Title:
Suspended ceiling system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A suspended ceiling system including a plurality of hangers coupled to a support structure. The plurality of hangers each has a first end, a second end and an elongated body portion. The first and second ends each include female attachment portions. A plurality of main rails are supported to the support structure by the hangers and a plurality of cross rails extend between the main rails and are supported by rail clips forming a grid capable of supporting ceiling panels.



Inventors:
Saidoo, Paul D. (Swartz Creek, MI, US)
Meyer, Kevin E. (Swartz Creek, MI, US)
Reid Jr., David H. (Flint, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/132667
Publication Date:
11/24/2005
Filing Date:
05/19/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01B25/22; E04B9/06; E04B9/12; E04B9/18; (IPC1-7): E01B25/22
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
GLESSNER, BRIAN E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HARNESS DICKEY (TROY) (Troy, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A suspended ceiling system comprising: a plurality of hangers fixedly connected to a support structure, said plurality of hangers each having a first end, a second end and an elongated body portion, said first and second ends each including a female attachment portion; a plurality of main rails supported to the support structure by said hangers; and a plurality of cross rails extending between said main rails and supported thereby.

2. The suspended ceiling system of claim 1, wherein each of said hangers includes at least one aperture for selectively mounting said hanger to said support structure.

3. The suspended ceiling system of claim 2, wherein said body portion includes at least one elongated adjustment slot operable to receive a fastener therein.

4. The suspended ceiling system of claim 1, further comprising a hanger extension coupler having a first end and a second end, said first and second ends each having a male attachment portion adapted to be coupled to said female attachment portion of said hanger.

5. The suspended ceiling system of claim 1, wherein said plurality of main rails each has a T-shaped cross-section, including a vertical rail portion having a first end and a second end and a horizontal rail portion extending on opposite sides of said second end of said vertical rail portion, said vertical rail portion including a male attachment portion on said first end.

6. The suspended ceiling system of claim 1, wherein said main rails and said cross rails are formed from plastic.

7. A main rail for a suspended ceiling comprising: a single vertical rail portion having an upper end and a lower end and a horizontal rail portion extending on opposite sides of said lower end of said vertical rail portion, said vertical rail portion including an attachment portion on said upper end, said attachment portion includes a male attachment portion.

8. The main rail of claim 7, wherein said horizontal rail portion of said main rail including an interlock notch feature.

9. The main rail of claim 8, wherein said male attachment portion has a generally semi-cylindrical cross-section.

10. The main rail of claim 7, wherein said vertical rail portion includes a pair of tile alignment arms extending at an angle from said vertical rail portion below said attachment portion.

11. The main rail of claim 10, wherein said angle is between 30 degrees and 60 degrees.

12. The main rail of claim 7, wherein said horizontal rail portions include a pair of tile alignment guide ribs extending along an upper surface of said horizontal rail portions.

13. The main rail of claim 7, wherein said main rail is formed from plastic.

14. A soffit rail for a suspended ceiling comprising: a vertical panel support portion and a horizontal panel support portion fixedly attached to one another and an attachment portion extending from at least one of said vertical panel support portion and said horizontal panel support portion.

15. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said soffit rail is a lower soffit rail, said vertical panel support portion generally extending in an upward direction, said attachment portion extending from at least one of an upper portion of said vertical panel support portion and said horizontal panel support portion.

16. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said soffit rail is an upper soffit rail, said vertical panel support portion generally extending in a downward direction, said attachment portion extending from at least one of an upper portion of said vertical panel support portion and said horizontal panel support portion.

17. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said attachment portion of said soffit rail includes a male attachment portion.

18. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said horizontal panel support portion of said soffit rail includes an interlock notch feature.

19. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said horizontal panel support portion includes a self-alignment arm extending at an angle from an upper portion of said horizontal panel support.

20. The soffit rail of claim 19, wherein said angle is between 30 degrees and 60 degrees.

21. The soffit rail of claim 14, wherein said soffit rail is formed from plastic.

22. A hanger for a suspended ceiling system comprising: a first end; a second end; and an elongated body portion, said first and second ends each including a female attachment portion.

23. The hanger of claim 22, wherein said hanger includes at least one aperture for selectively mounting said hanger to a ceiling joist.

