Designing with Metal Ceilings

Creating functional and sustainable metal ceiling designs for commercial spaces involves thoughtful product selection and installation
[ Page 5 of 5 ]       
Sponsored by ROCKFON
By Mark Taylor
This test is no longer available for credit

Installation and Maintenance

Properly installed and maintained, a metal ceiling system can last beyond its warranty for many years—even decades.


The Ceilings & Interiors Systems Construction Association’s (CISCA’s) Metal Ceilings Technical Guidelines was developed by industry manufacturers and contractors in 2007 and was the first industry technical publication of its kind. Updated in 2015, it remains an industry standard for best practices in manufacturing, installing and maintaining metal ceiling systems.

Common quality issues noted by the guidelines are:

  • Cupping, the upward deformation across the face of the panel.
  • Sagging or pillowing, the downward deformation across the face of the panel.
  • Oil canning or rippling, the visible deformation in the face of the panel along its length.
  • Bowing, the permanent deviation from the vertical plane without any live or dead loads.
  • Stepping, the vertical distance between the two adjacent panel edges as installed.
  • Gapping, the horizontal distance between the two adjacent panel edges as installed.
  • Cambering, the permanent deviation from the horizontal plane.
  • Angularity, the permanent out-of-squareness of the long edge in relation to the short edge of a panel.
  • Twisting, the permanent rotation along the length of a component.

Helping minimize these issues, CISCA’s technical guidelines reference ASTM C-636 Standard Practice for Installation of Metal Ceiling Suspension Systems for Acoustical Tile and Lay-In Panels. ASTM C-636 was updated most recently in 2013 and should be the current version reflected in ceiling manufacturers’ and installations documentation.

Metal ceiling systems are cost competitive and easy to install, which contribute to labor savings and on-time completion rates. Some of the most common areas where costs increase for metal ceiling panels include perforations for aesthetics and acoustic performance, custom and specialty finishes, and large sizes.

For custom and complex ceiling designs, consult with the installer and manufacturer to request samples and assistance, and allow for adequate installation time in the construction schedule. When on-site coordination and timelines are a top concern, consider full-scale mock-ups to minimize confusion. Mock-ups help ensure that the ceiling system meets the desired look and specified performance, accommodates the lighting and integrates mechanical equipment components, and maximizes the likelihood of a successful installation.


Metal ceiling systems need very little maintenance. They are easy to clean in place. If a ceiling panel requires more rigorous cleaning, repair or replacement, most suspension systems make it simple to remove the single panel or section.

Because ceiling components feature numerous finishes varying in color, texture, gloss level and method of application, the effect of cleaning agents upon them also can have different reactions. For instance, a cleaning solution that proves effective for one type of finish may also clean another type of finish, but, in doing so, alter its color or gloss level.

Always follow the ceiling manufacturer’s instructions. When in doubt, test the selected cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the component’s finish. Such precautions will allow for adjustments to the cleaning solution, applicator or application effort without risking damage to highly visible areas.


The most successful projects involve close coordination between the designer, specifier, manufacturer and the installing contractor. The earlier the manufacturer is involved in the design discussion, the more easily they can help bring the vision to reality within the project’s scope. Understanding the essential aesthetic, functional and installation considerations for metal suspension systems, panels and accessories will ensure the desired, lasting appearance and performance for inspired ceiling designs.

Mark Taylor is the ceiling systems’ market manager at ROCKFON focused on helping optimize commercial ceiling designs for form, fit, finish and function. He can be reached at

Rockfon logo.

ROCKFON complete ceiling systems combine acoustic stone wool and specialty metal ceiling panels with suspension systems. A fast, simple way to create beautiful, comfortable spaces, they protect people from noise and the spread of fire, while contributing to a sustainable future.


[ Page 5 of 5 ]       
Originally published in Building Enclosure
Originally published in April 2017