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What to Know About Adding an Exposed Ceiling in an Office

The industrial look is having a major moment in workplace design. A lot of people can’t get enough of that stripped-down, warehouse-style appearance, and exposed ceilings are a significant part of that aesthetic. There are a lot of extremely modern and stylish exposed ceilings out there, but they’re not always an ideal option for everyone.

One big misconception people have about open ceilings is that they’re less expensive than suspended ceilings since there’s no need to pay for tiles or a ceiling grid. But the reality is that exposed ceilings aren’t so inexpensive in the long run. It is true that, according to a study by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), first-time construction costs for suspended ceilings in offices are an average of 15-22% higher than open ceilings. However, those initial cost savings are offset by other factors.

It’s also important to understand that creating an open ceiling isn’t quite as easy as it sounds and the extra work involved adds to the total cost of the job. Achieving that perfectly unfinished look takes a surprising amount of work. Simply taking down existing ceiling tiles and grid would reveal a sight that’s anything but stylish. Old ducts are often dirty and oily and you might see a lot of exposed wiring and cables. Depending on what condition your ductwork is in, it may need to be replaced. Things that are exposed, including the ceiling, walls, ductwork, and pipe, will most likely need to be painted to create a more uniform appearance.

Exposed ceilings come with other hidden costs beyond the cost of construction, energy costs being a big one. Removing a suspended ceiling means the HVAC system will have a larger amount of space to heat and cool. CISCA’s research also found that suspended ceilings in offices had 9-10.3% greater energy savings compared to open ceilings. So if your company values energy efficiency, this is an important factor to consider before making a decision about which type of ceiling is best for you.

Problems with acoustics are another factor that people often don’t anticipate when choosing an exposed ceiling. Ceiling tiles are effective at absorbing sound, helping keep noise levels under control. So when open ceilings are used in spaces that have a lot of other hard surfaces, sounds amplify and carry and can be distracting to people who are trying to concentrate. This doesn’t just include the sounds of people talking, it also includes ambient noise created by things like your HVAC system. If you’re considering an exposed ceiling for your office, remember to account for any extra acoustical control options you’d need to add to help minimize noise, such as suspended baffles, acoustic panels, and spray-on solutions. The added cost for this varies depending on the options you choose.

Making the switch from a suspended ceiling to an exposed ceiling also makes a difference when it comes to the things that are installed in the ceiling, like lighting and sprinkler systems. Sprinkler systems will need to be reconfigured to meet fire code requirements and without the ceiling grid, lighting installation can be more challenging.

Our team loves the look of an exposed ceiling design, but it is important for us to educate our clients of the hidden costs to open everything up. Whether you want an exposed or a suspended ceiling, contact Premier Construction & Design. We’ve been designing and building commercial spaces in the Metro Detroit area since 1987, so we have experience creating a variety of ceiling styles and can help create a space you’ll love.