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I have a collection of fairly lightweight acoustic panels that I want to suspend from a plaster ceiling (see mockup images below). My question: What is the best way to attach them?

Here’s the shape of the problem:

  • 10 large panels @ 1.75 kg / 3.84 lbs each, 21 in wide at the narrowest
  • 18 small panels @ 0.62 kg / 1.37 lbs each, 10.5 in wide at the narrowest
  • Panels should be suspended ~2 in below the ceiling, so adhesives are not an option.
  • The precise arrangement and small size of the panels means I can’t make them all hit joists.
  • I expect I’ll want to suspend each panel at three separate points so I can level it. My thought is to use neodymium magnets at the end of long bolts/screws to allow fine position adjustments. That means that:
    • I’m drilling 3*(10+18) = 84 holes in the ceiling here.
    • Each individual hole carries a weight of no more than 0.6 kg / 1.3 lbs.

It’s an old house, so the ceiling is lath & plaster, not drywall. Things I’m wondering:

  1. Given the low weight here, are toggle bolts really necessary? Or can I get away with screws of some kind, hoping that most of the screws at least hit some lath?
  2. Alternatively, is there some kind of tiltable swivel mount I could use to level them, and thus need to position only one in the center of each hexagon instead of three at the edges?
  3. Other suggestions to keep this project manageable?

Rendered mockup 1 Rendered mockup 2

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  • Are you sure your ceiling is so uneven that leveling will be necessary? – isherwood Nov 23 '20 at 20:13
  • Also, if they're 2" below the ceiling whatever you use will likely be visible. – isherwood Nov 23 '20 at 20:14
  • I’m pretty sure at least some leveling will be necessary: any variation in adjacent levels will be very obvious, and if I mount them at only one point in the middle at the end of a 2” bolt, it’s hard to imagine they’ll all sit flat with perfect uniformity. Even if ceiling is level, there will be variation in bolt angle. – Paul Cantrell Nov 23 '20 at 20:22
  • Yes, anything I use will be visible — though it doesn’t have to sit too far in from the edge to be inconspicuous. – Paul Cantrell Nov 23 '20 at 20:23
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A couple ideas...

  • Go with your magnet idea, using either the moly buttons or magnetic sheet bonded to the back.
  • Use simple silver screws in the ceiling. Almost any ferrous screw will work, and you don't need toggle bolts. Either you'll hit lath, the plaster itself will hold, or you'll add a slim plastic plug anchor for troublesome cases.
  • Insertion depth gives you leveling adjustment. I don't think swivel adjustment is needed due to the very shallow angles.

Otherwise, you could use leveling feet...

  • Commonly available furniture feet with ball sockets give you angle adjustment.
  • Depth of insertion gives you level adjustment.
  • You'd need to use plastic inserts to accommodate the machine threads for some holes. Those in wood probably wouldn't need anchors.
  • Therefore, you'll want the smallest diameter shafts you can find.
  • I'm not sure how you'd attach the panels to these. Maybe magnets. Maybe double-stick foam tape.

However...

I really think that some small foam blocks and panel adhesive are what I'd do...

  • Cut 1" or 1-1/2" thick sheets into hexagons somewhat smaller than your panels. I think 2" is too much, personally--I'd want them a bit closer to the ceiling and I'd want the mounting hardware totally hidden.
  • Bond them with panel adhesive, which has quick grab. Use the press-remove-press technique for instant hold.
  • While things are soft, make leveling adjustments. You should be able to stretch the adhesive for some time after mounting.
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  • Thanks for all this! Very helpful, especially the specific screw recommendations. With the foam blocks idea, can you clarify: are you suggesting solid pieces of foam adhered to both the ceiling and the panels? Unfortunately, the 2" gap isn’t just for looks; it’s an important part of the acoustics. Having the large air gap behind the panel helps it absorb lower frequencies. – Paul Cantrell Nov 24 '20 at 0:56
  • Yes, I meant adhered on both sides. Foam is available in 2", but I'm not sure how good it'll look with the larger gap. – isherwood Nov 24 '20 at 13:57

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