Installing ceiling tiles is a fairly simple way to renew a badly deteriorated ceiling, or to give any ceiling an attractive finish during remodeling.
Since some tiles also have acoustical or sound-deadening properties, the ceiling can have extra value. If installed on the ceiling of a family room under a bedroom, for example, the tiles can help absorb family-room noise that otherwise would reach the bedroom.
When installing tiles for sound-deadening purposes, keep in mind that they are most effective for containing sound in the room where they are installed. If installed on the ceiling of a bedroom under a noisy room, for example, tiles might do little to filter out the noise from above.
Tiles with small perforations and/or fissures are best for deadening sound. Smooth finishes usually have poor acoustical effect.
Modern ceiling tiles are made of compressed wood and mineral fibers, including fiberglass. They are generally 12 inches square and 1/2 -inch thick, although larger panels or planks are also available. Typical tiles have flanges on two perpendicular sides and grooves on the other two sides; the flanges and grooves interlock as the installation progresses.
Following is an outline of the two systems usually used to install tiles. The best method depends mostly on the condition of the existing ceiling.
With any method, the ceiling should be measured carefully and the installation planned to avoid narrow strips of tile at the sides.
The cement method can be used if the ceiling is flat and in good condition. The ceiling can be either plasterboard (drywall) or plaster; it should be free of loose wallpaper or flaking paint. Guidelines must be made on the ceiling, using a chalk line, to ensure a square installation. Start the installation in a corner.
Tiles are fastened directly to the ceiling with a special tile adhesive or mastic. Adhesive is usually daubed near each corner of the back of a tile, and another daub is placed in the center. The tile is then pressed against the ceiling and stapled through the flanges to hold it in place while the adhesive cures. If a ceiling is uneven or in poor condition, a level surface can be provided by first attaching wood or metal furring strips to the ceiling.
Furring strips should be nailed to the ceiling at right angles to the joists. Strips of 1-by-3 pine or fir are generally used, spaced on 12-inch centers for 12-inch tiles. The strips must be nailed to the joists to provide a secure foundation for the tiles. Shims (thin, short pieces of wood) are used under strips where needed to keep the framework level. Tiles are stapled to the furring strips.
Armstrong has simplified the furring-strip method with a system it calls Easy Up, which uses metal tracks instead of wood strips. The tracks are nailed to joists on 12-inch centers, and tiles are attached to them with metal clips instead of staples. The clips are invisible in a completed Easy Up installation.
Suspended ceilings, which usually use sizable panels held by a grid suspended from the ceiling, are another option. A disadvantage is that they usually reduce ceiling height by at least 3 inches, while tiles require only 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inches of space.
Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.