What Are Acoustic Ceiling Tiles? 7 Things You Should Know

Do you struggle with annoying echoes or keep hearing the person in the other room? Acoustic ceiling tiles can be a great way to control both types of noise. Today’s post will cover everything you need to know about these tiles so you can make informed buying decisions and choose the right installation method. Let’s get started.

What Are Acoustic Ceiling Tiles?

Acoustic ceiling tiles are secondary ceilings that can be suspended from the roof or glued to it. They’re commonly used for noise control in auditoriums, concert halls, basements, and commercial office buildings.

There are two ways you can install acoustic ceiling tiles. You can either glue them directly to an existing ceiling or use staples to attach them to wood furring strips.

It’s easier to glue acoustic ceiling tiles to an existing plaster or wallboard ceiling, so I highly recommend sticking to this method if you haven’t installed acoustic ceiling tiles before. The only situation I wouldn’t recommend using glue is when the existing ceiling is in poor condition. 

Sagging, uneven, and deteriorated ceilings need wood furring strips. The strips provide support and help flatten out the ceiling. Attaching ceiling tiles to wood furring strips is also a great way to hide plumbing and electrical installations. 

Which Acoustic Ceiling Tiles Are Commonly Used?

Acoustic ceiling tiles are available in several materials, each with unique characteristics and applicability. The most common of these are: 

  • Mineral fiber. These tiles have proven to be very effective in reducing noise. They’re affordable, but they don’t have a long life expectancy. 
  • Fiberglass. These are the best acoustic ceiling tiles because of their superior sound-absorbing characteristics and durability. Fiberglass is also better suited to humid conditions than mineral fiber. 
  • Wood. This is another affordable option. However, it’s less effective in reducing sound than the previous options. Additionally, wood tiles are susceptible to water damage, so they are not ideal for humid conditions. 
  • Melamine foam. Melamine foam is only second to fiberglass in terms of soundproofing capabilities. But because of its hefty price tag, it’s predominantly seen in commercial applications.

Classes of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles 

Acoustic ceiling tiles are classified according to:

  • Noise Reduction Coefficient.
  • Ceiling Attenuation Class.
  • Sound Transmission Class.

The Noise Reduction Coefficient rating (NRC), Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC), and Sound Transmission Class (STC) indicate the efficiency of acoustic ceiling tiles as sound absorbers. If any of the ratings increases, the sound absorption improves. So the higher the number, the better.

CAC ratings indicate how much sound ceiling tiles block to prevent it from penetrating adjoining rooms. The NRC rating indicates how much sound ceiling tiles can absorb to reduce noise, while STC measures how effectively ceilings, walls, and other partitions in a building suppress airborne sound as it travels through them. 

The CAC of the acoustic material shouldn’t be lower than 35, and its STC should be at least 25. The average STC in most American homes is about 35. STCs 50 and above will limit hearing regular-volume sounds from an adjacent room.

The NRC scale ranges from 0 to 1. 1 represents the best in sound absorption, while zero denotes the worst. Typically, 0.8 and over is ideal for soundproofing.

Acoustic Ceiling Tiles and Sound Absorption 

The primary way acoustic ceiling tiles decrease noise and enhance sound quality is by absorbing sound waves that would otherwise bounce back into the room and create echoes. 

However, these tiles aren’t equal in terms of sound absorption.

The main determinant of how well acoustic ceiling tiles absorb sound is the material they’re made of. The best acoustic tiles are made of low-density materials that absorb more sound waves than they reflect.

The texture and shape of acoustic ceiling tiles also dictate their sound absorption capabilities. Textured ceiling tiles (such as those with small bumps) absorb and diffuse sound better than their smooth-surfaced counterparts. Similarly, tiles with corrugated or three-dimensional shapes block sound more effectively than those with flat profiles.  

Can You Use Acoustic Ceiling Tiles To Soundproof?

You can use acoustic ceiling tiles to soundproof a room. However, treating a ceiling with acoustic tiles is merely one of the steps in soundproofing a room. Effective noise control involves treating the floor, walls, windows other parts of the room with appropriate soundproofing materials.

Installing acoustic tiles onto the ceiling’s hard surface will undoubtedly prevent the noise from penetrating the room. However, bare floors and walls may reduce the difference the acoustic tiles make to a room’s sound properties. That’s why walls, floors, and possibly windows must also be soundproofed. Ultimately, the amount and source of noise will dictate which parts of the room need soundproofing.

Is It Worth Installing Acoustic Ceiling Tiles?

Installing acoustic ceiling tiles is worth it. Besides enhancing sound quality and absorbing noise, these tiles are affordable, flexible, easy to install, and aesthetically appealing. Additionally, damaged tiles can be replaced without removing the entire installation.

These tiles also have the added benefit of saving energy. Their reflective surface bounces light back into interiors, reducing the number of bulbs needed to light up a space. 

Last but not least, installing acoustic ceiling tiles can help boost productivity in offices and other commercial spaces. When people are less distracted and stressed by noise, concentration levels improve, and productivity increases. 

What Are The Disadvantages of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles?

One of the main disadvantages of acoustic ceiling tiles is that they require regular cleaning.

Debris and dust can compromise the effectiveness of these tiles by blocking their perforations. The perforations play a crucial role in sound absorption: they increase the sound-absorbent surface area of ceiling tiles. So when they’re blocked by dust and debris, the tiles’ acoustical properties get significantly compromised.

The porous nature of acoustic ceiling tiles gives rise to another drawback. Although they are resistant to humidity, acoustic ceiling tiles are not waterproof. As such, they’re susceptible to mold, fungi, and bacteria growth. Such growth can cause respiratory issues in humans, such as bronchitis, asthma, and sinus infections.

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