Ceilings That Perform

How decorative ceilings tiles can do so much more than look beautiful


Ceilings That Perform

How decorative ceilings tiles can do so much more than look beautiful


If there’s one thing architects and interior designers possess more of than ever before, it’s likely choice. There is such a wide range of raw materials and innovative products and surfaces on the market that it’s easy to overlook some of the more obvious options right under our noses — or above our heads, rather.

Ceilings represent the largest surface area within a building along with floors, and the specifications design practitioners make in terms of ceiling products can have a significant impact on projects, occupants and the environment. Commercial interiors today demand products that not only look good, but also perform for the duration of their useful life and contribute to a healthy and sustainable world. And while open plenum ceilings certainly lend an industrial look and feel that has been exceptionally popular in recent years, decorative ceilings tiles remain among the most attractive and multifunctional solutions available.

This CEU will explore various characteristics and benefits of decorative ceilings that specifiers should (re)consider for their next commercial interiors projects, including acoustical properties, durability, sustainability, aesthetics and historic renovations.


If there’s one topic that’s resonating across the interior design industry right now, it’s acoustics. With the open office plan firmly established as the go-to approach to workplace design, people are waking up to the fact that acoustics and privacy were often overlooked or not addressed comprehensively enough. In fact, according to a Whole Building Design Guide article by Richard Paradis, P.E., Board Certified Noise Control Engineer for the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), “the acoustical environment of a workspace is typically given little or no attention during project planning and design. The functionality and aesthetics of the workspace are usually the primary focus of the designer,” he suggests.

As a result, unwanted noise in the office can take a significant toll on employees, their productivity and a company’s bottom line. The reason being is that poor acoustics negatively impact occupants’ focus, speech privacy and comfort, which affect the organization by reducing attendance, productivity, confidentiality, teamwork, workplace satisfaction and even customer service.

A post-occupancy evaluation of 15 buildings by 4,096 respondents in a variety of office types by The Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California supports this claim.3 More than 60% of the respondents to the CBE study believe that poor acoustics interferes with their ability to get their jobs done. Additionally, 99% of respondents to a World Green Building Council report on health, wellbeing and productivity in offices indicated their concentration was impaired by office noise, such as unanswered phones and background speech, resulting in a 66 percent drop in performance.

Further, as the wellness trend continues to transform the way interiors are designed, rating systems such as the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) WELL Building Standard address both internal and external noise intrusion. According to IWBI, “Particularly in urban areas, loud or repetitive exterior noises can be a source of stress and a risk factor for certain health outcomes. Studies show that individuals exposed to traffic noise have a higher risk for diabetes, stroke and heart attack, and those exposed to road traffic and aircraft noises have a higher risk for hypertension. In addition, exposure to noise can lead to reduced reaction time and increased levels of annoyance. Preventing excessive exterior noise from reaching building interiors can help improve occupant comfort and well-being.”

IWBI also notes that for interiors, “office noise can lead to decreased productivity, especially in open-plan offices where aural distractions and interruptions from other employees are frequent. Additionally, studies show that exposure to noise generated within the building can lead to reduced concentration and mental arithmetic performance, and increased distraction due to reduced speech privacy.”

Clearly, acoustics plays a significant role in interior environments and their occupants, so let’s review a few basics as far as the science of acoustics, as well as the factors that architects and designers should consider for mitigating unwanted noise indoors.

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Learning Objectives

interiors+sources’ Continuing Education Series articles allow design practitioners to earn continuing education unit credits through the pages of the magazine. Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this issue’s article. To receive one hour of continuing education credit (0.1 CEU) as approved by IDCEC, read the article, then log in to take the corresponding exam. To earn 1 learning unit (LU) as approved by AIA, read the article, then log in to take the corresponding exam.

After reading this article, you should be able to:

  • Explain the importance of acoustics in the workplace and the impact it has on occupants.
  • Identify four performance characteristics of decorative ceiling tiles.
  • Describe how decorative ceiling tiles can help achieve sustainable design goals.
  • Discuss the types of installation methods used for various types of ceiling tiles.

