Of Magnets and Metal Ceilings

Lamp hung from magnets

I’m really starting to like my metal ceiling.  I not only like the look, but it has stayed warm with no condensation down to 0° F outside.  I do have a condensation issue somewhere else, but I’m saving that discussion for another post.  One thing I was initially concerned with about the ceiling, though, was how I would add lights to it.

I decided to pick up some neodymium magnets with hooks from Applied Magnets to try and hang some lamps with them.  I got three different sizes to try: 1.25″ at 98 pound pull force, 1″ at 43 pounds, and 3/4″ at 34 pounds.  The 1.25″ have proven the most useful, and have held everything I have tried them with very securely.  The 1″ works good for lighter things like the lamp chains, and the 3/4″ is pretty useless.  Their pull force ratings are definitely on the optimistic side, and I would feel more comfortable rating them at half of what they are listed.

Drying rack

When I was up at a friend’s cabin near the Boundary Waters in 2009, I noticed he had a suspended drying rack around the wood stove.  With floor space at a premium in my small cabin, I knew I had to do something similar.  Looking through the Ikea catalog I found the perfect solution – the KROKEN ceiling-mounted utensil rack.  At only $24.99 with chains, how could I afford to not give it a try?  It’s attached to the ceiling with four of the 1.25″ magnets, and I’m confident it will support any amount of wet winter gear I can hang on it.

KVARTAL curtain track

One thing I never expected to hang from the ceiling was my curtains.  I had already bought some traditional curtain rods (but fortunately not installed them) when I noticed the KVARTAL track system at Ikea.  I got to thinking that the KVARTAL ceiling fixture could be attached to the magnets without too much difficulty thereby creating a curtain rod that could be readily removed and reattached.  I had to modify the ceiling fixture by drilling the hole a little larger, unscrewing the hook from a 1.25″ magnet, then epoxying the two together.  It works and looks great, and it only takes seconds to remove and replace the entire curtain assembly if necessary.

Curtains on track

I now plan on using these KVARTAL rails everywhere else in the cabin – bedroom and bathroom privacy curtains, utility/storage area, and even the shower curtain.  KVARTAL even has a cool corner track so you can easily make a continuous circle ceiling mounted shower curtain.

22 thoughts on “Of Magnets and Metal Ceilings

    1. Steve Post author

      Ricky:

      Northern Wisconsin did not have as severe of storms as the southern part of the state or northern Illinois. It’s usually not that hard for me to get to my cabin in the winter. As private as my property is, the county does plow to within 100 yards of my cabin on the dead end road there. My “next door” neighbor is then able to plow my driveway when I want to visit in the winter.

      Steve

      Reply
  1. Erin

    Hello Steve:

    Great info. As you wrote, there isn’t much out there that includes the nuts and bolts of building with containers. Your blog is a great resource.

    You kept the metal ceilings, but insulated over the metal walls. How did you finish the interior walls? Also, how did you install electrical outlets?

    Thanks,
    Erin

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Erin:

      The interior walls are just drywall over steel or wood studs. The drywall is not finished yet as I’m waiting till it gets a bit warmer outside. The front of the cabin, where the doors open, is framed with wood studs since I was more comfortable using them to support my large windows. Everything else is 1.5″ steel studs, although I probably just do wood studs if I could do it over again.

      The electrical wiring was pretty straightforward, just like regular construction. The only thing I was careful to do was to only use plastic electrical boxes. Since the steel studs are connected to the containers with metal screws, I did not want any steel boxes that could end up conducting electricity to the containers themselves in case of any wiring mishaps. Since the boxes were not expressly designed for steel studs, I also had to place a small length of 2″x2″ lumber on the opposite side of the steel stud to screw the box into.

      I will try to get some pics I have of the electrical up someday.

      Steve

      Reply
  2. Terry

    The magnets are an excellent idea!
    You could almost use the system to cover the ceiling in panelling if the metal look wasn’t to your liking!! Non-conventional living seems to go hand in hand with non-conventional ideas. I like that you’re thinking outside the box. (When you’re inside the box!)

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Terry:

      That thought had crossed my mind, but I’m pretty sure I will like the ceiling. Along those same lines, though, I would consider some type of flat wooden sculpture attached to the ceiling for some interest. I’m not much of an artist, so I would definitely need to get some help with that.

      I never really thought I would be doing something this non-conventional though.

      Steve

      Reply
      1. Aunt Raven

        History offers some great ceiling designs. Google: “Lost Jacobean plaster ceilings” and you will get three pages of fantastic line drawings to inspire you–my favourite designs are on page III. You could cut some lengths of narrow wooden laths or mouldings, paint or stain them your favourite colour; then use magnets to stick them to your ceiling in any of these geometric patterns, which in simplified form look quite modern.

