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Title:
UNDERDECK CEILING AND COLLECTOR SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A ceiling system includes ceiling members that are supported intermediate their ends, are positioned to catch liquid and debris from above, and provide a pleasing appearance from below, while still being easily removed individually from the ceiling. The ceiling system may be installed under a deck support structure and provide adjacent ceiling members having nested male and female inverted J-shaped legs extending upwardly. The nested legs of the ceiling members are suspended on downwardly extending J-shaped hooks mounted to the support structure in an array. The hooks are positioned to define a clearance space between hooks such that the female leg of an adjacent ceiling member can be raised into a clearance space to allow removal of a nested male leg of a ceiling member being removed from the ceiling. The system can be configured so that the ceiling members are supported without being held in place by fasteners, and removal of the ceiling members occurs without the removal of any such fasteners.


Inventors:
Rhoad II, Hal J. (Johns Creek, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/609393
Publication Date:
05/05/2011
Filing Date:
10/30/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B9/18
View Patent Images:
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Claims:
That which is claimed:

1. A ceiling system for installation under a support structure comprising: a plurality of ceiling members, each said ceiling member including: an elongate panel, at least one inverted J-shaped female leg opening in a first direction and extending upwardly from said panel and outwardly beyond a first elongate side edge of the elongate panel, and at least one inverted J-shaped male leg opening in the first direction and extending upwardly, said male leg being positioned at or proximate a second elongate side edge of the elongate panel and shaped to nest within a female leg of an adjacent ceiling member; and a plurality of downwardly extending J-shaped hooks mounted to the support structure in an array, each of said plurality of hooks opening in a second direction and shaped to receive one of said male legs and one of said female legs, wherein: two of said ceiling members are positioned adjacent to one another with the male leg of one of the ceiling members nested within the female leg of the adjacent ceiling member and said nested legs supported on at least one of the hooks, and said hooks are positioned to define a clearance space therebetween such that the female leg of the adjacent ceiling member is liftable into the clearance space and the male leg of the one ceiling member is removable from its supporting hook.

2. The ceiling system of claim 1, wherein a track defines at least two of the plurality of hooks, wherein at least a first hook and a second hook of the plurality of hooks are spaced apart by a distance selected to position the first hook to receive the male leg of the one ceiling member and to position the second hook to receive the female leg of the one ceiling member.

3. The ceiling system of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of downwardly extending J-shaped finishing hooks mounted to the support structure and opening in the first direction and shaped to receive at least one of said legs of a finish ceiling member.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein said finish ceiling member comprises: an elongate finish panel, at least one of said inverted J-shaped male legs opening in the first direction along a first elongate finish panel side edge, and at least one inverted L-shaped finish leg extending upwardly and inwardly from a second elongate finish panel side edge, and wherein: at least two of the plurality of finish hooks are spaced apart along the second elongate finish panel side edge.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the at least one inverted L-shaped finish leg of the finish ceiling member comprises a continuous finish leg defining a plurality of cutouts spaced to allow passage of the spaced-apart finish hooks therethrough.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the male and female legs each comprise a continuous leg along a respective one of the elongate side edges of the elongate panel.

7. The system of claim 1 further comprising an elongate gutter member, wherein said gutter member is mounted transverse to a lower end of each of the plurality of adjacent ceiling members and defines a trough positioned to receive water from the lower ended of the adjacent ceiling members.

8. The system of claim 1, said gutter member further comprising an attachment flange positioned to be attached to the support structure.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of hooks comprises: a strip of sheet material; a cutout in the strip of sheet material defining one of said J-shaped hooks; and a plurality of fastener openings defined in an area of the strip extending above the cutout.

10. The system of claim 9, wherein each of the plurality of hooks is bent between the cutout and the plurality of fastener openings such that the strip can be mounted to the support structure via said fastener openings.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the plurality of fastener openings comprises two rows of fastener openings.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein at least one of the plurality of hooks is bent such that both rows of fastener openings reside on a fastener flange, said fastener flange being mounted to the support structure proximate a higher end of each of the plurality of adjacent ceiling members.

13. The system of claim 11, wherein at least one of the plurality of hooks is bent between a top row of fastener openings and a bottom row of fastener openings, said at least one of the plurality of hooks being mounted to the support structure by the top row of fastener openings and proximate a lower end of each of the plurality of ceiling members.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein during use of the system, no fasteners secure said ceiling members to said hooks.

