I have a nice deck, installed by a contractor years ago. We wanted to use the space under the deck as a covered patio area, so I built a drop-ceiling under the deck. It's made of overlapping panels of corrugated galvanized steel, supported by a cedar structure, with a slight slope so rain will drain off one end of the corrugated. I have four panel structures of cedar and corrugated, each three sheets of corrugated wide.
We were concerned that crud might fall through the deck and accumulated into a debris dam, and make the rain drip through where the panels overlap, rather than spilling off the lower end. My solution was to put a hinge along the edges of the panels nearest the house, so I can fold them down for occasional maintenance, then fold them back up to their normal, almost-horizontal position. So far, it works well, and the under-deck patio is a nice place to relax outside on a rainy Seattle day.
The problem is that I left unanswered the question of how to hold the panels in the almost-horizontal position when they're not folded down for maintenance. For now, I have some spare bar clamps grabbing the deck's main support joist, projecting out under the free edges of the panels. But I'll want to use those clamps again for something else, and they're not a good permanent solution anyway.
So, what kind of latch mechanism should I use to hold the panels in place? I've looked at various gate latches and tinkered with cardboard mock-ups, but no one answer jumps out as ideal.
Design goals include:
- Secures the panels in position fairly securely, without loads that will stress the structures so they warp or bend over time, and loose enough so seasonal expansion and contraction doesn't gradually tear things to pieces.
- Not a giant hassle to disconnect for periodic maintenance. It doesn't have to be as easy to use as a fence gate, but it shouldn't require tools, seize up if I don't unhook it for a couple of years, etc.
- Doesn't require too many holes through the deck joists (pressure treated timber) or the cedar structure that will invite rot in this rainy climate.
- Not unnecessarily ugly.
- Not absurdly expensive or complicated to build and install.
Here's a cross section drawing. At left is the 10×4 pressure-treated deck joist that runs the length of the deck. The other brown rectangles are 5/4 cedar (which I mistakenly drew as 2×4s), the end-on edge piece at left, the cross supports at left. The bent gray line is the corrugated steel. (I gave up on trying to draw the corrugations.) The cedar hangs from a hinge at the right, out of the picture.
Here's an orthographic drawing. I drew everything except the cross section somewhat transparent, and drew the corrugated somewhat more transparent. The corrugated is attached to the tops of the cedar cross pieces with waxed stand-off pieces through the high parts of the corrugation with outdoor deck screws. The folded over part of the corrugated is attached to the edge with stainless steel screws (and zinc washers); all the inexpensive deck screws I could find were so long that they'd poke through the cedar.
Addition: Here's a photograph of the deck and under-deck ceiling. It shows pretty much the whole of the structure as described, including the bar clamps supporting the free edge of the panels.
Based on the first reply, I had the idea of hanging some sort of hooks by chains from bolts through the deck's cross-joists, supporting catches attached to the cedar edge pieces. The first hooks could support the middle of each panel, hanging a little bit low, as the panels are raised to position. Then additional hooks at each end could support the panels at the design height and slope so they don't bounce around in the wind. Plastic-coated stainless steel cables might be better for the middle hooks, because they wouldn't rattle in the wind if they were slack.