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Acoustical Ceiling Tile Properties

Acoustical Ceiling Tile - Sound Properties

My inlaws have a finished basement that is nearly 35 years old. When I first started to date my wife, we would go down there to play pool on the wonderful billiard table. The room had a cool fireplace, wet bar, and was a great spot to watch television. The room had a typical 12 x 12 acoustical tile ceiling. You know, the one with the different sized holes in it. I think there were only 2 or 3 styles to choose from at that time.

Well, I was not the first person to make additional holes in the ceiling with a cue stick. The ceiling was peppered with holes that had a bluish cast from the cue chalk. Heck, we thought those extra holes helped to deaden the sound. Trouble is, my inlaws didn't agree!

More Choices / Styles

Fissured tiles, ones that imitate corduroy fabric, imitation slate, stucco, pebbled, swirls, etc. are all available. Different edge treatments are also options should you want to dress up a suspended grid ceiling. You can even create an almost seamless ceiling by using 12 inch square interlocking tiles of certain patterns. The look is dramatic.

Instant Ceilings

Acoustical tile ceilings can transform a room in a short period of time. If the installation is easy, you possibly can have a new ceiling in as little as one day. Suspended grid ceilings offer access to hidden utilities. This is very important if you intend to finish the basement of your house. Invariably, some plumbing pipe or wire will have to be run at a later date. This would cause problems with a solid ceiling like plaster or drywall. Interlocking acoustic tiles can cause problems as well regarding future access to utilities.

Maintenance of Tiles

If you are purchasing a new acoustical tile ceiling, be sure to ask about cleaning. Some tiles are washable while others are not. Keep this in mind. Don't use the paint fall back position. Why? Paint can and will alter the acoustic properties of ceiling tile. Some ceiling tiles are tough, if not impossible to paint. Be sure to consider all of your options before making your purchase.

Gluing Acoustical Tiles

If you decide to use interlocking acoustical tiles, they can often be glued to a sound existing ceiling. This is not a bad option. However, remember that once the adhesive is applied to the old ceiling, it will be tough to restore the old surface. I have removed glued on ceilings in the past. The adhesive dries like rock and is difficult, if not impossible, to remove from the old plaster.

Installation - Not for the Rookie

Acoustical ceiling installations are not for beginners in my opinion. They require accurate planning and layout. There is little room for mistake. Installing suspended ceiling grid is not as easy as those DIY'r TV shows make it out to be. You need to proceed slowly and methodically. Keeping the gridwork level is a challenge. I have seen ceilings hung by rookies that look like a roly poly golf green. Humps and dips in the ceiling are real possibilities. You need to closely follow instructions for a first class job.

Grain Patterns

Certain acoustical tile styles have grain patterns. This means that all the tiles must point in the same direction when installed. Arrows are printed on the back of the tiles to aid in this process. Be sure to ask if the tile you are purchasing has this grain.

Future Changeouts

Suspended ceiling systems offer a neat feature. In the event you grow tired of your existing ceiling panel, you can simply purchase new tiles! You take out the old panels and install the new ceiling. I have seen rooms that get a fresh look within 1 hour's time. This, in my opinion, is a very good reason for leaning towards a suspended grid system in lieu of an interlocking tile which is either stapled or glued in place. Remember, keep your options open!

Sound Deadening Properties of Acoustic Tiles

Acoustic ceiling tile has a wide range of noise reduction capabilities. Not all tiles perform as well as others. In fact, some tiles that you may purchase have absolutely no noise control properties whatsoever. You must do some research and ask questions before you purchase a particular tile.

NRC - Noise Reduction Coefficient

This number is a measurement of how much noise or sound is absorbed when the sound waves strike the face of the ceiling panel. You can purchase certain tiles that will give you up to 80 percent (.80) absorption rates. Many tiles fall in the 50 to 60 percent range. This NRC data is readily available when you purchase the tiles. If not, you are shopping at the wrong store!

CAC - Ceiling Attenuation Class

This is an additional sound measurement rating. It tells you how well the acoustical tile resists the passage of sound through the tile. Some of the highest quality tiles will give you a rating in the 40 - 44 range. Other tiles will rate in the 30's

Both the NRC and CAC ratings are usually printed in product brochures. If you are trying to control sound or noise in a family room or other space, take the extra few minutes and search for this most valuable data. Be sure that the tile you purchase has a pattern and item number that matches that given in the product literature.

Remember, there are ceiling materials that look like acoustic tile but in actuality offer no sound deadening properties whatsoever.



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