A number of us in the “Blacker” thread, mostly descalabro, Tonybradley and I, brainstormed ways to cover a hung ceiling in a non permanent way that will hide both the tiles and the grid work. The magnets were descalabro's excellent idea. There are many different materials and methods that would work, but this is a relatively easy and inexpensive method that worked out really well for me. The total cost was about $300 and it looks professionally installed. Once I got good at it I was able to do about 2 panels each evening. I share this because I made a number of missteps along the way and hopefully this will allow you to avoid them.
Step 1: Make sure your grid is well supported and even.
Spend some time looking down the length of your grid work for lines that are crooked and areas that are bowed. Check the supporting wires to make sure they are sturdy, the proper length, and that there are enough. Every four feet or so is a good rule of thumb. Many of my wires were hanging from bent nails that were ready to fall out. I replaced some with nice big screw in eye hooks and others I drove in big U shaped cable staples over them to make them secure. Also, check that the long tees are butted up against the side that makes for the most consistent measurements. It turns out that mine had to be shifted to butt against the wall on the right side in order to make the grid elements perpendicular as they were when originally installed.
Step 2: Figure out how many tiles you will need
Draw a diagram of the grid work, be it 2' x 4' or 2' x 2' panels. Use that to mark down all actual sizes and determine how many 2' x 4' panels you will need. Give each panel a number since many will only fit in a given location. I used a simple 2 digit notation with the left number being the column and the right number being rows from the screen. 11 would be the left panel closest to the screen and 34 the right most panel farthest from the screen.
[1 Picture of grid work plan]
Step 3: Order magnets
Figure about 20 magnets per panel plus a few spare. I found that the disk 12mm x 3mm magnets worked out fine. I needed 12 panels x 20 = 240 magnets. I bought about 280 for about $70. Ten per panel held it up, but 20 per panel locked it on. Don't get the ring magnets with the hole in the middle since they have specific north and south versions, they break easily, and the glue makes a mess on your fingers as it comes up through the holes. I made a long cylinder with my magnets then marked arrows with a sharpie on the side to point north. It doesn't actually matter which side is north, only that you are consistent.
[2 Picture of magnets with arrows]
Make a plan for how you will glue on the magnets. When it comes to locating the magnets, you will want to place them so that the separate panels try to stick together and work as a team, not reject each other. I used the plan each time I glued magnets to make sure I was consistent. The arrows on the plan and on the panel show the side that will be closest to the screen. If you put the big arrow on the back of the panel just after you glue it, it will assure the velvet is all laying the same direction and that the magnets are all oriented correctly.
[3 Picture of magnet layout plan]
Step 4: Order Velvet
I ordered a 30 yard roll of 45” Triple Black Velvet. This was the most expensive part. It cost about $175.
Step 5: Buy your panel material and spray adhesive
I used Home Depot 4' x 8' x 1/8” hardboard (Eucaboard) and had them cut them into 2' x 4' sections so I could fit them in my car. You have to stress that they cut them pretty accurately since the edges have to be close enough so that when you trim them later they are wide enough to line up on your grid work. I only had to buy 3 boards at less than $8 per board for about $24. I had tried cutting big holes in them to shed some weight but it was far too much work and using 20 magnets works fine with them stock.
I used a 16.7 ounce can of 3M Super 77 Multipurpose adhesive for about $10. I had tried brushed on white glue but the spray was far easier.
Step 6: Build a few of your full size 2'x4' panels for your center column.
Prepare a table to work on:
Set up the velvet roll at the end of a table with a plywood sheet on it big enough to lay panels on. Make it so the material always unrolls and feeds on to the plywood upside down with the side you want facing the screen always to one side, the left in my case.
[3A PICTURE OF VELVET ROLL TABLE]
Prepare the panel:
Cut the panels to exactly 2' x 4' minus 1/8” on each side, so 23 7/8” x 47 7/8”. The velvet ends up being about 1/16” on each side so 1/8” total. My layout only needed three panels this size, the rest were all partial panels. Do width cuts with a table saw. Do length cuts with a circular saw and clamped guide. Stack panels and do all panels the same length with one cut.