        Reply
        1. Teresa

          I have been thinking about wrapping the outside of my container with that foil bubble stuff and holding it in place with magnets that have the strips with sticky stuff on one side and magnet on the other…

          Reply
          1. Steve Post author

            Teresa:

            Foil bubble insulation is not rated for external applications and will quickly degrade in the sun and elements. The only kind of insulation that I will recommend for shipping containers is sprayed closed cell foam. Externally applied spray foam also needs to be protected from the elements.

            Steve

          2. Teresa

            I have different ideas to protect the foil, I wasnt going to leave it totally exposed. The wind here, which we often get, is about 100 mph and even with the magnets I would lose the foil long before it degraded. The side where Im thinking about putting it up though is protected by a covered patio.

  3. Darren

    Hey Steve, thanks for all of the great info! I’m following along with you and I hope to use some of your wisdom when I build my house later this year.

    Reply
  4. Joe

    Steve,
    I’ve just spent the last hour reading your entire blog from start to (current) finish. Myself, and a buddy of mine have been kicking around the idea of a container homes for the last couple months, so today I plunked myself down in front of the computer to do some research. So far, your blog is by far the most comprehensive and informative for do-it-yourselfers like me. Thank you for putting your major successes, and minor failures out there for evereyone to appreciate and learn from. GREAT JOB!!

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Thanks Joe, I’m glad I could be of help. Let me know if you ever decide to build with containers, and feel free to ask any questions you might have.

      Steve

      Reply
  5. Sam

    Dear,

    Amazing work and let me congratulate you and thank you for the great documentation through your web site. One of the best resources about container construction on the web.

    I have a question, you have mentioned in the begging of this post that you have had some condensation issue (although not on the roof) would you be able to note where was it and how you dealt with it or plan to. I think that the roof free condensation comes down to the fact of it being ventilated well enough.

    Best regards,
    Sam

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Hi Sam:

      Thanks for the kind words, I’m just trying to get the word out on how it can be done.

      In regards to your comments on condensation, I’m not sure if you mean the ceiling or the roof. I was originally worried about condensation on the inside of my metal ceiling due to cold temps on the outside and there being possibly inadequate ventilation on the inside. The added secondary metal roof should never get condensation because the insulation was not applied to it, but rather the container roof (ceiling) on the outside. There is also plenty of ventilation under the added roof to prevent any condensation there.

      Where I did find some condensation on my last stay there was on the remnants of the walls that were removed and were flush with the front wall studs. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you can see some pictures of the location in my Installing the Subfloor post. There are couple reasons this is happening, and a couple possible fixes. First off, I do not have the necessary ventilation in place yet to remove the humidity that builds up inside a REALLY tight building. I’m in the process of constructing some DC powered fan vents that I will install this spring. Secondly, I never got around to fully sealing all of the exterior cracks/spaces with spray foam. Not having spray foam in these areas has allowed cold air to contact metal within just a couple of inches of the interior wall. Taking care of both of these things may very well cure the problem.

      If I have any additional issues, I could just remove a small section of drywall in front of those metal sections, insert a layer of 1/2″ foam, and then add a decorative side wall beam that ties into the existing ceiling beams.

      Steve

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Thanks for your answer on the condensation issue, I got your point. Regarding installing a DC fan, take a look at computer fans. They are DC powered, live very long and quiet. Good luck and I look forward for your new posts.

        Regards,
        Sam

        Reply
        1. Aunt Raven

          Also if you put an eco-fan atop your lit wood stove, it will circulate air and equalize the temperature powered only by the stove’s heat.

          Reply
  6. Jose

    Hi there:
    just found this site and it is great!. I have a question and a suggestion (so far).
    How did you attach the metal studs to the walls without screws (and holes) on the metal?.
    About the ventilation issue I have a work van that has a solar-powered attic fan installed. The rascal has been working for 6 years so far 100% maintenance free. Under Florida sun moves about 200cfm of air. Look here:
    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Search?keyword=solar+attic+fan&selectedCatgry=SEARCH+ALL&langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053
    Have fun!.

    Reply
    1. Steve Post author

      Jose:

      The upper track of the steel stud walls were attached with #10 thread cutting screws into the upper box beam of the container. If you take a look at my Interior Framing post it should explain most everything.

      I will eventually have some solar powered fans, but the solar power will come from the complete solar system I installed. The fans will be 12 volt computer muffin fans installed in PVC pipe. I’m still working on the final configurations, and will post about them later this fall when I’m done.

      Steve

      Reply
        1. Steve Post author

          Jose:

          The fans I have are high performance computer fans that are 4.5″ in diameter and rated at 80 CFM. I’m also not trying to exhaust heat from an attic, just some ambient moisture from the cabin. Many bathroom fans aren’t even rated at what these computer fans are, and they are designed to eliminate much more moisture than I will be dealing with.

          Steve

          Reply

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