Stretch or suspended – choose a ceiling

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In this article, we will briefly talk about the existing options for finishing the ceiling, focusing on those frequent cases when it is impossible to do without a suspended or tensioning system. We will study the main characteristics of stretch and suspended ceilings, the features of their installation and decorative possibilities. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these two types of finishes, and at the end we will give a comparative table that will allow you to see the specific differences between suspended and stretch ceilings.

One can argue for a long time about what plays a more prominent role in the interior design of a room – finishing the floor, ceiling, or still walls. In fact, all these “pieces” of the premises add up to a single picture, ideally harmonious and attractive, making your home cozy and beautiful.

Modern ceiling finishes

Before moving on to the main topic of our article – the differences between suspended and stretch ceilings, we will briefly describe alternative finishes, often no less popular and quite widespread:

  1. Coloring. It seems that this method is the easiest and least expensive. However, before painting, it is necessary to get rid of the old finish layer and carefully level the surface. The best option is to paint before decorating the walls and floor..
  2. Wallpaper. Relatively cheap (depending on the type of wallpaper chosen) and fast. Gluing wallpaper on the ceiling is somewhat more difficult than on the walls, but it is quite possible to carry out the process on your own. Surface preparation for wallpapering does not require such careful alignment as in the case of painting – small cracks will be covered with wallpaper.
  3. Ceiling tiles – polystyrene, extruded or injected. It is inexpensive, easy to cut, if you need to adjust the dimensions, you can mount it yourself. But the joints between the tiles will have to be additionally repaired, and the coating of low quality quickly loses its original appearance, it may turn yellow or fade.
  4. Mirrored ceiling. High price, the need to order a cut according to your size with pre-prepared holes for fixtures and dowels. Such a ceiling weighs a lot, and admiring your image just lying on a sofa or bed is not an option for everyone.
  5. Upholstery with fabric. Huge room for creativity, warmth and home comfort, original design – these are the main advantages of using textiles in the interior. But in the future, the fabric may stretch, deteriorate, fade and collect dust.

There are many ways to finish the ceiling, but under certain conditions, the choice remains only between the tension and suspended version of its arrangement.

When a tension or suspension system on the ceiling is indispensable

Let’s list the main cases when a suspended or suspended ceiling becomes the only possible options:

  1. All of the above methods of finishing the ceiling (except for drapery with a cloth) require preliminary surface preparation and careful leveling. And if the house is panel and in the middle of the ceiling there is a joint between the floor slabs? The difference in height can reach 5-7 centimeters. It is very difficult to remove such irregularities with the help of plaster – this process is laborious, long, costly, requiring special skills and craftsmanship. In addition, after two or three years, a crack may still appear on a too thick layer of the leveling coating – just at the “sore spot” – the junction between the floors. In this case, the only way to get a perfectly flat ceiling, to hide significant irregularities and differences in height will be the installation of a suspension or tension system.
  2. Another situation when you cannot do without a suspended or stretch ceiling is the installation of spot lighting. Only behind such a frame system there is enough space for wiring and fixtures. Meanwhile, many homeowners have already appreciated the convenience and beauty of spot lighting, so stretch and suspended ceilings are becoming more and more popular..
  3. If the ceiling was previously painted with water-based paint, it will not work to wash it off with water, as a whitewash. The process of removing the paint layer is long and time consuming, it is much easier and easier for the owners to simply install a suspension or tension system that does not require removing the old coating.
  4. A suspended ceiling is also required when installing a cassette or duct air conditioner. In the case of installing such a split system, a ceiling space of 250 to 570 millimeters is required.
  5. If the repair of the walls and the floor has already been completed in the room, then the best option would be to install a stretch, rack or cassette ceiling, which will not require any “dirty” work.

Stretch ceiling – characteristics and installation features

The stretch ceiling system is a canvas, most often made of PVC foil or polyester with polyurethane impregnation. There are stretch ceilings made of polyester fabric, but this material does not have such a rich choice of shades and textures. In addition, it is impossible to weld two strips of polyester fabric together, and during installation it requires the installation of a special profile, which significantly complicates the process.

PVC film is not afraid of moisture and does not absorb odors, therefore it can be used in any room, even in the bathroom or in the kitchen. Installation of a stretch ceiling does not take much time, and the technology itself is quite simple. The specialist pre-measures the dimensions of the room, then all parts of the future tensioning system are made according to these data.

Directly installing a stretch ceiling consists in installing a baguette around the perimeter of the room, then the room is heated with a heat gun to plus 60–65 degrees, and the elastic canvas is attached to the baguette. The harpoon mounting method is most often used. After the canvas has cooled, the ceiling is stretched and a perfectly flat surface is obtained..