15. An integral blank of sheet material comprising: a strip of sheet material; a plurality of spaced-apart cutouts in the strip defining a plurality of J-shaped hooks; and a plurality of fastener openings defined in an area of the strip extending above the cutouts.

16. The integral blank of claim 15, wherein each cutout extends from an open side of one of the J-shaped hooks to a closed side of an adjacent J-shaped hook.

17. The integral blank of claim 15, wherein each cutout is shaped such that each J-shaped hook includes a supporting buttress integral with the closed side of the J-shaped hook.

18. The integral blank of claim 15, wherein said integral blank is bent between at least some of the plurality of cutouts and the plurality of fastener openings.

19. The integral blank of claim 18, wherein the plurality of fastener openings comprises two rows of fastener openings.

20. The integral blank of claim 19, wherein said integral blank is bent such that both rows of fastener openings reside on a shared surface of the integral blank when bent.

21. The integral blank of claim 19, wherein said integral blank is bent between the two rows of fastener openings.

22. The integral blank of claim 15, wherein said integral blank includes at least one line of weakness between a pair of said hooks at which the integral blank may separated.

23. The integral blank of claim 22, wherein each at least one line of weakness divides the integral blank into a plurality of hook units, each of said plurality of hook units including: at least one of the plurality of cutouts in the strip defining a J-shaped hook; and a plurality of fastener openings defined in an area of the strip extending above said at least one of the plurality of cutouts.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to removable ceiling installations, and more particularly to an underdeck ceiling and water collection system.

2. Description of Related Art

Attempts have been made to provide undercover systems for decks to prevent water and debris passing through the deck floorboards from reaching the space beneath the deck. Some such systems are permanently installed below the deck, creating difficulties when it is necessary to clear away debris that has fallen between deck floorboards into the collection system. Other systems do not provide a level of finished appearance desired for more expensive homes. U.S. Pat. No. 6,226,941 to Stevens purports to describe an undercover system in which water collection panels are not permanently attached to the building structure and which can be cleaned. However, the collection panels span an entire dimension of the deck without intermediate support, and as a result their weight is borne by substantial tubular beams underlying the ends of the panels. This requires relatively complex and expensive manufacture of components for the system. Other underdeck systems are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,279,271 and 7,434,358.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention seeks to provide solutions to problems in the field by providing a ceiling system including ceiling members that are supported intermediate their ends while still being easily removed individually from the ceiling, are positioned to catch liquid and debris from above, and provide a pleasing appearance from below. The system can be configured so that the ceiling members are supported without being held in place by fasteners, and removal of the ceiling members can occur without the removal of any such fasteners.

The present invention accomplishes these objectives by providing, according to one of its embodiments, a ceiling system for installation under a support structure comprising a plurality of ceiling members, each such ceiling member including an elongate panel, at least one inverted J-shaped female leg opening in a first direction and extending upwardly from the panel and outwardly beyond a first elongate side edge of the elongate panel, and at least one inverted J-shaped male leg opening in the first direction and extending upwardly, the male leg being positioned at or proximate a second elongate side edge of the elongate panel and shaped to nest within a female leg of an adjacent ceiling member; and a plurality of downwardly extending J-shaped hooks mounted to the support structure in an array, each of the plurality of hooks opening in a second direction and shaped to receive one of the male legs and one of the female legs, wherein two of the ceiling members are positioned adjacent to one another with the male leg of one of the ceiling members nested within the female leg of the adjacent ceiling member and the nested legs supported on at least one of the hooks, and the hooks are positioned to define a clearance space therebetween such that the female leg of the adjacent ceiling member is liftable into the clearance space and the male leg of the one ceiling member is removable from its supporting hook.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the hooks may be defined in a track, wherein at least a first hook and a second hook of the plurality of hooks are spaced apart by a distance selected to position the first hook to receive the male leg of the one ceiling member and to position the second hook to receive the female leg of the one ceiling member. The track may be a strip of sheet material defining a cutout therein defining the J-shaped hooks; and a plurality of fastener openings defined in an area of the strip extending above the cutout. The male and female legs may each comprise a continuous leg along a respective one of the elongate side edges of the elongate panel.

