed grid system. This type of ceiling is more commonly found in older installations or installations where access to above the ceiling is generally considered unnecessary. This system has some major disadvantages compared to the more common “drop panel” system, most notably the difficulty in removing and reattaching panels from the grid, which in some cases can cause irreparable damage to the panels removed. Finding replacement panels for this type of dropped ceiling is becoming increasingly more difficult as demand for them is slowing.

More modern, project specific dropped ceiling tiles are gaining popularity. Manufacturers are creating suspended ceilings that are designed to be independent from the exterior walls and just be hung from the soffit; resulting in an aesthetically pleasing look whilst maintaining their ability to aid acoustics in room or large area.

Current trends include tiles with high green values, improved fire performance, exceptional acoustics and tiles that perform well in highly sensitive hygienic environments e.g. operating theatres. In closing, as skill levels continue to depreciate and producers are attempting to make installations easier Pelican Systems’ advocates for the use of a sound system installed by craftsmen who can prove their credentials and advices that the best way to do this is to check previous work and their tools.

Knauf AMF: Greater Functional Possibilities
Also zeroing in on suspended ceilings, Eva Rosenthaler from Knauf AMF, leading innovative high performance ceiling manufacturer informs that mineral fibre ceiling tiles continue to be the first choice for suspended ceilings where aesthetic and performance criteria have to be met. More and more the increased functional possibilities of suspended ceilings are coming to the forefront in the specifier’s recognition.

She affirms a general trend towards enhanced performance in acoustics, both in sound absorption for room comfort, and in sound insulation for confidential spaces without extra costly measures in the void. Fire protection is also an increasing concern with specifiers to meet and solutions are favored that also allow access to the ceiling void to allow maintenance of the services concealed by the ceiling.

The hygienic properties – such as washability and anti-microbial treatments – of suspended ceilings in combination with other technical performance aspects are becoming a priority. Playing on formats to best meet room geometries and ease maintenance – for example the use of planks – further makes the installer’s job easier, and with ever increasing pressure to be finished on site in an ever shorter time the installers look more and more for ceiling tiles that can be reliably and quickly adapted to geometries on site, such as perimeter tiles and tiles cut to match adjacent light fittings.

Stretch Ceilings: Floating Bulkheads, Light Troughs and Shadow Lines
Audrey Burrows, marketing and sales coordinator at Extenzo Stretch Ceilings SA states that some ceiling trends cut across all market segments whether retail, commercial or residential, particularly, floating bulkheads and light troughs. Floating bulkheads are setting a trend for most architects and interior designers, as it gives them freedom to play with ceiling designs, to accommodate acoustical values and aesthetical values.

Audrey however notes that one of the major worrying factors when you start suspending structures from a roof is the weight of the object.  There are countless projects where the architect has had to bring the engineer back onto the project so that reinforcement can be designed, placed and incorporated to the existing roof structure to accommodate the weight of the floating structure, she highlights. Extenzo Stretch Ceilings which weigh about 250g/m2, adequately solve this problem.

On a more practical level, Ms. Burrows tells that the company recently created a wave structure of about 5000mm (length) x 1000mm (width) x 200mm (depth).  This structure was cladded with a high gloss texture membrane and supported from an exhibition stand.  Stretch Ceilings are one of very few (if any) products on the market that can create such a structure and still be able to support it off of an exhibition stand, with the added benefit of curves that are always even, created to perfection.

The second mentioned trend is light troughs running alongside the perimeter of the ceiling, where Architects and Interior Designers like to play with different type of LED and RGB lighting situated inside the troughs to complement the ceiling design.  Light troughs sizes in width & depth differ from project to project. Again, Extenzo works utterly well with this trend.  In South Africa, the Extenzo High Gloss texture serves as a very popular choice between architects and designers for the reason that it is able to reflect objects from the inside of a space onto the ceiling without obstruction. Therefore, when one mounts LED lights below Extenzo the reflection will be much greater than the reflection displayed on a plastered board.

Shadow lines also constitute a trend having been applied to many projects over the years and continue to be a popular choice. At the end of the day, when ceiling design comes into place, you want to create something that works well with the space and the aesthetics of it, whilst hiding unsightly services or untidy structural elements.

The cleaner the ceiling, the better; the smoother the ceiling, the better and Extenzo, Audrey affirms is unbeatable with this – the Extenzo team strives to make Stretch Ceilings a trend, rather than the product being a solution to the trend, she concludes.

