What Are Ceiling Tiles Made Of? 6 Things You Should Know

Ceiling tiles (a.k.a. ceiling panels) improve the aesthetics of a room, reduce noise, and prevent house fires from spreading. They also come in various colors and designs. But what are they made of? 

Ceiling tiles are made of various materials, including gypsum, perlite, wood, glass, fiberglass, and mineral wool. Metal and clay are also popular materials. Most ceiling tiles have a steel or aluminum grid. Ceiling tiles are rated according to light reflectance and fire resistance.

In this article, I’ll discuss ceiling tile materials in detail and other things you need to know about them.

Things You Should Know About Ceiling Tiles

Ceiling tiles are mainly used in retail stores, industries, hotels, offices, hospitals, warehouses, and residential houses. Most of them are made of mineral fiber, as evidenced by the fact that they comprise 40% of the global ceiling tiles market.

This video gives more insight into what you should know about ceiling tiles.

Ceiling Tile Materials

There are plenty of materials that can be used for ceiling tiles. However, the key difference between these materials lies in whether they’re acoustic or not.

The following table summarizes the most common ceiling tile materials and their respective advantages and disadvantages. 

Wooden boards
– Acoustic
– Elegant
– Durable
– Available in a range of finishes
– Versatile
– Absorbs odors and steam easily
– Unsuitable for hotels, restaurants, and kitchens
– Expensive
– Needs additional protection to preserve color
– Deforms when exposed to a leaking roof
– Fire resistant
– Thermally insulated
– No maintenance required
– Attractive
– Durable
– Has great sound control
– Low cost
– Damages easily from leaking roofs
– Difficult to use on curved surfaces
– Cumbersome to install
Mineral Fiber (Acoustic tiles)
– Low cost
– Acoustic
– Fire-resistant
– Resilient
– Elegant
– Gets mold and mildew easily
– Ages quickly when exposed to high moisture levels
– Unattractive, especially with water stains
Metal (tin)
– Don’t break or crack easily
– Offer value for money
– Easy to fix and remove
– Range of designs and colors
– DecorativeAcoustic
– Expensive
– Needs a protective coating to prevent corrosion
– Durable
– Cheap
– Versatile
– Available in a range of colors and designs
– Easy to install
– Lightweight
– Warps easily
– Leaches chemicals easily
– Looks cheap
Polystyrene Foam 
– Effective thermal insulation
– Acoustic
– Not fire-resistant

Types Of Ceiling Tiles

Ceiling tiles are classified according to the material, acoustic properties, and insulation properties. They can also be classified according to how they’re installed. For example, some are plastered or dropped.

The broad categories of ceiling tiles are:

  • Acoustic ceiling tiles: These are commonly used for their soundproofing and insulation properties. They’re usually installed as drop ceilings. 
  • Light-reflecting tiles: These are common in commercial buildings to take advantage of any available natural light. They improve lighting uniformity, especially in spaces that don’t receive sufficient light. 
  • Insulated ceiling tiles: These tiles are usually made of glass wool or stone wool and are thermally efficient.
  • General purpose tiles: These ceiling tiles don’t serve a specific function other than covering unfinished or damaged ceilings. 
  • Sealed system tiles: These are great for hospitals because they create an air seal, preventing contaminants from moving from one room to another. 
  • Tamper-resistance ceiling tiles: These are usually made of steel and are common in containment facilities. 

Fire Ratings for Ceiling Tiles

There are two main fire ratings for ceiling tiles.

  • Surface burning characteristics rating/Flame spread rating: Ceiling tiles with the best rating are either classified as Class A or Class 1. Most states demand a Class A/1 rating for building interior finishes. This test uses the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Test Number 723. 
  • Fire Barrier Rating (Test E-1119): This rating is based on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This test checks how long the ceiling tile resists fire and how it prevents its spread. For example, a 2-hour fire barrier rating means the ceiling tile can withstand a fire for two hours before it succumbs to the pressure. 

Additionally, ceiling tiles with a Class A surface burning rating and no fire barrier rating are considered to be nothing more than interior finish (like paint), so they’re essentially useless in terms of fire resistance. 

Also, note that the above ratings simply serve as guidelines. Some municipalities give the local fire marshall liberties to approve or reject ceiling tiles if they can become fire hazards, regardless of their fire rating. So, even if you know your ceiling tiles’ fire rating, you may want to check with the appropriate local authorities just in case.  

What Are Acoustic Ceiling Tiles?

Acoustic treatments help to contain sound within a room and prevent echoes. This is especially handy for applications like home recording studios. Walls can be treated with special acoustic properties, but what about ceiling tiles?

Acoustic ceiling tiles absorb, dilute, and block sound. Popular acoustic materials include mineral wool, fiberglass, metal, wood, and melamine foam. They are ideal for homes, offices, retail stores, halls, and commercial buildings with drop ceilings. You can also use them on T-Grid ceiling designs. 

The reason acoustic tiles are often used for drop ceilings is that the latter tends to produce echoes and allow sound to travel, not just between rooms but from one apartment to another. 

Drop Ceiling Tiles – What They Are and Materials Used

Drop ceilings, also known as suspended or false ceilings, used to be common in basements but have since become a feature in different spaces, including office buildings. A metal grid system is usually suspended from the ceiling above, and the tiles are fitted in the grid squares. 

Besides the grid drop ceilings, drop ceilings can also be installed on drywall ceilings that don’t have metal frames. Instead, the suspended drywall sheets are held onto the primary ceiling using wire. Owing to their material and construction, drywall drop ceilings are much cheaper than grid drop ceilings. 

Drop ceiling tiles are lightweight and are made from materials including:

  • Vinyl
  • Mineral fiber
  • Fiberglass


Ceiling tiles are made of different materials, which affect their overall appearance. The materials also determine the ceiling’s fire rating and sound control properties. Make sure you research the pros and cons of each ceiling material to help you determine the best ceiling tiles.

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