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I am replacing old drop ceiling tiles and I am bit worried about the current grid layout (which came with the house). The tiles are 2*4 and the current ones are fairly light.

After reading installation documents from several major tile vendors, they all instruct to have the main tees 4' apart, with the short side of the tiles laying on them. Cross-tees between the main tees would be 4' long, holding the long side of the tiles, as depicted below.

enter image description here

BUT, in my case, the main tees are rightfully 4' apart from each other, but then there is a series of parallel 4' cross-tees, resting on perpendicular 4' cross-tees. As a result, one of the long side of the tiles lay on the main-tees, the other side lays on a cross tee which itself rest on another cross tee, as depicted below.

enter image description here

In both cases, there is a wire hanger every 4' holding the main tees. In my current setting though, half of the tiles lays on a cross tee which is not hang to the joist.

The old tiles are fairly light (the yellow mineral wool kind) but the new ones are much heavier. I have a gut feeling that the structure would sag or collapse between the main tees.

Is this grid layout suitable for holding heavier tiles? If not, is it OK to drill holes in the cross tees (the ones parallel to the main tees) and to hang them? ... or is there a better alternative?

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    Can you turn the cross Ts, changing them from the second layout to the first? – Tim B Oct 6 '20 at 0:00
  • @TimB it would have visual consequences: The room is 14' wide, which would leave 1/2 tile on a side. Also the 1st main T is 2' away from the wall, so I would either have to move all main tees or again have 1/2 tile (2*2) on a side. I would go for this solution if it improve supporting the load, but not if it has little impacts – JGH Oct 6 '20 at 0:13
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With both arrangements you have hangers attached to main tees on a 4 foot grid so the overall weight capacity is equal. I'll suggest the arrangement of the 4 foot cross tees between the main tees is a matter of preference and installer convenience. In my limited observation of ceilings, the nested arrangement seems more common than the "all cross tees the same way" arrangement.

Supplemental hangers could certainly be added, but bear in mind that hangers frequently are an obstruction that makes tile installation and removal difficult. Often a tile has to be slightly notched where it must pass by a hanger -- or it becomes notched over time through several in-and-out cycles!

You might try re-orienting the cross tees, but there are a few things to keep in mind when doing so:

  • with visual cue created by the long axis of the tiles going the other way, the room may feel longer or wider.
  • there may be challenges with repositioning lighting, HVAC, or other items.
  • the cross tees may not fit quite right the other direction.
  • some cross tees may be damaged in the removal process, requiring replacement.
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  • Thanks for the thoughtful observations. The last item some cross tees may be damaged worries me a lot on this 30 years old setup! – JGH Oct 6 '20 at 0:16

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