You could leave the lengths at a full 48” but you may need to add some metal extenders to the gridwork to help support them. (I'll cover that later)
The velvet will be glued to the shiny side so sand all your edges, especially next to the shiny side to make sure they don't have any chips hanging from them. Wipe down the whole shiny side to remove any sanding dust.
Prepare the velvet:
Roll out a large enough section of velvet upside down on the sheet of plywood to lay the 2' x 4' panel on. Staple the velvet taunt on all sides to make a perfect no wrinkle sheet of velvet to be glued to the panel. If it's not perfect now, it won't be perfect on the panel. Stretch it good and tight. Staples are cheap. Use ¼” staples to make them easy to remove later since these are temporary just to hold the velvet in place. I used a white pencil to mark all the edges of the board where I wanted them to land on the velvet. Cut the velvet off the roll at the edge of the plywood and make sure to wrap the remaining velvet nicely on the roll so it does not crease and create fold lines in the material.
Spray adhesive on the panel:
Do this outside. I put a couple long screws into the legs of an old wooden saw horse about one foot up so that I could and use it to lean the panel against so it would be somewhat vertical and lifted up off the ground. I kept the panel somewhat vertical because inevitably little drops of adhesive fall from the nozzle as you spray and if the panel is laying flat they get all over it. As it is you will still likely get a few. Just dab them with you finger so that they lay flat.
Lay the panel on the velvet:
HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Let the glue dry for at least a minute or two till it is tacky and not wet. If it is at all wet it will leave ugly ripples in your velvet. You can press them down with the flat of your finger nail and get them looking pretty decent, but you are better off avoiding them. I generally walk the whole way in from outside with my sticky panel, and set the panel on end right along one of the white marked edges. I then count to 60 to let it tack up good. Then, swing it down flat. Do not expect to ever move it once it touches. After it is down, I use my hands to apply lots of pressure starting in the center and working out to the edges of the board. I have some weights I throw on the corners and the middle to hold it down for 30 minutes but I'm not sure the weights are necessary. Clean the spray nozzle with acetone to get it ready for the next panel.
Glue the velvet to the edges with white glue:
Pull the staples out and prepare to glue the flaps to the edges. I cut a wedge from each corner so that when I flap it up, the edge toward the corner will not interfere with the edge of the material from the flap adjacent to it.
[4 PICTURE OF FLAPS AND GLUED EDGE]
Run a bead of white glue down the edge of the wood/material sparingly then swing the flap over on the the panel and use shipping tape all along the flap to make sure the material on the entire edge is pulled tightly against the panel. Use lots of smaller strips of shipping tape rather than trying to get the whole edge on it one strip. Put one in the middle then one on each end to pull it taunt. Then fill in pieces of tape all in between to make the entire edge lay flay. Look at the edge as you go add some extra tape as needed. Don't be stingy with the tape. The glue may show though a little on the edges when its wet but don't touch it. It will not matter. After doing each edge, add an extra strip of tape to really pull in each corner. A white bead of glue will likely show up on the corners from the glue being squished out, wipe that off before it dries. Do all four edges this way then leave them dry. I generally flip it over so the weight of the board helps hold the tape in place. Try not to flex the panel after it has been glued because it could distort the material.
[4A FLAPS TAPED]
Glue on the magnets:
Cut off the flaps near the edge. I found that a sharp pair of scissors works pretty well for this. Keep a shop vac nearby since the fuzz gets everywhere. Use a measure to mark all the magnet locations and whether they are to be mounted north or south side up. Place a dab of glue on every mark. Now take your cylinder of magnets and use the arrows on the side to orient them either north or south side up. I push the magnet into the glue then slide it to the edge. This may sound stupid but make sure you keep the cylinder of magnets in your opposite hand so that you don't mistakenly suck off a goo-ed up magnet from the board that you have already applied. Let the glue dry overnight. Next morning, snap the panel in place on the grid. If all went well, every magnet should be holding tight to the grid. If any are not, temporarily use some extra magnets and a little piece of metal next to it to push that section up and train it to stick.