The system may further comprise a plurality of downwardly extending J-shaped finishing hooks mounted to the support structure and opening in the first direction and shaped to receive at least one leg of a finish ceiling member. The finish ceiling member may comprise an elongate finish panel, at least one of the inverted J-shaped male legs opening in the first direction along a first elongate finish panel side edge, and at least one inverted L-shaped finish leg extending upwardly and inwardly from a second elongate finish panel side edge, and wherein at least two of the plurality of finish hooks are spaced apart along the second elongate finish panel side edge. The inverted L-shaped finish leg of the finish ceiling member may comprise a continuous finish leg defining a plurality of cutouts spaced to allow passage of the spaced-apart finish hooks therethrough.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the system includes an elongate gutter member, wherein the gutter member is mounted transverse to a lower end of each of the plurality of adjacent ceiling members and defines a trough positioned to receive water from the lower ended of the adjacent ceiling members. The gutter member may further comprise an attachment flange positioned to be attached to the support structure.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the tracks may be bent between the cutout and the plurality of fastener openings such that the strip can be mounted to the support structure via the fastener openings. Further, the strip may be bendable at two places to allow selection of the distance between the support structure and the hooks.

According to a further embodiment, the invention provides an integral blank of sheet material comprising a strip of sheet material; a plurality of spaced-apart cutouts in the strip defining a plurality of J-shaped hooks; and a plurality of fastener openings defined in an area of the strip extending above the cutouts. Each cutout may extend from an open side of one of the J-shaped hooks to a closed side of an adjacent J-shaped hook and define a supporting buttress integral with the closed side of the J-shaped hook. The strip may include at least one line of weakness between a pair of the hooks at which the strip may be separated. The strip may be bent longitudinally between the cutouts and the plurality of fastener openings to provide a fastener flange. Further, the strip may be bendable at two places to allow selection of the distance between the fastener flange and the hooks.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Having thus described the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an underdeck collector system, from below, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is another perspective view of the underdeck collector system, from above with deck flooring absent, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a bottom-up view of the underdeck collector system, prior to installation of ceiling members, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a ceiling member, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a finish ceiling member, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a finish ceiling member, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a plan view of a hanger track, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a plan view of a finish hook unit, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a plan view of a hanger track along with a cross-sectional view of a plurality of installed adjacent ceiling members, according to an embodiment of the invention, taken along line 9-9.

FIG. 10 is a plan view of a hanger track and a finish hook unit along with cross-sectional view of an installed finish ceiling member and an adjacent ceiling member, according to an embodiment of the invention, taken along line 10-10.

FIG. 11A is a cross-sectional view of the higher end of the underdeck collector system, according to an embodiment of the invention, taken along line 11A-11A.

FIG. 11B is a cross-sectional view of the gutter end of the underdeck collector system, according to an embodiment of the invention, taken along line 11B-11B.

FIG. 12 is another perspective view of the underdeck collector system, showing installed ceiling members, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a pictorial view of a section of a main track after bending to form a fastener flange.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the inventions are shown. Indeed, these inventions may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

When describing parts of the present invention, words of orientation, such as “above” and “below” are sometimes used to indicate relative position, rather than an orientation with respect to the earth's gravitational field. Reference should be had to the context to determine whether a relative or gravitational orientation is intended.

Overview

The present disclosure, according to various embodiments, provides for an underdeck collector system that is designed to be installed under a deck support structure to collect fluids, in including rain water, that pass through the deck, and to drain the fluids towards a gutter in order to prevent the fluids from falling onto the area under the deck. The underdeck collector system includes a plurality of adjacent ceiling members that form a ceiling under the deck. The ceiling members are hung on an array of hooks that are mounted to the support structure in such a manner to allow the ceiling members to form a ceiling when installed. Additionally, the hooks are designed to enable individual ceiling members to be removed from the underdeck collector system without having to remove all of the ceiling members. Furthermore, the ceiling members function as a drainage system for the fluids that pass through the deck, as fluids are collected on the top of each ceiling member and drained towards the gutter. To facilitate the drainage towards the gutter, the hooks are situated so that one end of the ceiling members is more elevated than the other end of the ceiling members, thus allowing the fluids to flow downward toward the gutter, which is situated proximate the lower ends of the ceiling members. Fluids are able to collect in the gutter and may be further drained from the gutter though one or more downspouts (not shown) that may be positioned to receive the fluids from the gutter.

