Acoustic ceiling tiles are a simple and inexpensive way to dress up virtually any room in the home. Although acoustic tiles can help reduce noise, they’re typically best for covering an unsightly ceiling. Read on to find out how to install acoustic ceiling tiles, what kind of options homeowners have when choosing them, and how to maintain them. 

How to Install Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

There are two installation methods for acoustic ceiling tiles: gluing directly to a wallboard or plaster ceiling or attaching to wood furring strips with staples. Using adhesive is the least complicated and quickest method. Furring strips are more complicated and work best when the existing ceiling is sagging, wavy, or deteriorated.

When using adhesive, thoroughly clean the ceiling first to remove any dust, grease, or debris that could inhibit bonding. Apply adhesive to either the tile back or ceiling using a notched trowel (there are even options for green adhesives.) Firmly press the tile into place, sliding it around to ensure full contact with the adhesive. Keep the grid pattern square with a slight reveal between the tiles. Once cured, the adhesive will securely fasten the tiles.

For wood furring strips, install them on 12-inch centers perpendicular to the ceiling joists and attach them with screws. The screws should extend at least ¾ of an inch into the framing. Pull a string taut from the center of one wall to the center of the opposite wall, then do the same for the adjacent set of walls. Use measuring tools and your eye to ensure the strings are level and square. The strings act as guides when installing shims to ensure the final surface is flat, level, and square. Shim and trim furring strips so that they touch these strings, then install the tiles. 

How to Maintain Acoustic Ceilings

Over time, acoustic tile ceilings can become yellow or stained from roof leaks. Seal stains by spot-priming with a shellac primer-sealer or using a stain sealer, then touching them up with regular paint. To brighten a dingy ceiling, periodically vacuum it with an upholstery attachment to remove accumulated dust and dirt. Use a soft brush to avoid damaging the tiles.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

If frequent cleaning is ineffective, apply thinned latex paint. Be sure to apply thin enough layers to avoid clogging the tile pores. 

Replace any unsalvageable tiles using these steps:

  • Cut around the damaged tile perimeter with a utility knife.
  • Pry off the tile with a putty knife.
  • Scrape off old adhesive.

Cut the tongue off one tile edge to install it without removing the surrounding tiles. Finish by applying adhesive dabs to the back corners, placing the tile, and holding until the adhesive sets.

Acoustic Tile Patterns and Designs

Acoustic ceiling tiles come in various patterns and finishes, like fissured, perforated, and textured. Plain white tiles are inexpensive and provide a clean, minimalist look for modern spaces. Stone and wood-look tiles provide a natural appearance. Metallic finishes like bronze, silver, or gold add elegance — others mimic tin or copper.

Tiles also come in different edge styles, which change the look of the overall appearance once installed:

  • has a thin perimeter border.
  • has a beveled slope, minimizing seams.
  • forms a discrete grid.

So, Is Installing Acoustic Ceiling Tiles Worth It?

If you’re tired of the look of a room or you’re making DIY improvements, I think acoustic ceiling tiles are a great option. With numerous styles and finishes, you can easily find one to match most designs and decor. In general, acoustic ceiling tiles are a simple and low-cost DIY project to improve your home.

FAQs About Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

How thick are acoustic ceiling tiles?

Most are half an inch thick. Thicker, ¾-inch tiles can provide additional durability and sound absorption.

How much do acoustic ceiling tiles cost?

They typically range from $0.75 to $3 per square foot. Simple white fissured tiles are generally the most affordable. Wood look, metallic, and other specialty finishes cost more.

Should I install insulation above acoustic ceiling tiles?

Yes. Insulation between the tiles and joists/roof decking can reduce heat loss and dampen noise. Fiberglass batts or rigid foam boards are common choices.

Can you paint acoustic ceiling tiles?

Yes. Latex paint is common but requires thinning to avoid clogging the pores.

Are acoustic ceiling tiles flame-resistant?

Most acoustic ceiling tiles have a Class A fire rating, meaning they’re non-combustible and don’t spread flames.

Editorial Contributors
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Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga is a professional roofer and carpenter with ten years of experience in residential and commercial construction. His expertise spans the breadth of the roofing trade from minor repairs to laying shingles to framing trusses. These days he spends most of his time writing about roofing and the roofing industry.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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