Some manufacturers also use cam or wedge mounting. In this case, the surplus of the canvas is cut off, since the film is cut out with a margin. Heating with a heat gun is required in any case. The cost of a stretch ceiling does not depend on the type of fastening.

All three technologies – harpoon, cam and wedge – provide for the dismantling of the ceiling in case of replacing the canvas or draining the water during flooding. It is difficult to independently carry out the process of installing a stretch ceiling – special equipment and skills are required, since it is very easy to damage the canvas.

Suspended ceiling – features of the arrangement

A suspended ceiling is a system that consists of a metal frame to which ready-made modules (slats, cassettes, panels, slabs, cellular modules) or plasterboard sheets are attached. It is drywall that is most often the main material for arranging a suspended ceiling in residential buildings, and it is about this option, as the most common, that we will tell.

The design of the suspended ceiling is based on guides (long main and short transverse), as well as hangers and corner moldings. The main load falls on guides and hangers, which are brackets, thick wires or rods. It is with the help of suspensions that the distance of the suspended structure from the floor slab is adjusted and the desired height of the ceiling plane is set.

Installation of a plasterboard suspended ceiling frame

After creating a frame from guides, moldings and suspensions, the installation of gypsum plasterboards begins directly. In the future, the suspended ceiling is processed with a finishing putty, painted or pasted over with wallpaper.

Advantages and disadvantages of a stretch ceiling

The stretch ceiling, reviews of which indicate the presence of both advantages and disadvantages, is still inferior in popularity to suspended ceilings. However, today many designers prefer to use this particular finish. Let’s try to figure out what advantages the owners of a room with a stretch ceiling will receive, and what should be feared during its operation.

Stretch ceiling advantages:

  1. The surface of the ceiling becomes perfectly flat without any preliminary preparation.
  2. Installation of a conventional stretch ceiling, except for the “Starry Sky” options with numerous fiber-optic LED lamps, takes no more than three to four hours.
  3. Stretch ceiling will be able to regain its shape even after serious deformation.
  4. If you attach the stretch ceiling frame not to the wall, but to the floor slabs, then the room height loss will be only 3-5 centimeters.
  5. After installing such a system, there is no debris, streaks and drops on the walls, you can mount the stretch ceiling after finishing the walls and floor.
  6. The choice of textures and shades is limited only by the existing color palette. Stretch ceilings, photos of which clearly show all the richness of choice, can be matte and glossy, bright yellow and deep blue, burgundy and brown, pale green and creamy, almost any. A stretch ceiling can turn into a real starry sky, clouds, the sun, a beautiful landscape or a cartoon drawing can appear on it.
  7. The PVC film of the stretch ceiling is not afraid of moisture – if you are flooded by neighbors from above, the elastic but strong ceiling can withstand up to 100 liters of water per 1 square meter. It will simply stretch out, keeping the water inside. Calling specialists who will carefully disconnect one edge from the frame, pump out water and use a heat gun to stretch the canvas again, will help eliminate the consequences of the flood without leaving a trace. The walls and floor will not be damaged.
  8. The stretch ceiling allows you to equip the spot lighting system. The lamps are installed using special heat-insulating inserts (plates, rings or “glasses”). Wiring is perfectly hidden behind the stretched PVC film.
  9. The weight of a stretch ceiling for a room of 30 square meters will be only about 10 kilograms.
  10. The stretch ceiling does not need to be painted or plastered; its maintenance consists in periodically wiping it with a damp sponge. At the same time, cleaning is often not necessary – such a coating repels dust.
  11. Before installing a stretch ceiling, you do not need to remove furniture from the room.
  12. The warranty period of the stretch ceiling is 10-15 years.

Filling stretch ceiling

Cons of stretch ceilings:

  1. PVC film can be easily damaged by hard and sharp objects. For example, if you decide to replace the cornice on the window and accidentally hit the canvas with a sharp end, not just a scratch will remain on it, but a noticeable hole. If children decide to shoot at the ceiling with a bow or machine gun with plastic balls, the stretched canvas may also suffer. A hole or a scratch can be closed with a special sticker, for example, an asterisk or a circle. But, firstly, such a “patch” will still be visible, and secondly, the canvas will lose its “anti-flood” properties.
  2. It is impossible to install a stretch ceiling without specialists, you need special equipment and work experience.
  3. PVC film does not tolerate cold, already at zero temperature it becomes brittle, and at minus 20 it will simply collapse. So you cannot use stretch ceilings on balconies, loggias and in unheated summer cottages..
  4. Requires pre-ordering the ceiling strictly according to the size of the room.
  5. The presence in the room of additional corners, ledges, niches increases the cost of the stretch ceiling.
  6. If a stretch ceiling has level differences, vaults or protruding figures, then the arrangement of one such “step” will increase its cost by about 50%. If the constellation Scorpio or an ocean beach is depicted on the canvas, then the price of a stretch ceiling can grow six times in comparison with a simple, unadorned surface.
  7. If the neighbors flood you not just with water, but with sewage, then stains may remain on the canvas.

