Drop-Out Ceiling Panels beneath Sprinklers

Approved drop-out ceiling panels can be installed beneath fire sprinklers. When exposed to heat from a developing fire, drop-out ceiling panels soften, distort, and fall from the ceiling grid. Heat from the growing fire activates the sprinkler which, unimpeded by the panels, controls or extinguishes the fire.

Drop-out ceilings have several significant advantages:

  1. They offer a visually uncluttered appearance.
  2. They provide protection for the sprinklers - making them less prone to accidental knocks, tampering, and the potential water damage that can result.
  3. They simplify sprinkler design at clouds and other design features as the sprinklers are located above the dropped ceiling.
  4. They're cost effective as they eliminate the need to "drop" (lower) the sprinklers, make sprinkler positioning simple so installers only make one trip instead of two, allow for the use of less costly, non-appearance grade sprinklers, and eliminate the need for trim rings/escutcheons.

Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc.
Drop-Out Ceiling Panels - A Discussion on Their Use with Fire Sprinklers (PDF)
This White Paper is intended to be used as an introduction to those considering the use of drop-out ceiling panels, sometimes referred to as tiles. They have many useful applications and their "drop-out" feature from a standard T-bar ceiling grid offers advantages over the commonly used acoustic ceiling tile. They are especially useful when used with fire sprinklers. This paper is a resource and is intended to educate potential users as to the best applications for drop-out panels. It is not intended to be a substitute for checking the applicable listings, codes and standards and encourages users to consult with their authorities having jurisdiction (building officials, fire code officials and in some instances, insurers).

IAPMO Uniform ES
Evaluation Report 0310 (PDF)
All Ceilume Ceiling Tiles and Panels are recognized for use as drop-out ceiling panels beneath sprinklers in concealed sprinkler installations, subject to the authorities having jurisdiction.

CertMark International
Evaluation Report CER-3101 (PDF)
All Ceilume Ceiling Tiles and Panels are recognized for use as drop-out ceiling panels beneath sprinklers in concealed sprinkler installations, subject to the authorities having jurisdiction.

Underwriters Laboratories
File Number R4036 (PDF)
The Feather-Light Collection (Premiere colors only) of Ceilume Ceiling Tiles and Panels are recognized for use as drop-out ceiling panels beneath sprinklers in concealed sprinkler installations, subject to the authorities having jurisdiction.

Factory Mutual
Approval Class 4651 (PDF)
The Feather-Light Collection of Ceilume Ceiling Tiles and Panels are recognized for use as drop-out ceiling panels beneath sprinklers in concealed sprinkler installations, subject to the authorities having jurisdiction.

Consult with your local building/fire officials to make sure that your intended use will conform with the appropriate local codes.


Cost of Ceilume Thermoformed Ceiling Panels Compared to Mineral Fiber Ceiling Panels in Fire-Sprinklered Office Building

By Bill Kneeland, PE and Michael Chusid, RA

A thermoformed drop-out ceiling panel has recently been tested and approved for installation beneath fire sprinklers. Until now, drop-out ceiling products have had limited performance and visual appeal. In contrast, the thermoplastic panels, made by Ceilume, look great and meet performance requirements for commercial, institutional, residential, and other architectural projects.

Ceilume's panels are made of rigid vinyl either 0.013 or 0.030 inches thick and can be installed in standard 15/16" T-bar ceiling grid. When exposed to fire, the thermoplastic softens, sags, and drops-out of the grid at a temperature below that required to activate sprinklers. Sprinklers can then operate unimpeded to extinguish fire. Drop-out ceiling panels are allowed under NFPA 13 - Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, and Ceilume's panels have been approved by UL, FM, Certmark, IAPMO-UES, and other building evaluation services.

When drop-out ceiling panels were proposed for an 110,000 sq.ft. office building in Oklahoma City, we were asked to prepare a detailed construction cost estimate comparing thermoformed and mineral-fiber ceiling panels. In particular, our client wanted to know how Ceilume's panels affect total project costs including sprinkler design and installation. We found that Ceilume panels installed beneath sprinklers are significantly less expensive than mineral fiber panels with penetrating sprinklers.

Cost Savings

We investigated two scenarios and found that the Ceilume approach generated savings ranging from $3.29 to $0.72 per sq. ft. The first value represents 2 x 2 ft. panels and compares Ceilume to 3/4" thick tegular mineral fiber panels; the second value represents 2 ft. x 4 ft. panels and compares Ceilume to standard 1/2" thick mineral fiber panels.

Click here to read the entire report.

Investigation 1
Investigation 1: Ceilume panels are 0.013" thick Polyline style installed beneath sprinklers. Mineral fiber panels are 5/8" thick square-edge, fissured panels equal to Armstrong 755 installed with recessed sprinklers. Both are 2' x 4'. and white.


Investigation 2
Investigation 2: Ceilume panels are 0.013" thick Polyline style installed beneath sprinklers. Mineral fiber panels are 3/4" thick regular tegular panels equal to Armstrong 577 Cirrus installed with recessed sprinklers. Both are 2' x 2' and white.

Pass-Through Sprinkler Installation

Guiding Principle #3: Be transparent. Practice honesty... even when it's uncomfortable.