Q&A / 

Acoustical Ceiling Tile Tips

Layout / Planning the Job

Your finished acoustical ceiling look will live or die at this stage of the game. A poor layout will result in uneven or small border tiles. Both situations are to be avoided at all costs. The use of simple graph paper will allow you to create the ceiling layout on paper before you goof it up in the air. Use readily available 1/4 inch graph paper to make a scale layout of your ceiling. You will be able to see how the borders will appear. The goal is to create borders which are as wide as possible. 

Center Lines

The center lines of the ceiling for both width and length may not be the best place for the edges of tile. By placing the center of a row of tiles on the center line, you may produce the widest border along the edge. Use your graph paper and create two possibilities for your ceiling size. See which one produces the widest borders.

Out of Square Ceilings

Is your ceiling out of square? To create the best looking ceiling, you must split the difference of the mistake. How? Well let's say the ceiling is 12 feet wide at one end and 12 feet 2 inches at the other end. On the 12 foot wall make a mark at 6 feet, the exact center of that wall. On the other wall, make a mark at 6 feet 1 inch. Snap a line between the two points. This will produce border tiles which will flare equally. If you were to make the centerline parallel with one of the side walls, one of the border edges would accept all of the mistake. This actually draws attention to the fact that the room is out of square.

Suspended Ceiling Grid Systems

If you are using a grid system to hold up your tile, you start your installation of the grid by installing the wall angle around the room. This is the simple L shaped metal piece. Pay attention to the manufacturer's minimum height restrictions! In other words, if you are using 2 x 4 foot panels, you often must make sure that the bottom of the grid system is 2 to 3 inches below the lowest point in the room. Without this clearance, you can't install the tiles! Don't forget this important step.

The wall angle is simply nailed to the side wall. Never chalk the level installation line at the bottom of the wall angle! Always chalk the line where the top of the angle will end up. Space the nails at 2 foot or less intervals. At inside corners you simply place one wall angle on top of another. Mitered corners look best at outside corners.

Installing the Grid Work

Patience and attention are required at this point. A mistake at this level will cause lots of problems. The trick is to install the main support tees along the centerline AND to install it so the cross tee slots will be in the correct location. In other words, you can't simply put the main tee up anywhere. If you start it wrong, the intersecting cross tees will not be in the right place or worse yet, not in a straight line! I guarantee you that the grid will come with instructions. Read these carefully until you understand them. Then, and only then, proceed!

Hanger Wire

Use the correct size of hanger wire. Residential ceilings can often be installed using 18 gauge wire. Commercial ceilings always require 12 gauge or heavier wire. The wire is attached to screw eye hooks or neat little screws that have a flattened end with a nifty hole made for the wire. I prefer using these. Hanger wire can be lifted off of cup or open hook devices.

Staple or Glued Ceiling Tile Installations

The methods of layout and planning are the same for these systems. However, when you finally decide upon where the starting row begins, you must snap you starting line accounting for the staple flange. If you forget to do this, your border tile may be off by as much as 1/2 inch. Read the instructions closely to avoid this mistake.

Staple or glued tiles always start at one corner of the room. This means that you must pay close attention to your layout plan. It also means that the tiles must be installed square. Your border chalk lines must be square or you will have major problems.

Border tiles can be faced nailed with small headed colored nails. Stay close to the edge so that the finished moldings will cover and hide the nails. Be sure to prefinish your ceiling trim moldings. Finishing them in the air will create a situation where you may get paint or stain on the new tile!

Tiles can be easily cut with a razor knife. Holes for light fixture boxes can be made with a pointed drywall saw. Cut slowly or you may blast away material from the edge of the cut. Use a blade that has fine teeth if possible. Wash your hands frequently to avoid smudges on the face of tiles.


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