Can a decorative tin ceiling actually improve the acoustics of a bistro while enhancing aesthetics at the same time?
Ask Brad DeForge and Judy Ross, co-owners of The Lancaster Dispensing Company, a popular Victorian-style pub and restaurant in downtown Lancaster, PA,
and the answer is a resounding, yes.
And they should know. They recently replaced the pub’s smooth, hard-surfaced plaster ceiling that added little in terms of ambiance and noise control with a new tin ceiling that offered excellent acoustic properties in addition to enhanced aesthetics.
The result was a significant reduction in both reverberation time and overall
noise level, plus a decorative new addition to the establishment’s décor.
Desired Enhanced Aesthetics and Acoustics
Opened in 1978, the restaurant was created in a space that had formerly housed
a printing company. DeForge explains that the restaurant’s original ceiling was white plaster. Over the years, however, it had become nicotine stained.
“We decided to go smoke-free a few years earlier than the state mandate,” he says. “And once that decision was made, we also decided to paint the ceiling a siena color to eliminate the stains.”
While the re-decorated ceiling resulted in a dramatic color change, it had no effect on the acoustics in the space, which suffered from both high reverberation time and high levels of background noise.
“We wanted to improve acoustics, both for our patrons and our entertainment,” the co-owner explains. “We have live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and the hardwood floor, plaster ceiling and other hard surfaces affected the sound quality of the larger acts.”
Dramatic Improvement in Acoustics
To achieve the desired acoustic environment, the owners partnered with Armstrong Ceilings and installed a new MetalWorksä Tin ceiling. To help improve the acoustic properties of the space, the metal ceiling panels are extra microperforated and backed with a fiberglass infill.
The perforations measure only seven-tenths of a millimeter in diameter, which makes them nearly invisible. Yet, they allow the ceilings to achieve a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 0.85, meaning they absorb 85% of the sound that strikes them.
Co-owner Ross says both she and the staff have observed a dramatic difference
in acoustics. “The clarity of conversations is much better now because people don’t have to talk above the crowd noise,” she states.
Acoustical testing before and after the installation of the new ceiling validates the staff’s observations. According to the findings, the new MetalWorks Tin ceiling system not only reduced reverberation time 44% but also lowered the occupied noise level up to 7 decibels.
New Tin Ceiling Has Visual Impact
To attain the aesthetic goals, the 2’x 2’ copper-colored tegular panels feature a stamped metal pattern that was popular in the 19th century, and are installed in a color-coordinated 9/16” grid system suspended from the existing plaster ceiling.
The MetalWorks line of Tin ceilings consists of eight standard decorative panel patterns, 24 special order patterns, and five standard finishes – lacquered steel, bare steel, chrome, copper and white. Available in both lay-in and tegular panels, the ceilings contain 25% - 54% recycled content and are recyclable at the end of their service life.
Armstrong is the only manufacturer to offer a tegular tin ceiling panel with microperforations for use in narrow-width 9/16” grid. The combination of the panel’s reveal edge and the grid’s thin profile diminishes the visibility of the suspension system.
DeForge notes the visual impact of the new ceiling has not gone unnoticed. “Many of our regular customers who never looked up before have definitely noticed,” he states. “And, even though it’s a brand new ceiling, it has the look of a ceiling that’s been here since we opened because it fits in so well with our Victorian décor.”
New Ceiling Installed in One Day
He also notes there is only a three-inch gap between the new suspended ceiling and the old plaster ceiling, but installation was not a problem. “The entire ceiling was installed during the course of a day that the restaurant was normally closed.”
However, it is the dramatic improvement in the acoustic environment that has made the biggest impression. As a waitress who has worked at the pub for the past 15 years put it shortly after installation of the new ceiling, “I walked in today and felt like
I was wearing earmuffs.”