Advantages and disadvantages of a suspended ceiling

Suspended ceilings, which are the main competitors of tension systems, also have their advantages and weaknesses..

Pros of false ceilings:

  1. As well as tension systems, they allow you to make the ceiling perfectly flat and get rid of height differences between the plates..
  2. All communications are perfectly hidden behind the plasterboard suspended ceiling, including the supply to the kitchen hood, wiring or pipe from the air conditioner.
  3. If the suspended ceiling consists of separate modules, then the entire structure does not have to be changed in case of leakage or wear, only the affected part can be replaced.
  4. You can install a plasterboard suspended ceiling with your own hands, you just need to familiarize yourself with the technology – no special devices are needed.
  5. The cost of plasterboard for the installation of a false ceiling is lower than the price of the tensioning system, which will have to be ordered. If you equip such a ceiling with your own hands, then it will cost significantly less.
  6. The suspended ceiling can be painted and pasted over with wallpaper or tiles, so the design choice is quite large.
  7. This system allows you to install a variety of spot lighting..
  8. Suspended ceilings improve heat and sound insulation of the room.
  9. Plasterboard ceiling can be multi-level.

Cons of false ceilings:

  1. Drywall is afraid of moisture. If neighbors flood you, then it will not be easy to eliminate all the consequences of the flood, most likely, you will have to change the entire system as a whole.
  2. The suspended plasterboard ceiling needs additional finishing – sealing the joints between the plates, painting or wallpapering.
  3. The false ceiling installation process takes at least two to three days.
  4. A suspended ceiling cannot be glossy like a stretch ceiling, its decorative possibilities are somewhat limited.
  5. Installation of a suspended ceiling involves carrying out “dirty” work, in particular, puttying and subsequent finishing. Before installation, you will have to remove the furniture from the room and protect the surfaces, it is better to carry out work before finishing.
  6. In general, the warranty period of the suspended ceiling is also 10 years, but its finish – paint, wallpaper or ceiling tiles – may require replacement or renovation earlier.

We make a specific choice – a comparative table of characteristics of stretch and suspended ceilings

Main characteristicsDropped ceilingsStretch ceiling
Average installation time2 to 5 days3 to 5 hours
Resistance to damageMedium, afraid of strong blowsLow – easily pierced with hard and sharp objects
FlammabilityDoes not support combustionDoes not support combustion
Moisture resistanceOrdinary drywall is afraid of moisture, and in the event of a flood, even moisture-resistant gypsum board loses its original appearance and properties. In the bathroom, you can use only moisture-resistant drywall and plastic panelsIt is not afraid of moisture, will save the room from flooding, in case of stretching under a body of water, it restores its original shape. Can be installed in the bathroom
DurabilityThe warranty period is up to 10 years, however, subject to the renewal of the top layer of finishing – paint, wallpaper or tilesWarranty period up to 10 years, does not require painting or other renovation, it is enough to occasionally wipe from dust
Texture and color schemeThe texture can be matte, semi-matte or glossy, but not mirrored. The choice of color palette is not limited (you will have to purchase additional paint)The choice of color palette and texture is practically unlimited
The costFrom 20 to 32 dollars per square meter, including work. The price depends on the complexity of the structure (a multi-level ceiling will cost more) and the type of finishing *From 10 to 100 dollars per square meter, depending on the selected material, the number of corners, lights, the presence of bends, photo printing, curved sections, and so on *

* The cost of suspended and suspended ceilings is average. It should be borne in mind that the price of suspended and stretch ceilings in Moscow is significantly lower than in the regions..

Both suspended and stretch ceilings are a worthy choice. Their performance and merits are quite comparable. Previously, the popularity of suspended ceilings was primarily due to their lower cost and the ability to save money by performing the installation yourself. However, as experts note, tensioning systems turn out to be more economical in the end – having invested once, the owners will be able to forget about problems with the ceiling for at least ten years..

If, after reading our article, you could not decide on the choice, perhaps you will be satisfied with a compromise option: a suspended structure made of plasterboard along the edges of the ceiling and a beautiful insert from a stretch canvas in the center. It is precisely such designs that are in increasing demand today and provide huge scope for the embodiment of design fantasies..

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