Acoustics 101

Simply stated, acoustics is the science of sound. It is the field of study that deals with the creation and control of sound and vibration. On a more complex level, it’s a subdivision of physics that focuses on the wave behavior of sound energy, including propagation, control and materials.7

When it comes to architecture and interiors, the most common situation designers face daily involves electro-acoustics and room acoustics. Electro-acoustics is a specific subset of the field wherein a large percentage of the sound energy is created by electronic transducers (loudspeakers).8 Room acoustics is another division of acoustics, focused primarily on the behavior of sound within interior spaces versus underwater, outdoors or underground areas. The combination of electro-acoustics and room acoustics encompasses most every scenario architecture and interiors encounter: home theatre, audio production suites, conference rooms, offices, transportation, movie theatres and any interior space where people and electronics exist together.

As the air moves through an interior space, every material the air meets affects the timbre of the sound, much like how an electrical signal is subject to the characteristics of the copper cable through which it passes. Architecturally, every material used to construct a room has a clearly audible and often dramatic effect on sound. Hence the importance of material science upon acoustics. How each material sounds and how it affects the air on which sound rides is important when specifying architectural materials.

Vibration is energy moving through solid materials. In architecture, the most common vibrational concerns are HVAC and airport/roadway noise travelling through structural members. These noises typically become an issue when they translate into audible sound. Vibrations diaphragmatically move walls and ceilings, converting the vibrational energy into sound. This process is called transduction.

Just as the quality of the speaker and cables affect electrical signals, the quality of the studs, drywall, fasteners and ceilings affect vibration. Using absorptive materials and diffusers, traditional acoustics controls sound energy frequency by frequency and decibel by decibel (amplitude/volume). Absorption is a way to diminish the amplitude or volume of sound energy by trapping the sound energy in porous materials, which slow down the sound like a fast car trying to drive through a deep puddle. The car slows down as it hits the puddle, and the energy transfers into the puddle itself.

The job of architects and designers is to determine how to mitigate these unwanted noise within a space to the benefit of its occupants, but it’s not always easy.

Challenges and Solutions for Addressing Acoustics

In the workplace and other high-traffic commercial spaces such as airports and hotels, mitigating the negative effects of acoustics can be a daunting challenge due to a number of factors. For starters, in the open plan office or restaurants with few or no walls or enclosed spaces to keep noise from traveling, the total amount of noise from various sources of sound can be very high. This creates a high noise floor, which can be difficult to hear above and dramatically reduces intelligibility, which can lead to a number of the negative outcomes mentioned earlier.

Also, with the distances between sound sources and hard, reflective surfaces sometimes being significant, the reverberation time increases. As cubicles, café booths and other seating arrangements might provide only minimal or insignificant acoustic control, sound energy is often practically untouched and is allowed to travel across long spaces several times. These long decay times can dramatically decrease intelligibility as well.

As alluded to earlier, one of the drawbacks of the open office plan is the lack of private spaces. While this is currently being addressed by both design firms and furniture manufacturers, the lack of privacy in many workplaces is a considerable issue that can lead to interpersonal conflicts and potential exposure of information that is intended to be confidential. While integrating more permanent conference rooms or movable “phone booths” into a space plan address the problem, they are often cost-prohibitive and may not be the best utilization of space. They may also unintentionally signal the obvious fact that someone who uses these spaces frequently is discussing something sensitive.

Finally, as noted early on, long exposure to loud noise has a fatiguing effect on the human psyche that can lead to slower response times and an inability to reason or problem solve clearly. More solutions are available to address unwanted noise in busy interior environments.

Leaving the ceiling entirely exposed is problematic because it tends to be the busiest surface in an interior, where sound travels up and bounces off the ceiling and reverberates through the rest of the space.

One of the traditional ways to address acoustics is to utilize fabric-wrapped panels either on the wall or hanging suspended from the ceiling. Among the issues with these solutions is that fabric is not particularly durable and is subject to tears and soiling in wall applications, particularly. Hanging panels from the ceiling can detract from the visual openness of a space and may not match the overall design aesthetic. Likewise, traditional mineral boards in drop ceilings do absorb sound, but they damage easily, especially when exposed to moisture, and are not the most visually appealing products.