24. The hanger of claim 22, wherein said body portion includes at least one elongated adjustment slot adapted to receive a fastener therein.

25. The hanger of claim 22, wherein at least one of said female attachment portions has a semi-circular opening.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/572,792, filed on May 20, 2004, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to suspended ceiling systems, and more particularly, to an easily installed adjustable suspended ceiling system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to suspended ceiling systems. Numerous systems have been developed for providing suspended or “dropped” ceilings which are popular for use in commercial and industrial buildings as well as residential dwellings such as for basements.

Suspended ceiling systems are typically comprised of a series of rails forming a grid that is capable of holding ceiling panels. These grids are typically mounted to an “exposed joist” or “existing ceiling surface.” The rails are typically suspended by a wire that is connected to the mounting surface and/or the rails are connected directly adjacent to the underside of the support structure. These configurations make it difficult to install and adjust the level of the rails.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A suspended ceiling system is provided including a plurality of hangers mounted to a series of ceiling joists. The plurality of hangers each has a first end, a second end and an elongated body portion. The first and second ends each include female attachment portions. A plurality of main rails are supported to the ceiling joists by the hangers and a plurality of cross rails extend between the main rails and are supported thereby, forming a grid capable of supporting ceiling panels.

Further areas of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating the preferred embodiment of the invention, are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic front plan view of a suspended ceiling system according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the suspended ceiling system shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is a side plan view of a main rail of a suspended ceiling system according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 3B is a cross sectional view of the main rail shown in FIG. 3A;

FIG. 4A is a side plan view of a hanger of a suspended ceiling system according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 4B is a front plan view of the hanger shown in FIG. 4A;

FIG. 5A is a perspective view of a coupler for a hanger of a suspended ceiling system according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 5B is a cross sectional view taken along line 5B-5B of the coupler shown in FIG. 5A;

FIG. 6A is a side view of the upper rail clip according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 6B is an end plan view of the upper rail clip;

FIG. 6C is a perspective view of the upper rail clip mounted to a head of a rail according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an end view of an alternative design for the upper rail clip;

FIG. 8 is an end view of a second alternative design for the upper rail clip;

FIG. 9 is an end view of a third alternative design for the upper rail clip according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 10A is a plan view of the rail clip according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 10B is a front view of the rail clip;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the rail clip;

FIG. 12A is a side view of the upper soffit rail according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 12B is a detailed cross-sectional view of the upper soffit rail according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 13A is a side view of the lower soffit rail according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 13B is a detailed cross-sectional view taken along line 13B-13B of FIG. 13A;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a flush mount hanger according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 15-15 of FIG. 14;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of yet another alternative hanger design for use with conventional suspended ceiling railing systems;

FIG. 17 is a front side view of a spacing and leveling tool for mounting the hangers according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 18 is a back side view of the spacing and leveling tool as shown in FIG. 17;

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 19-19 of FIG. 17; and

FIG. 20 is top-side view of the spacing and leveling tool shown in FIG. 17.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The following description of the preferred embodiment(s) is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the invention, its application, or uses.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the suspended ceiling system 10 according to the principles of the present invention includes main rails 12 which are supported to the ceiling joists 14 by hangers 16. The hangers 16 are connected to the joists 14 by screws 18. Cross rails 20 extend between the parallel main rails 12. Ceiling tiles 22 are supported around the perimeter edges by the main rails 12 and cross rails 20. Rails 24 are provided at the perimeter edges of the suspended ceiling system 10. It should be noted that the rails described herein can be made from plastic or metal utilizing an extrusion process or other known molding or forming processes.

The suspended ceiling system 10 includes upper soffit rails 26 and lower soffit rails 28 that are each supported by hangers 16. The upper and lower soffit rails 26, 28 facilitate the forming of the suspended ceiling enclosure around obstacles or obstructions that are in the ceiling such as pipes, heating ducts, and electrical wires. With reference to FIGS. 3A and 3B, a main rail 12 according to the principles of the present invention is shown in detail. The main rail 12 has an inverted, generally T-shaped profile having a horizontal base rail portion 30 extending on opposite sides of a vertical rail portion 32. The vertical rail portion 32 includes a cylindrical interface and alignment/leveling head 34 disposed at an upper end thereof. A pair of self-alignment arms 36 extend from the vertical rail portion 32 at a position below the cylindrical head 34. The self-alignment arms 36 are disposed at an angle relative to the vertical rail portion 32. Preferably, the angle at which the self-alignment arms 36 extend is between 30 and 60 degrees although other angles can be utilized. The horizontal rail portion 30 includes an interlocking channel 38 that is designed to be engaged by interlocking features of the main 12/cross rails 20 and rail clips 84. The horizontal rail portion 30 also includes a pair of tile alignment guide ribs 40 which extend along an upper surface of the horizontal rail portion 30.

