Introduction to Ceilings and their Function in the Interior

The ceiling finish or product is attached to the ceiling battens under the roof framing and is generally a plasterboard of some form. Typically we see ceilings as the flat plane above us that hides the roof or floor framing.

They are usually made of plasterboard on a light timber frame attached to the roof or floor framing. However ceilings can be made from a variety of materials and perform a number of functions listed below.

Ceiling Aesthetics

Usually we see a ceiling as a flat white plane that sits above us. However the ceiling can be made of different materials such as timber or PVC, be suspended within a grid with different panels giving different properties, be colored, textured, vaulted, have recessed elements to it or have a suspended bulkhead.

All these different treatments can add another dynamic or element to the space. We can create a much more interesting effect and or evoke a different mood by adjusting the finish or shape to the ceiling.

The ceiling finish or product is attached to the ceiling battens under the roof framing and is generally a plasterboard of some form.

The ceiling finish or product is attached to the ceiling battens under the roof framing and is generally a plasterboard of some form.


Ceilings are one of the main areas that reflect sound in a clean manner. I.e. often the ceiling is a large flat hard plane that is ideal for reflecting sound. Often this is desirable but sometimes it isn’t. Different sound reflection and absorption properties can be achieved by using different shapes and materials to either enhance the reflective properties or reduce them.

For example allowing the sound to be absorbed or passed through the ceiling can be achieved by using softer materials such as padded fabrics soft boards or leaving perforations or holes in the ceiling. (Please note acoustic design is a very complicated subject and for serious projects should be left to the expertise of a sound engineer who can measure and design a room for particular acoustical properties.)

Of course the most obvious way to reduce sound reflection in the room is to stop the reflection on another level such as the floor and walls with soft floor coverings such as carpet and furniture and drapery to absorb or at least distort or break up the sound wave.

The ceiling may also be used to stop sound transference from the floor above. In this case serious and professional advice should be taken as this can be a very complicated issue. The main point is to stop or reduce the sound waves from penetrating to the room below.

The Ceiling Space

This area is often not considered because out of site is out of mind, however the ceiling space often acts as one of the principal areas that services are carried through. Therefore when designing the ceiling careful consideration has to be given to the services that may be carried through it. These may include ventilation and heating ducts, electrical and data cabling, recessed lighting and also areas for fixing suspended lighting, plumbing and to some extent drainage from the bathroom or kitchen above may be carried in the ceiling and in these cases adequate heat and noise or sound insulation should be used. This may take the form of lagging or fibreglass blanket. In all cases the services should be attached to the supporting framing and not the ceiling itself.
Do not allow any wiring or ducting or plumbing to rest on the ceiling surface. Good practice is to have all services mechanically fixed to an appropriate frame and then to either be carried over the ceiling or in the case of wiring for lights or ventilation ducts to be allowed to drop and attach to the fitting or penetrate the surface.

Ceiling Insulation and Types of Ceilings

The ceiling is one of the primary areas that require heat insulation as this is the area that heat will rise to and in the case of a ceiling under a roof rather than a floor also where heat gain from the sun and therefore into the roof space, an area that will allow heat to enter the habitable space.
Quite undesirable in the middle of summer or if an air conditioning system is at work. There are a number of methods to use when insulating, the most common of which is fiberglass wool blanket or bales spread out over the ceiling to create an insulating barrier.

It does this by creating an air barrier in the insulation stopping or reducing heat transference.

Heat will naturally rise or “gravitate” and disperse to the cold area. There are other systems that use granulated and treated paper and items such as expanded vermiculite.

However the main point is that the majority of systems reduce heat transference by creating an air barrier.

Other Types of Ceilings and Ceiling Finishes
Suspended Ceiling System

There are other systems that use suspension wires to support the ceiling. Commonly known as the Donn system or suspended ceiling system. The ceiling is either mounted in, or in the case of a flush suspended ceiling screw fixed to a metal grid that may or may not be exposed.

Panels which are usually 1200mmx 600mm or 4ft x 2 ft made of various materials from styrene to plasterboard, or paint or vinyl coated soft board are inserted or dropped into the ceiling grid to form a paneled and suspended ceiling system. This system can also be used to form recessed or dropped ceilings and is very common in commercial applications.

Suspened ceiling with panels in a grid used here in a commercial office.

T and G (or tongue and groove) Ceiling

This is another common form of ceiling and was traditionally used in many older homes. Today it is an expensive finish but aesthetically pleasing and can create a feature. Even though it is attached to a timber frame, specific framing design may be necessary because of its increased weight.

Ply and Batten Ceiling

Ply and batten is similar to a timber ceiling and proprietary ceiling panels.

Other considerations that may need to be incorporated into a choice of ceiling system could include:

  • Moisture resistance
  • Fire resistance
  • Smoke production when heated or alight
  • Reflective qualities
  • Impact resistance (eg sports halls)
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