DESCRIPTION

Reference is now made to FIGS. 1-3, which represents the general assembly of the underdeck collector system 10, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The underdeck collector system resides below the deck support structure 17, the support structure itself being supported by one or more support posts 18. The support structure typically is provided by a plurality of spaced apart conventional ceiling joists 19. The underdeck collector system 10 includes a plurality of ceiling members 11 and a finish ceiling member 12 that are supported below the support structure 17 by a plurality of downwardly extending hooks and a plurality of finish hooks mounted to the support structure in an array. In particular embodiments, a continuous track defines at least two of the plurality of hooks, and one or more tracks are mounted to the support structure to support the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12, in a manner described in more detail below. In other embodiments, two tracks are employed to support the ceiling members, the tracks including a higher track assembly 13 and a lower track assembly 14. The higher track supports a higher end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 at a higher elevation than the lower track 14 supports a lower end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 at a lower elevation to enable fluids to drain from the higher end of the ceiling to the lower end of the ceiling.

Furthermore, according to embodiments of the present invention, the underdeck collector system 10 includes an elongate higher end cap 15 and an elongate gutter member 16. The higher end cap 15 is mounted to the support structure 17, is situated transverse to the length of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12, and is positioned to receive the higher ends of the ceiling members 11 and 12. The gutter member 16 is mounted to the support structure 17 at the opposite (lower) ends of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12, situated transverse to and positioned to receive their lower ends. The higher ends of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 rest on the higher end cap 15 and the lower end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 rest on the gutter member 16 in a manner described in more detail below. The gutter member 16 defines a trough positioned to receive fluids from the lower end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12, also described in more detail below.

FIG. 3 depicts a view of the underdeck collector system 10 from below, according to an embodiment of the invention, with the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 uninstalled to expose the hanging structure. The higher track 13 and lower track 14 assemblies each include a main track 30a, 30b, respectively, and a finish hook unit 31a, 31b, respectively, at one end of the main track 30a or 30b. Each main track 30a, 30b is designed to support the ceiling members 11 and each finish hook unit 31a, 31b is designed to support the finish ceiling member 12 in a manner described below.

Furthermore, according to embodiments of the present invention, the underdeck collector system 10 includes an elongate higher end cap 15 and an elongate gutter member 16. The higher end cap 15 is mounted to the support structure 17 and situated proximate the higher track 13 in a position where the higher end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 may rest transverse to the higher end cap 15 when the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 are installed. The gutter member 16 is mounted to the support structure 17 and situated proximate the lower track 14 in a position where the lower end of the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 may rest transverse the gutter member 16 when the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12 are installed.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a ceiling member 11, according to an embodiment of the invention. The ceiling member 11 includes an elongate panel 110. The bottom side of the elongate panel 110 serves as the ceiling on the underside of the underdeck collector system 10 and the top side of the elongate panel 110 serves to receive fluid that passes through the support structure 17. The ceiling member 11 also includes at least one J-shaped female leg 111 extending upwardly from the elongate panel 110 and outwardly beyond a first elongate side edge of the elongate panel 110 and opening in a first direction. Additionally, the ceiling member 11 includes at least one inverted J-shaped male leg 112 extending upwardly from a second elongate side edge of the elongate panel 110 and also opening in the first direction. The male and female legs are shaped so that the male leg 112 can nest within a female leg 111 of an adjacent ceiling member 11 as best shown in FIG. 9. In various embodiments of the present invention, the male leg 112 and the female leg 112 are each a continuous leg along a respective one of the elongate sides of the elongate panel 110, in which case the panel 110 and legs 111 and 112 are formed by bending the material of the ceiling member from a flat sheet. The male leg 112 may optionally be positioned proximate to, but spaced inwardly from, the second elongate edge of the panel 110.

FIGS. 5 and 6 show the finish ceiling member 12, according to an embodiment of the invention. The finish ceiling member 12 includes an elongate finish panel 120, in which a bottom side of the elongate finish panel 120 serves as the ceiling on the underside of the underdeck collector system 10 and in which a top side of the elongate finish panel 120 serves to receive fluid that passes through the support structure 17. At least one J-shaped male leg 121 extends upwardly from a first elongate side edge of the finish panel 120 and opens in the first direction (the same direction upon installation in which the J-shaped male leg 112 of a ceiling member 11 opens). Additionally, the ceiling member includes at least one inverted L-shaped finish leg 122 extending upwardly and inwardly from a second elongate finish panel 120 side edge, opening in a second direction opposite the first direction. As will become clear, the finish ceiling member 120 is used only as the last in a series of ceiling members following one or more ceiling members 11. The finish ceiling member is supported in part by one or more finish hook units 31a, 31b. The width of the finish ceiling member 12 typically is varied to adjust for the dimension of the deck structure, so that the ceiling members 11 can have a standard width matching the fixed distance between hooks of the tracks to be described below.