The hangers 16 according to the principles of the present invention are illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B. The hangers 16 include a body portion 42 having a female attachment portion 44 (having a semi-cylindrical inner surface with a generally C-shaped cross-section) provided at both ends thereof. The female attachment portions 44 at both ends allow the hangers 16 to be rapidly acquired, positioned, and secured without needing to be oriented prior to installation to the supporting structure 14. The body portion 42 includes apertures 48 which are adapted to receive threaded fasteners or other mechanical fasteners such as screws 18 therethrough for mounting the hangers to the ceiling support structure 14 (best illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2). The hangers 16 are also provided with elongated adjustment slots 50 which are adapted to receive mounting fasteners 18 therethrough that will allow the hangers 16 to be vertically adjusted relative to the joists 14 for leveling purposes prior to installation of a second screw in the apertures 48. The hangers 16 preferably come in a universal length that can be connected to one another, end to end, to provide longer lengths by using a coupler 46 (FIGS. 5A, 5B) so that the hangers 16 having a single length can be utilized in combination to provide hangers with different lengths as needed. As an alternative, hangers of various lengths can also be utilized. One of skill in the art will realize that male attachment portions could also be employed at one or both ends of the hangers 16.

As shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B, the coupler 46 includes two male attachment portions 47 that can be utilized for insertion into the female attachment portions 44 for connecting two hangers 16 together as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. The male attachment portions 47 are generally symmetrical and extend between a series of retention guides 49. The guides 49 are generally symmetrical and larger in diameter than the male attachment portions 47, preventing the female attachment portions 44 of the hanger 16 to be easily translated axially past the guides 49.

With reference to FIGS. 2, 3A, and 3B, the cross rails 20 will now be described. The cross rails 20 have an inverted generally T-shaped profile which is the same as the main rails as illustrated in FIG. 3B, including a horizontal rail portion 30 and a vertical rail portion 32. The vertical rail portion 32 includes upper opposing arms 36 extending on opposite sides of the vertical rail 32. The horizontal rail section 30 includes a spacer alignment and engagement feature including ribs 40 which act as spacers for the ceiling tiles 22 and retention features for the rail clips 184 or 190. As illustrated in FIG. 3B, the horizontal rail portion 30 includes an interlock notch feature 38 and 40 which is designed to engage the rail clip 184 or 190 as illustrated in FIG. 3B. The rail clips 184 position and prevent the cross rails 20 from moving away from the main rails 12, as illustrated in FIG. 2. As illustrated in FIG. 2, when the rail clips 184 are properly inserted into the main rail 12 and cross rail 20, the horizontal rail portion 30 of the cross rails 20 are flush with the horizontal rail portion 30 of the main rail 12.

With reference to FIGS. 6A, 6B, and 6C, the suspended ceiling system 10, according to the principles of the present invention, includes upper rail clips 86 which can be utilized for connecting the main rails 12 and upper and lower soffit rails 26, 28 together and maintaining alignments thereof. The upper rail clip 86 as illustrated in FIGS. 6A and 6B has a generally C-shaped cross section defining a channel portion 88 which receives the cylindrical head portion 34 of the rails that are abutted end to end. The upper rail clips 86 can be designed to be snugly fit to the heads 34 for resisting relative sliding motion of the abutting rails 12 relative to one another. FIGS. 7-9 illustrate alternative cross sections for the rail clips 90, 92, and 94. In FIGS. 7-9, the upper rail clips 90, 92 are provided with finger portions 96 which aid in the assembly and the removal of the upper rail clips 90, 92 from the heads 34 of the rails. Otherwise, it is noted that a screwdriver, or other implement for prying open the upper rail clips 90, 92, may be utilized for facilitating the removal of the rail clips 90, 92.

