What’s Hiding Above the Ceiling?

You may wonder if an exposed ceiling makes sense as a cost savings measure in your interior commercial buildout.  While there are cases that an exposed ceiling is less expensive than an acoustic ceiling, often times the open ceiling doesn’t save as much as you may expect.

When an old acoustic ceiling comes out, there is no telling what you’ll find above it.  Usually there are HVAC ducts, fire sprinklers, electric cables, and who knows what else, randomly installed just above the old ceiling tile.  All these things have to move in order to create an attractive, open look.  Additionally, sprinkler heads that point down through ceiling tile have to be turned up, and miscellaneous pipes and wires have to be relocated.  All this, plus the cost of finishing the previously concealed drywall (which probably was unfinished above the old ceiling), and painting can add up fast.

However, if yours is a new space, or one that has been completely demolished already, you are probably starting with a clean slate.  In this case the exposed ceiling can be cost effective and give the space a great look and a much more voluminous feel.  We recently completed a 3,400 SF space with an open ceiling that is probably costing the client about $4-6/SF, which could be some savings over an acoustic ceiling. However, in the context of the total project cost, it probably is not a big savings.

A few other considerations to think about before deciding on an open ceiling for your commercial interior buildout:

  1. Is the space significant size?  You generally don’t want the ceiling height to be more than the length or width of the space.
  2. Is it acceptable if there’s an echo in the space?  If not, add a few bucks for some sound dampening.
  3. Is additional heating and cooling cost acceptable?  Open ceilings do require more cooling effort.
  4. Is this food prep area?  If so, a washable ceiling tile is probably required by the health department for all restaurant kitchens and prep areas.

The open ceiling can really add to the look and feel of your space and is a great option when you know all the things that need consideration. An interior commercial buildout may seem daunting, but don’t worry. We’re here for you.

I hope this helps.  If there’s another construction topic you would like to see covered, let me know in the comments below.