As shown in FIG. 6, the inverted L-shaped finish leg 122 defines one or more finish leg cutouts 123 in the inwardly extending portion of the leg 122. The cutouts 123 are positioned to allow passage of spaced-apart finish hooks 311 there through during installation, as will be described in connection with FIG. 10.

FIG. 7 depicts a plan view of a track 30 from which a segment 30a of the higher track assembly 13 and also a segment 30b of the lower track assembly 14 depicted above in FIG. 3 can be made, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The track 30 defines at least two of a plurality of hooks 302 that are designed to support the ceiling members 11 and finish ceiling member 12. When installed, the hooks 302 open in the second direction opposite to the first direction in which the J-shaped legs 111 and 112 open.

In particular embodiments, the track 30 is an integral blank 306 of sheet material, for example a strip of sheet metal, in which a plurality of spaced-apart cutouts 304 define the plurality of hooks 302 and in which a plurality of fastener openings 307 are defined in an area of the strip extending above the cutouts 304. Two parallel rows 316 and 317 of fastener openings 307 may be provided. Each of the plurality of hooks 302 is shaped to receive one of the male legs 112 and one of the female legs 111 of a ceiling member 11, and each of the plurality of hooks 302 opens in the same direction as the other hooks 302. In various embodiments, the plurality of hooks 302 define J-shaped hooks, and in even further embodiments, the plurality of hooks 302 define downwardly extending J-shaped hooks. Other shapes and orientations for the hooks 302 may be employed, according to embodiments of the present invention. Within the integral blank, each cutout 304 extends from an open side of one of the J-shaped hooks 302 to a closed side of an adjacent, or second, J-shaped hook 302. Furthermore, each cutout is shaped such that each J-shaped hook 302 includes a supporting buttress 305 integral with the closed side of the J-shaped hook 302.

In addition, the integral blank 306 is bendable longitudinally above the cutouts 304, for example at a right angle to form a fastener flange 320, as shown in FIG. 13. The bend may be positioned to place either only row 316 of openings in the flange, or both rows 316 and 317 in the flange. The openings 307 in the flange may then be used to mount the track to the underside of the support structure 17 with the hooks 302 extending downwardly there from. To form a track 30a with a hook structure that extends a shorter distance from the support structure, suitable for the higher track assembly 13, the integral blank is bendable along a crease line 309 located such that both rows 316 and 317 of fastener openings reside on a flange 320a. In the alternative, the integral blank is bendable along a crease line 308 located between the rows of openings 316 and 317, so that only the openings 316 are in a flange 320b of a track 30b as shown in FIG. 13. This creates a longer hook structure suitable for the lower track assembly 14, which is mounted closer to the gutter 16. In this way the slope needed for the ceiling members when hung on the track assemblies can be provided using one base manufactured part 30 that can be fabricated by bending in two different places.

Furthermore, the integral blank 306 may include at least one line of weakness 301 between a pair of the downwardly extending J-shaped hooks 302, formed by a line of perforations through the sheet material. The lines of weakness allow the integral blank to be broken apart into one or more hook units 300, according to an embodiment of the present invention. However, the lines of weakness do not significantly compromise the structural integrity of the track assembly, because the fastener flange 320 can be attached to the support structure between every pair of lines of weakness. Each hook unit 300 includes at least one of the cutouts 304 and at least one of the J-shaped hooks 302, and a plurality of fastener openings 307 defined in the area of the fastener flange 320 associated with the unit 300.

FIG. 8 is a plan view of a finish hook unit 31, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The finish hook unit 31 includes a finish strip of material 315, from which a finish hook 311 is cut out at one end, and a plurality of fastener openings 312 defined in an area of the finish hook unit 31 above the finish hook 311. In one embodiment, as shown, one row of slots 322 is spaced inwardly from an elongate edge of the unit 31 opposite the hook 311, and an array of circular holes 323 are formed between the row of slots and the hook. The finish hook 311 is shaped to receive the finish leg 122 of a finish ceiling member 12. In various embodiments, the finish hook 311 defines a J-shaped hook, and in further embodiments, the finish hook 31 defines a downwardly extending J-shaped hook. In particular embodiments, the finish hook 311 opens in the first direction, opposite to the second direction in which the downwardly extending J-shaped hooks 302 open. Other shapes and orientations for the finish hook 311 may be employed, according to embodiments of the present invention.