An inner rail clip 184 is used, as shown in FIGS. 10A, 10B. The inner rail clip 184 includes two generally identical planar sections 186, 188. The inner rail clip 184 is designed to snugly fit between a vertical rail portion 32 and a self alignment arm 36 at an upper location and between a vertical rail portion 32 and an interlocking notch feature 38 and 40 at a lower location. The interaction between the inner rail clip 184 and a series of rails limits the rails from moving transversely relative to one another. As shown in FIG. 11, the inner rail clip 190 is formed such that the planar sections 186, 188 are oriented at an angle of approximately 90 degrees and/or bent relative to one another, allowing installation between any rail 12, 26, 28, cross rail 20 at a corner interface.

With reference to FIGS. 12A and 12B, an upper soffit rail 26 is shown. The upper soffit rail 26 includes a first vertical tile channel portion 100 open in a downward direction disposed between first and second vertical rail portions 104, 106 and below an upper horizontal rail portion 108. A lower horizontal rail portion 110 extends from the second vertical rail portion 106. The lower horizontal rail portion 110 includes substantially the same rail clip interface configuration as main rail 12 and cross rail 20, features 32, 36, 38, and 40. A cylindrical interface and alignment head 114 having the same configuration as the head 34 of the main rail 12 and cross rail 20 is provided at the upper end of the vertical rail portion 106. A tile alignment arm 102 extends from the second vertical rail portion 106 at a position below the cylindrical head 114. The tile alignment arm 102 is disposed at an angle relative to the second vertical rail portion 106. The angle at which the tile alignment arm 102 extends is between 30 and 60 degrees. In the assembled position as best illustrated in FIG. 1, the upper soffit rail 26 receives vertically extending ceiling tiles 22 in the vertical tile channel 100 and horizontally extending ceiling tiles 22 above the lower horizontal rail portion 110. In addition, cross rails 20 can be received between the vertical tile channel 100 (FIG. 12B) and vertical tile channel 120 of FIG. 12B.

With reference to FIGS. 13A and 13B, the lower soffit rail 28 will now be described. The lower soffit rail 28 includes a first vertical channel 120 opening upward and defined between first and second vertical rail portions 122, 124. A lower horizontal rail portion 126 extends on opposite sides of the second vertical rail portion 124. A first portion 127 of the lower horizontal rail portion 126 defines a lower boundary of the vertical tile channel 120, while a second portion 129 provides a rail for receiving horizontal ceiling tiles 22. An upper horizontal rail portion 130 extends from the second vertical rail portion 124 and includes a cylindrical interface and alignment/leveling head 132 extending therefrom. The cylindrical head 132 has the same configuration as the cylindrical head 34 of the main rail 12 as discussed above. A tile alignment arm 131 extends from the second vertical rail portion 124 at a position below the upper horizontal rail portion 130. The tile alignment arm 131 is disposed at an angle relative to the second vertical rail portion 124. The angle at which the tile alignment arm 131 extends is between 30 and 60 degrees. The second portion 129 of the lower horizontal rail portion 126 includes substantially the same rail clip interface configuration as main rail 12 and cross rail 20, namely features 32, 36, 38, and 40, respectively. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the lower soffit rail 28 (FIGS. 13A, 13B) receives ceiling tiles 22 in the vertical channel 120 and on the second portion 129 of the lower horizontal rail portion 126 as well as receiving rail clips 184. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the cross rails 20 are designed to be connected by rail clips 184, 190 so that the horizontal rail portion 30 is flush with the lower horizontal rail portion 126 (FIGS. 13A, 13B) of the lower soffit rail 28 (FIG. 1).

The upper soffit rail 26 and lower soffit rail 28 are both designed to be suspended by hangers 16 which are mounted to the joists 14 as illustrated in FIG. 1, and by inserting the cylindrical head portion 114, 132, respectively into the female attachment portions 44 of the hangers 16 (FIG. 4).

