A ceiling can be a source of aggravation when remodeling or converting an unfinished living area to a living area, or when there is a need to drop a ceiling in a finished room to add new plumbing or duct work. Whether it detracts from the appearance of your door trim, makes crown molding or cabinets difficult, or causes headaches trying to level the ceiling, fixing it may be worth the time and money spent to ensure your project runs smoothly and looks great.
Many contractors would use wood framing members to accomplish this task, but metal studs can be quicker to install, easier to work with, and require less tools in the confined space of some remodeling projects.
What is Metal Stud Framing?
Cold-formed steel components are used in the creation of structural and non-structural metal stud framing components, which consist primarily of studs and tracks, or channels. For load bearing applications, a higher gauge steel is utilized.
Metal studs are frequently framed in the same way as wooden walls and with similar spacing. They are manufactured in various sizes and gauges to accommodate any engineering requirement. Steel studs are generally fastened using screws rather than nails, which eliminates the need for a compressor on the job site to power nail guns.
Tools Needed When Framing a Ceiling with Metal Studs
Whether your project is new construction, turning an old basement into living quarters or dropping the ceiling in an existing finished room, you will need the same tools. Here is a basic list:
- Tape measure
- 4’ or 6’ carpenter’s level
- Tin snips
- Laser level (buy or rent)
- Cordless drill
- C-clamp locking pliers
- Utility knife
- Assorted self-drilling screws
- Chalk line
- Gloves and safety glasses
Basic Material List for a Metal Stud Ceiling
Depending upon the complexity of the project, you may need additional materials other than the list provided here. Also, you will need to ensure that the metal studs and channels you have selected carry the spans and support load attached to them. Check with your material supplier for helpful tips on how to anchor the channels to your ceiling structure. You will need:
- Steel studs – load bearing or non-load bearing
- Steel track
- Carrying/bridging channel
- Drywall furring channel
Assuming you are framing your walls with steel, the ceiling will use the same materials. If you install a ceiling, the steel support channels will need to anchor to the roof trusses, rafters, or joists through a bridging channel or regular channel cut to length. The bridging channel will connect at the bottom to regular track by screwing through the flange of both.
Metal studs will be attached perpendicular to this channel, and your drywall will attach to it. Use a laser level to ensure your ceiling studs are all running level back to the wall.
Remodel: Ceiling Only – No Walls
Depending on whether you have existing walls to work with, the procedures you will follow may differ slightly. If there are no finished walls in place, and you are just installing a ceiling, you may be able to attach the metal studs directly to the side of the joists, level them, and then install your drywall to the metal studs. This scenario is the easiest and requires fewer pieces than when installing a drop ceiling. Use the laser level to establish a level line on the existing walls for the channel to attach to.
Remodel: Drop Ceiling
A drop ceiling may be the most complicated installation, because the existing framing is covered by stucco or drywall. Follow these basic steps for professional results.
- Establish a level line around the perimeter of the room. The ideal method is to use a laser level.
- Attach a standard channel around the perimeter to hold the studs using self-tapping screws. This channel must be attached through its web to the studs behind the drywall, not just into the drywall alone.
- Install the metal studs inside the perimeter channel with self-tapping screws.
- If intermediate support will be needed, a bridging channel will need to be installed from the ceiling to a support channel the studs can be attached to for additional strength. The intermediate support runs perpendicular to the studs.
- Attach the drywall to the flange of the ceiling studs.
Pros and Cons of Framing a Ceiling with Metal Studs
- Metal studs are lighter than wood.
- Steel studs are perfectly straight.
- They can be cut with ordinary tin snips
- They will not rot.
- They are resistant to termite damage.
- They offer excellent resistance to fire damage.
- Metal studs perform better than wood under the torquing stress of earthquakes and other natural disasters.
- Metal studs do not have to be cut to exact length to maintain their integrity. This makes the job go faster, as you can cut multiple members simultaneously without regard to each stud being perfect.
- Depending on the gauge of steel used, it could be more expensive than wood.
- Metal framing is less energy efficient than wood and may require additional insulation.
- If you are hanging cabinets or other heavy items, you will want to add wood blocking in these areas, as the screws may pull out of the metal otherwise.