Chelsea Decorative Metal Co
Chelsea Decorative Metal Co. offers Pressed Tin Ceilings. The tin ceilings are great for solving the crack plaster ceiling problem. Instead of plastering over and over again, out the tin ceiling up and the problem is solved. It is also very decorative. It can go in any room. Chelsea Decorative Metal Company exports its ceiling products to any part of the world. Once a customer shows interest, they figure out what they need and get back to you with a total price for material and shipping.

The fact that they  have styles ranging from Art Deco and Americana to Turn of the Century and Victorian give the customer a lot of choices. Most sheets are 2′ x 4′ for easy installation. The patterns come in a 6″, 12″, and 24″ repeat pattern, so the tin ceilings are good for small areas as well as big areas. Reasonably priced, shipped anywhere.
They have 2′ X 2′ for suspended ceilings. The tin plating makes it great for paint retention. They also now have a copper finish and hand painted finishes.

They are manufacturers and their stock is very good for those people in a rush. It is not hard to install either. There are instructions on line and lots of time they send a diagram which also helps. On the key considerations when selecting Ceiling products; Chelsea Decorative Metal Co. says Cost is always.

Pressed Ceilings, SA
Pressed Ceilings, SA supplies ceilings with a wide range of merits. Their ceilings are longer lasting and more easily maintained. They won’t crack, peel, flake or drop chunks on the floor and they are richly ornamental and decorative.

Contractors have bought ceilings from pressed ceilings SA and used them in Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Congo. Many contractors prefer Pressed Ceilings SA on account of their ornamental and decorative nature. Their ceiling products come with installing instructions and adequate installation information is readily available on their website. Any carpenter can access their website, , for perfect installation instructions.

Pressed Ceilings, SA says the current uncertain economic conditions are the main challenges facing the construction industry in South Africa.

Supertec Ceilings and Board (Pty) Ltd
Supertec Ceilings and Board (Pty) Ltd. offers innovative ceiling products for the construction industry. They distribute and manufacture various products such as specially designed wall stud and track , corner bead , galv angle , wall angle , shadow line plaster trim , lip channels , exposed ceiling grid and screw up ceiling grid as well as steel branding and furing channels. They also distribute magboard as an alternative to cement fibre board regular gypsum board and tile and metal pan ceilings for the higher end market.

They believe that the fact that they manufacture and import gives their customer base the advantage of always having a competitive supplier. Their steel sections are designed to reduce cost and increase strength compared to. They offer the widest range of metal pan finishes in the market giving their customers a large choice.

They are always looking for innovative alternatives such as their magboard to compete with their competitors’ monopolies in supply thus solving the need for more competitive options with equal or better performance. They offer their products on both the local and export market and their main market is  Africa.
On key considerations when selecting Ceiling products, they believe service, price and quality are all equally important as well as choice which is something that the south African market for many years has not had until their arrival.

According to Supertec Ceilings and Board (Pty) Ltd, the main challenges facing the construction industry in South Africa are barriers to entry and too many unscrupulous , fly by night players in the industry. In addition, they say the other big problem is that in South Africa the industry has always been dominated by old monopolies, engineers and architects who never consider new alternatives.

One of the biggest considerations for ceilings is height. Raised ceilings illuminate the room with a larger space and give the home a more custom appearance. Raised ceiling options include the cathedral ceiling, tray ceiling, cove ceiling, and many more.  Drop ceilings are popular in rooms such as the basement. They create a sound barrier to help keep a room quiet. They can also cover unsightly wiring and pipes that are located along the top of the room.

Ceiling products come in a variety of designs, color, form, and sizes. All these will have an effect on the price. Always remember that high-priced ceilings are not necessarily of high quality. There are those that are not expensive, but are of high quality. Research well and choose the ceiling material you are comfortable with and which meets your financial capability. Always strive to get value for your money.

List of Contributors:
Barry Gould
Email: [email protected]

USG Corporation
Mark Joseph
Senior Manager for Corporate Communications
Email: [email protected]

Pelican Systems, SA
Denise Gould
General Manager
E-mail: [email protected]

Knauf AMF
Eva Rosenthaler
Email: [email protected]

Extenzo Stretch Ceilings SA
Audrey Burrows
Marketing and Sales Coordinator
Email: [email protected]

Chelsea Decorative Metal Co
Glenn Eldridge
Email: [email protected]

Pressed Ceilings
SA Peet Basson
Email: [email protected]

Supertec Ceilings and Board (Pty) Ltd
Anton De Bruin
Email: [email protected]


  1. It might be nice to update my home with some new ceilings. It seems like this could actually end up making a big difference. It’s good to know that you can use vinyl covered tile to act as a better insulator as well. That could add some extra design as well as function.


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