It's easy to get lost in acronyms, and the building and construction industry is full of them. From PVC (polyvinyl chloride) to OSB (oriented strand board), the lingo can take a long time to memorize. While the Acronym Finder website lists over two hundred entries for the acronym "OTS", many of which might, conceptually, have a ceiling — OTS ceilings are actual ceilings installed in homes and offices.
Residential ceiling construction is almost exclusively manufactured on-site by fastening gypsum or drywall panels to structural joists above. The drywall is fastened with drywall screws. The divots from the screws are smoothed over with plaster or joint compound. The edges are then taped with paper or mesh before being coated with a thin veneer of joint compound. They're finished with one of a number of hand finishes or machine textures. The majority of the cost of this traditional, non-OTS residential ceiling method is not in materials, but the skilled labor required to custom make the ceiling on-site.
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Off the Shelf (OTS) Ceilings
An OTS ceiling is a pre-manufactured ceiling system. Rather than having raw materials such as drywall available through building centers, an integrated ceiling building system is available. The size requirements are specified to the manufacturer or reseller. The parts are then made available as they might be in a kit. OTS ceiling systems are sometimes used in residential applications, but they are far more common in commercial buildings, such as offices.
Acoustic Tile Drop Ceilings
Commercial buildings are usually taller from floor to floor than the common 8 or 9 foot residential floor. Residential floor systems allow relatively compact electrical and mechanical systems like ductwork to be tucked in the into the floor joists. Commercial buildings generally require more space for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, so they have taller floors, suspending these systems from the ceiling. To hide the systems, they often use non-structural drop ceilings, providing a visual screen for occupants. Acoustic tile ceilings are very common. They suspend a lightweight metal grid in which sound-absorbing tiles are suspended.
Variations on a Theme
While acoustic tile drop ceilings are functional and cost-effective, few people would argue the typical acoustic tile aesthetically remarkable. However, there's nothing unattractive about the functional design. It's just a grid. Off the shelf ceiling systems can employ a variety of beautiful tile systems to be hung from traditional off the shelf grids. Some off the shelf systems are different variations on the drop-ceiling theme, often in scale and texture. OTS systems are not limited to the drop-grid design: they include any system that is designed and build off-site for subsequent on-site installation.