We’re building a house in the Philippines. Here’s how we’ll be installing our ceilings.
Our ceilings will be about 30cm (1′) below the top of our walls and 3.1m (10′) above the finished floors. We wanted high ceilings because we hope that the hot air will rise above us but also because it makes our modest rooms feel more spacious. Changing lightbulbs will be a challenge!
Generally Philippine ceilings are marine plywood or one of the cement board products such as Hardiflex. The price is about the same. There are plusses and minuses for both. Termites and rot don’t attack cement board but the cement board is said to be more affected by roof leaks. Originally we decided to use marine plywood. Cement board is a totally uniform material. Plywood has some texture, some hint of once being a natural product. We like the look of plywood ceiling better but, based on comments we’ve received (see below) on this blog, we’ve decided to use 4.5mm Hardiflex.
Ceilings can be supported by wooden joists or one of many suspended ceiling systems. We decided to use 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ 2.5mm steel angle bar as our main ceiling support system. This decision was a bit irrational, but not totally. We have good welders. Decent wood is expensive, more expensive than steel. We paid P375 for 6M lengths of the angle bar. We painted the steel with epoxy primer, but then wood is normally treated with a preservative.
The usual lightweight suspended ceiling systems just seemed too flimsy. As can be seen in the photo, our ceiling system is strong enough to walk on, a real advantage for storage, and repairs and maintenance. Our roof is high above the ceiling, three meters higher at the center, so the possibility of attic storage is real. Anyway the angle bar system seemed substantial and affordable so that’s what we’ve done.
First, angle bar is bolted around the perimeter of the room at the ceiling height. These are bolted to the hollow block wall using 3/8″ lag screws and lead expansion bolts. A 60cm (2′) x 120cm grid of angle bar is welded to these supports. The 120cm span is split using 1″ flat bar. The angle bar crossing the center of the room is heavier (2″ x 2″ x 3mm) to support the heavy Hunter ceiling fan. Supports using scrap material extend from the ceiling angle bar to the steel roof rafters, further making the ceiling structure strong.
I have to disclose that our engineer has told us that this whole system is ridiculously overbuilt and wasteful.
Each 60 x 120cm panel will have a bevel at the edge. The holes for recessed pin lighting will be cut before the Hardiflex is installed. The Hardiflex will be attached to the angle bar using blind rivets recessed into the Hardiflex. The recesses will be filled with auto body filler and the ceiling primed and painted. A crown molding will cover the joint between the Hardiflex and the wall. These are all very standard ceiling details on modest Philippine houses. We find this grid-pattern ceiling to be more attractive than a plain flat. Fancier Philippine houses go in for all sorts of over-the-top ceiling elaborations, the more complex the better.
Holes are drilled through the Hardiflex, angle bar (1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 2mm) and flat bar and the Hardiflex riveted to the ceiling with 3/16″ blind rivets. Holes are drilled with Bosch cobalt twist drill bits. The Hardiflex is abrasive and dulls ordinary bits almost instantly. The cobalt bits need constant sharpening. The worker sharpen the bits using a grinding wheel on the 4″ angle grinder. The workers are installing the rivets with a Craftsmen riveting tool I bought at Sears a decade or two ago and never found too much use for. It really gets a work out here!
The center cutout is for a ceiling fan. There are four other cutouts in this room for recessed lights. The rivet heads are recessed and filled with a polyester body filler. Other finishing is done with the same type of gypsum joint compound used for sheet rock.
This shot shows how much of the “attic” will be concealed above the kitchen-living room ceiling. That kitchen ceiling looks low but is over 10’! About 5,000 3/16 x 5/32″ x 3/4″ blind rivets will be used in total to attach the Hardiflex to the angle bar ceiling structure.
In this shot you can see conduit for electrical circuits, cable TV, Internet, embedded in the walls and coming up into the attic. You can also make out how the ceiling structure is bolted to the walls using lead expansion anchors and lag screws. Most of the electrical conduit in the attic is flexible rather than rigid.
In the above photo you can get an idea of our Hardiflex panel joints. While we bought a manual Hardiflex tungsten carbide scorer, the recommended tool for cutting the panels, the workers generally used the 4″ Makita angle grinder with a diamond masonry cutting blade to cut and bevel the Hardiflex. This resulted in huge clouds of dust.
We installed additional pipe to bring the fan down from the ceiling, as recommended by Hunter. Hunter sells extension pipes but we used ordinary galvanized water pipe and couplings. It worked fine.
You architectural experts out there. Is this molding installed upside down? Finishing of ceiling is with one coat of Boysen flat latex and two coats of Boysen gloss latex.