In addition, the finish hook unit 31 is bendable like the track 30 at different crease lines with respect to the fastener openings 322 and 323 to form a fastener flange 325, such that when the finish hook unit 31 is bent it can be mounted to the underside of the support structure 17. To fabricate a finish hook unit compatible with the higher track assembly 13, the finish hook unit 31 is bendable along a crease line 314 located to create a fastener flange 325a and to position the finish hook 311 at the same distance below the support structure as the hooks 302 of the higher track assembly 13. In the alternative, the finish hook unit 31 is bendable along a crease line 313 located between a top row of fastener openings 322 and of the circular fastener openings 323. This creates a finish hook unit with a fastener flange 325b in which the hooks 311 will extend below the support structure the same distance as the hooks 302 of the lower track assembly 14.

FIG. 9 is a plan view of a hanger track 30a along with a cross-sectional view of a plurality of installed adjacent ceiling members 11a, 11b, 11c, according to an embodiment of the invention. The track 30a includes at least two hooks 302 on which a plurality of ceiling members 11 are supported. The plurality of hooks 302 are mounted to the support structure 17 in an array, and each of the plurality of hooks 302 open in a second direction in comparison to the direction in which the J-shaped female leg 111 and the J-shaped male leg 112 of each of the ceiling members 11 open. In addition, two of the ceiling members 11 are positioned adjacent to one another with the male leg 112 of one of the ceiling members 11a nested within the female leg 111 of the adjacent ceiling member 11b, and such nested legs 111, 112 are supported on at least one of the hooks 302. In particular, at least a first hook 302a and a second hook 302b of the plurality of hooks are spaced apart by a distance selected to position the first hook 302a to receive the male leg 112 of one ceiling member 11a and to position the second hook 302b to receive the female leg 111 of the same ceiling member 11a. This design is continued throughout the length of the track 30a. In the embodiment shown, the adjacent ceiling members are constructed so that their respective nested legs abut approximately at the respective panels 120 to form a visually pleasing seam in the ceiling.

With reference to FIG. 3, it can be seen that the configuration of FIG. 9 is found in both the higher and lower track assemblies 13 and 14, with the exception that the hooks 302 extend down further from the support structure in the lower track assembly 14 and the fastener flange 320 is narrower. The two track assemblies are sufficient to support the weight of several lengthy ceiling members 11, 12 when the track material is, for example, about 0.07 inch thick galvanized steel sheet, and the ceiling members are made, for example, from about 0.03 inch galvanized steel sheet. Furthermore, the hooks 302 are shaped and positioned to define a clearance space there between such that the female leg 112 of one ceiling member 11a can be lifted into an adjacent cutout 304 allowing the male leg 112 of the adjacent ceiling member 11b to be removed from its supporting hook 302a to permit full removal of the ceiling member without removing other ceiling members, as described in detail below.

Although the hooks 302 are shown provided along a one-piece track, the hooks can be provided on individual members attached to the support structure in a spaced array suitable for hanging the ceiling members.

FIG. 10 is a plan view of a hanger track 30a and a finish hook unit 31a along with cross-sectional view of an installed finish ceiling member 12 and an adjacent ceiling member 11, according to an embodiment of the invention. The track 30a and the finish hook unit 31a combine to form both the higher track assembly 13, as depicted in FIG. 3. It will be understood that the track 30b and finish hook unit 31b are similar, except for narrower fastener flanges 320b and 325b. The track 30a includes a hook 302 at the end of the track 30a, opening in the second direction. The finish hook unit 31a includes a finish hook 311 opening in the first direction that is substantially opposite the direction toward which each of the plurality of hooks 302 opens. The finish hook 311 is shaped to receive the inverted L-shaped finish leg 122 of the finish ceiling member 12, while the adjacent hook 302 is spaced from the finish hook 311 and positioned to receive the male leg 121 of the finish ceiling member 12, as well as the female leg 111 of an adjacent ceiling member 11. The finish hook unit 31a can be secured to the support structure in this position, and further can be secured to the overlapping track 30a by drilling holes in the track at one or more of the openings 323, and inserting fasteners such as sheet metal screws or nuts and bolts (not shown).