[5 PICTURE OF MAGNETS INSTALLED]
On the outside edge that is visible to the room, I left a short flap of velvet about the width of a magnet rather than cutting it to the edge. This hides the shiny magnets. Rather than cutting it with scissors, use a razor knife to cut a straight line. When you glue the magnets, just swing the flap up so it hides them. You could do this on all edges but it only really mattered for me on three tiles so I didn't bother.
[6 PICTURE OF FLAP SIDE]
Step 7: Cut, build and install the left column of panels.
Now that you have a center column, use it to measure how wide the left panels should be. Hopefully they will all be a uniform width, but if not, account for that. Once I had a couple of the left panels built, I shifted the center panels a little away to allow the left panels to be placed snugly against the left edge and screen side. I then moved the center panels snug against them to make a nice smooth transition between panels. If you did the magnet norths and souths as planned, they will stick together nicely.
Step 8: Cut, build and install the right column of panels
The only difference here is that you have no leeway to push adjacent panels so you need to make sure these are perfectly sized since they are the final pieces to the puzzle.
Sit back and enjoy. It was a lot of work, but the result is awesome!
I pulled down one section to show how easy it is to take off and put back up.
[7 PICTURE OF FINISHED CEILING]
Triple Black Velvet 30 Yards $175
Disk Neodymium Magnets 280 12mm x 3mm $70
Hardboard (Eucaboard) 3 4x8 sheets $24
3M 77 Adhesive Spray 1 16.7 Oz can $10
Arrow T50 1/4” staples 1000 Box $10
Scotch Heavy Duty Packaging Tape 1 Large roll $10
White marking pencil for fabric 1 $7
OPTIONAL: Steel Tees.
I was concerned that my grid may not be perfectly square and that panels may not land quite as squarely on the grid as planned. As a safety net, I inexpensively made up some tees that wrap around the grid and effectively make the surface area twice as wide under the magnets. I'm not sure I would have had to use them, but since I left my center column panels the full 48”, I put them under two magnets on each end. This required 16 tees.
I bought a strip of Z Bar Flashing, 10' unpainted galvanized steel roofing material from Home Depot to make them from. It cost less than $3 for the 10 foot strip. I then cut it lengthwise to cut off the Z and get a flat strip about 1 5/8” wide. Be careful not to cut yourself when you are sliding along the edge cutting it. Blood makes a mess. Leather gloves will help.
[8 PICTURE OF Z FLASHING]
Use this template to cut and bend them.
[9 PICTURE OF TEMPLATE WITH ONE]
I used my vice to bend them, and to put the final crimp on the edges when I had them installed. I tried crimping one with pliers but they did not do it even enough.
[10 PICTURE OF VICE BENDING]
Here is one installed ready to rock
[11 PICTURE OF TEE INSTALLED]
White glue brushed on.
It took forever to brush on the glue and to finish brushing it on before part of it dried. By the time I laid it down, part was too wet and left ridges. I changed over to spray adhesive and never looked back. Spraying took seconds per panel and it was no mess at all doing it outside.
[12 BLOOPER1 GLUE TOO WET]
They only shaved off one pound and I spent hours of hard work drilling them. Then once I was done, they each had a ridge. I cut off the ridge with a razor knife which took another hour. At that point I just abandoned the whole idea and doubled up on the magnets.
[13 BLOOPER 2 HOLES WITH RIDGES]
Velvet soaked in watered down white glue
This one was really bad. My first attempt at gluing a panel resulted in a wadded up ball of wet velvet in the trash can. First off, I watered down the glue way too much, 4 parts water to 1 part glue like I had read on the internet somewhere. That was way too much. 1:1 might work. I thought it would make sense to allow gravity to lay the velvet into the glue so I laid the panel on the table than tried to arrange the fabric on top of it. WRONG. I didn't realize first off that you never glue fabric with glue that is wet. It has to be tacky so that no moisture is absorbed by the fabric. I tried to remove the wrinkles for like 15 minutes and never did get it anywhere near flat. Secondly, the velvet was so wet with watered down glue that had I actually been able to get it flat, it would have had a white glaze on top. Always buy way more velvet that you need!
Hope you enjoyed my folly!