With reference to FIGS. 12A, 12B and 13A, 13B, the upper soffit and lower soffit rails 26, 28 have been shown and described with reference to an orientation between the horizontal rails and vertical channels. However, it should be understood by one having ordinary skill in the art, that a horizontal channel may be used in place of a horizontal rail and that other desirable angles can be utilized between the angled channels such as a 30, 45, and 60 degree angle, etc. between the respective rails and channels in order to provide upper and lower soffit rails 26, 28 having different configurations.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, and with reference to FIGS. 10A, 10B, and 11, rail clips 184, 190 are provided to be engaged to cross rails 20 having a blunt cut end, allowing the use of the cross rails 20 having various lengths. The rail clips 184, 190 are an interlocking feature which is designed to engage the rail clip notch features 38, 40, and upper arms 36 of the main rail 12 and similar rail clip features of the cross rail 20 (FIG. 3) and soffit rails 24, 26, 28 (FIG. 1). The rail clip 184 allows the cross rail 20 to be generally flush with the lower surface 30 of the main rail 12 (FIG. 3B). Furthermore, the rail clips 184, 190 can be utilized on the ends of the main rails 12 where the main rails 12 engage the cross rails 20, or other main rails 12 along the perimeter of the horizontal support structure.

With reference to FIGS. 14 and 15, a flush mount hanger 150 is shown. The flush mount hanger 150 includes a base portion 152 having elongated slots 154 for mounting the flush mount hanger 150 to the ceiling joist or horizontal support structure 14 by, for example, screws. A pair of opposing snap features 156 extend from a lower surface of the base 152 and define a snap channel 158 for receiving the leveling head 34 of the rails 12, 22, 26, 28 in a snap-fit engagement. In an alternative embodiment, the elongated slots 154 can extend parallel to the channel 158. According to yet another alternative embodiment, the mounting slots 154 can be provided to extend perpendicular to the channel groove 158 or angularly oriented.

As illustrated in FIG. 16, an alternative hanger 160 is provided. The hanger 160 includes a body portion 162 having a mounting slot 164 and mounting aperture 166. A pair of spaced fingers 168 are provided for engaging the upper horizontal rail portion of a conventional main rail of a suspended ceiling system. It is noted that conventional main rails are provided with an upper horizontal rail. The fingers 168 can be flexible to engage the upper horizontal rail, or the hanger 160 can be slid over the ends of the upper horizontal rail portion in order to engage the hangers 160 thereto. The hangers 160 are then mounted to the joists 14 in the same manner as hangers 16, as discussed above.

With reference to FIGS. 17-20, a leveling and spacing device 170 is provided for accurately spacing and leveling the mounting of the hangers 16 to the ceiling joists or support structure 14. The leveling device 170 includes an elongated body 172 having grooves 174 for receiving the hangers 16 therein. The grooves 174 are spaced such that they match the required spacing between the main rails 12 for a given suspended ceiling system 10. A leveling indicator 176 is mounted to the body 172 to provide an indication to the user when the leveling device 170 is in a level position. The leveling indicator 176 can be of the tube and bubble type, or it can be other known electronic indicating mechanisms such as including audible or visual indicators to the user that the device 170 is at a level position. Within each of the grooves 174, mounting pin 178A, 178B can be provided for a snap-fit engagement with the hangers 16 so that the hangers 16 are securely held to the leveling device 170 during mounting of the hangers 16 to the ceiling joists 14. After the hangers 16 are mounted, the hangers 16 can be disengaged from the mounting pins 178 and the leveling device 170 removed therefrom. The mounting pins 178B are adjustably slidable in the elongated slots 179 in order to accommodate the spacing therebetween for different sized ceiling tiles. The mounting pins 178B can be tightened and loosened by a threaded connector 181 (FIG. 19) to allow adjustability.

The leveling device 170 can be provided with a scale 180 along a side surface thereof, in order to enhance the functionality of the leveling device 170. Furthermore, along a top edge, as illustrated in FIG. 19, the leveling device 170 can optionally be provided with a cylindrical head 182 having the same configuration as the cylindrical head 34 of the main rails 12. The cylindrical head 182 can be utilized in engagement with the female end of hangers 16 so as to provide leveling of the hangers 16 which are utilized for hanging a common main rail 12. The head 182 simulates the head of the main rail 12 so that the hangers 16 for hanging that particular main rail 12 can be properly aligned and leveled in a longitudinal direction of the main rails 12. As shown in FIG. 18, the end portion 182A of the head 182 can be used as a perimeter rail locator.

The description of the invention is merely exemplary in nature and, thus, variations that do not depart from the gist of the invention are intended to be within the scope of the invention. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the invention.