FIGS. 11A and 11B depict the relation of the ceiling members 11 and/or finish ceiling member 12 to the higher end cap 15 and the gutter member 16, according to an embodiment of the invention. As shown in FIGS. 1, 3 and 11A, the higher end cap 15 encloses the upper ends of the ceiling members 11, 12. According to one embodiment, the higher end cap is formed from an integral sheet bent to include a vertical panel 153, a reinforced flange 151 extending approximately horizontally from a bottom edge of the vertical panel, and a flashing panel 152 extending outwardly while sloping downwardly from an upper edge of the vertical panel 153. The flange 151 is folded back on itself to form a double thickness to reinforce the strength of the flange, although it does not bear the weight of the ceiling members. The flashing panel 152 can be secured to the support structure near the vertical panel. Its slope helps to direct water from above into the ceiling members 11, 12.

The higher end cap 15 is mounted to the support structure parallel to the tracks 30 adjacent to the extending ends of the ceiling members 11, 12 so that the extending ends of the ceiling panels are positioned, when installation is complete, spaced apart from the vertical panel 153 but covered from below by the flange panel 151.

FIG. 11B is a cross-sectional view of the gutter end of the underdeck collector system, according to an embodiment of the invention. According to one embodiment, the gutter end member 16 is formed from an integral sheet bent to define a gutter trough 160 from a vertical back panel 162, a bottom panel 161, a vertical front panel 163, and a lip 164 extending from a top edge of the vertical front panel toward the back panel 162. A gutter attachment flange 165 extends from a top edge of the vertical back panel horizontally over the bottom panel to allow the gutter 16 to be secured to the support structure 17. When the ceiling members are installed, lower ends of the ceiling members 11, 12 extend beyond the lip 164, and terminate spaced apart from the vertical back panel 162. Thus, the trough 160 is positioned to receive fluids such as rain water from the lower end of the ceiling members 11, 12. The vertical back panel 162 may be made in a trapezoidal shape (not shown) to provide a slope along the gutter for water discharge from one of its ends. In the alternative, the gutter 16 may be installed at an angle (for example defined by shims) to provide a slope.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the overall length of each of the ceiling panels 11, 12 is shorter than the distance between the installed positions of the vertical panel 153 of the higher end cap 15 and the vertical back panel 162 of the gutter 16, for example, by about 2 inches. This end gap tolerance allows the ceiling members to be manipulated during installation and removal as described below, and to drain into the trough 160. In many installations, the ceiling members 11, 12 will be of approximately equal length and the end members 15 and 16 will be approximately parallel to one another. However, when support structure is not rectangular, the end members may follow its curvature or corners, and the ceiling members may be varied in length so that a similar end gap tolerance is maintained.

Assembly

The underdeck collector system 10 according to embodiments of the present invention typically is installed after construction of a deck having a support structure 17 including a plurality of spaced apart, parallel floor joists. Building walls often lie closely adjacent to one or more edges of the deck structure. The purpose of the underdeck collector system 10 is to provide a ceiling under the floor joists 19 that can prevent rain water, other liquids, dirt, and debris from falling through the deck flooring and joists onto the area below the deck, and also can provide a pleasing appearance. Given a deck structure, ceiling members 11, a finish ceiling member 12, typically two track units 30a, 30b bent to provide higher and lower hooks, a higher end cap 15, and a gutter end piece 16, are manufactured to fit the space using conventional sheet metal fabrication equipment. Track pieces can be trimmed to length using the lines of weakness 301.

Installation according to an embodiment of the inventions begins by securing the track assemblies 13 and 14 to the underside of the joists 19 of the support structure 17, positioning the track assemblies parallel to one another and spaced inwardly from the respective edges of the deck that run transverse to the joists, as shown in FIG. 3. This is done by driving fasteners, such as nails or screws (not shown), through the flanges 320 into the joists. Main track sections 30a, 30b extend from a first outside joist to a position providing a hook 302 at approximately the width of the finish ceiling member 12 from the opposite extreme joist (typically the innermost joist). Then, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 10, finish hook units 31a, 31b are installed to span the space to be occupied by the finish ceiling member 12.

Before or after installation of the track assemblies, the higher end cap 15 and the gutter 16 are installed by driving similar fasteners up through the flashing 152 and the gutter attachment flange 165, respectively, into the joists near respective ends of the joists. Typically, the higher end cap 15 will be positioned adjacent to and along a building wall, with the flashing 152 and reinforced flange 151 extending under the joists toward the tracks. The gutter 16 will be positioned along the opposite edge of the deck away from the building wall, with the trough 160 opening under the joists and toward the tracks. If another building wall or the like restricts space along the deck at one of the ends of the track assemblies, then that end is selected to receive the finish hook units 31. If the deck is bounded by walls on three sides, both ends of the track assemblies may be provided with finish hook units 31. If desired, a downspout (not shown) may be connected to carry water from the gutter 16.

The installation shown in FIGS. 1-3 is an example in which there is sufficient clearance at the end of the track assemblies opposite the finish hook units 31 to hang a male leg 112 over the outermost hooks 302. The ceiling members 11, 12 can be installed or removed in any sequence, but initial installation proceeds most efficiently if the finish ceiling member 12 is installed first, so that female legs 111 are hung over previously positioned male legs as additional ceiling members are installed.

Turning to the finish ceiling member 12, the male leg 121 is hung on the hooks 302 of the tracks 30 closest to the finish hook units 31. Generally described, the cutouts 123 in the inverted L-shaped leg 122 are passed over the hooks 311, requiring little clearance between the hook 311 and an adjacent wall. Then the ceiling member 12 is slid into a position in which a solid portion of the leg 122 rests on each hook 311, and the ends of the ceiling member are positioned one over the reinforced flange 151 and the other over the trough 160. Described in more detail, it will be seen that one of the cutouts 123 is spaced from one end of the ceiling member a distance to allow that (lower) end to clear the gutter 16 as the ceiling member is raised past the hooks 311 of the unit 31b. Then that lower end of the ceiling member can be slid farther than its final distance into the gutter. At that position, the second cutout 123 is positioned at the other hook 311 of the unit 31a, and the other (upper) end of the ceiling member can clear the flange 151 as the cutout is raised past the hook 311. Then the ceiling member is slid back toward the vertical panel 153 until the upper end reaches its final position above the flange 151, with the lower end emptying into the gutter and both ends hidden from below.

One of the ceiling members 11 then is installed under the tracks adjacent to the finish ceiling member by hanging its female leg 111 on the same hooks 302 of the track assemblies 13 and 14 that previously received the male leg 121 of the finish ceiling member 12, and hanging its male leg 112 over the next hooks 302, as best shown in FIG. 9. As in the case of the finish ceiling member, the ceiling member 11 is jockeyed first to position a lower end farther than its final distance into the gutter in order to raise the other end past the flange 151; then the ceiling member is moved to its final position with the legs over the hooks 302 as described. This process is repeated until all the ceiling members 11 are hung in place. FIG. 12 shows some of the ceiling members installed.

The ceiling members' weight is borne by the tracks 30, 31, not by the flange 151 or gutter 16, although the ceiling member may or may not touch the flange 151 or lip 164. Furthermore, the cutouts 304 do not reduce the weight bearing strength of the tracks, because the vertical span of track material adjacent each hook 302 is intact.

The configuration of the tracks 30 and ceiling members 11 allow easy removal and installation of any individual ceiling member without removal of adjacent ceiling members, taking advantage of the cutouts 304 provided for this purpose. Each ceiling member 11a when installed has a male leg 112 trapped by a female leg 111 of a first adjacent ceiling member 11b, and a female leg 111 resting on a male leg 112 of a second adjacent ceiling member 11e, as shown in FIG. 9. To remove the ceiling member 11a, one raises the female leg of the member 11b into the dotted line position shown in FIG. 9, that is, up into the cutout 304. This allows the male leg 112 to be removed from the hook 302a as the female leg 111 is removed from the hook 302b. To reinstall the ceiling member 11a, again the female leg of member 11b is raised to allow positioning of the male leg 112 of member 11a onto the hook 302a.

It should be noted that during installation and use of the system, in the disclosed embodiment no fasteners of any type need secure the ceiling members to any track, to any joist or other part of the support structure, or to any other ceiling member. Likewise, removal of individual ceiling members can occur without removal of any fasteners. Fasteners could be added as desired, but they are not required.

Many modifications and other embodiments of the inventions set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which these inventions pertain having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the inventions are not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.