Today’s decorative ceiling tiles, however, are an effective solution for dealing with acoustics in busy spaces if specified properly with the right mix of materials and backing. For example, some ceiling tiles on the market today are made of thin yet durable, lightweight aluminum that can be microperforated to allow sound to pass through the tile without interfering with the design aesthetic. When paired with different types of backings (or even laid over existing mineral board ceiling grids), these panels can have a significant impact on sound absorption.

To be sure, a third-party acoustical laboratory in Geneva, IL, tested various types of decorative ceiling tiles with different backings to determine both their sound absorption average (SAA) and their noise reduction coefficient (NRC). The test reported by the lab conformed explicitly with ASTM C423-09a: “Standard Test Method for Sound Absorption and Sound Absorption Coefficients by the Reverberation Room Method.” As the most commonly used scale to record different levels of sound absorption, NRC ratings range from 0 to 1.0 — an NRC of 0 indicates perfect reflection while an NRC of 1.0 indicates perfect absorption. (For a more detailed explanation of acoustical values such as NRC, SAA, STC (Sound Transmission Class) , please see Glossary of Acoustic Terms below.)

A 0.022-inch thick aluminum micro-perforated ceiling tile using a proprietary backer achieved an NRC value of 0.70 to 0.80 and an SAA value of 0.74. Another test of the exact same tile with R-13 fiberglass insulation behind it resulted in an impressive NRC value of 1.05 and SAA rating of 1.04. The same test was also completed on a faux tin decorative ceiling tile constructed of PVC with an acoustical tile backing that scored an NRC rating of 0.50 and an SAA value of 0.52. By contrast, when the faux tin tile was tested without any backing, the acoustic properties dropped considerably, receiving an NRC rating of 0.15 and an SAA value of 0.14.

Again, decorative ceiling tiles can be an effective solution for mitigating unwanted noise in interior environments, provided they are specified with the appropriate backing material and micro-perforations for maximum sound absorption. However, unlike other acoustic ceiling solutions, decorative ceiling tiles can enhance, rather than detract from, architectural and design details. They are also constructed of lightweight material that is durable, moisture- and bacteria-resistant, and will stand the test of time, as we’ll review in the following section.


When it comes to durability and performance, failing to plan for resilience is a plan to fail. While builders and designers can’t predict all durability issues, they can make informed decisions regarding the selection, integration and application of components, materials and building systems. This process is far from simple as an ever-changing menu of products and systems is used to optimize cost, performance, aesthetics and consumer appeal, code compliance and constructability.

However, specifiers can be confident that commercial decorative ceiling tiles are manufactured with durability in mind. These products can be specified in a variety of material types that are inherently tough. From aluminum, copper, PVC, or powder- or tin-coated steel, there are a wide variety of material options to choose from that are highly stable and dimensionally consistent.

In fact, many decorative ceiling panels are ultra-rigid and provide impact resistance, abrasion and scratch resistance, chemical resistance and superior corrosion resistance, depending on the material substrate chosen.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the performance characteristics of many of these tile products:

  1. Moisture resistance. Aluminum, metal and PVC tile products are impervious to moisture, washable and easy-to-clean, making them a great choice in high traffic environments and healthcare facilities where cleanability is a concern. Also, unlike traditional mineral boards that damage easily and will stain when exposed to water from a leak or fire sprinkler, most decorative ceiling tiles will be unaffected by moisture. Decorative ceiling tiles also will not sag like traditional mineral boards.
  2. Scratch resistance. While scratches aren’t a frequent concern at the ceiling plane, they are susceptible to wear-and-tear when light fixtures, electrical, mechanical or HVAC systems are installed or repaired, for example. Decorative ceiling tiles are extremely durable and resist a tremendous amount of abuse. Some tiles also come in a paint grade that can be painted onsite to custom match colors and coated to ensure resistance to damage.
  3. Fire resistance. Most decorative ceiling tiles are manufactured to meet the required ASTM Class A Fire Rating for commercial environments. Further, when metal ceiling tiles were third-party tested according to ASTM’s E-84-89-a Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, they were found to have a Flame Spread Index of 0 and a Smoke Developed Value of 0 as well after being exposed to a flame for 10 minutes.19 The test concluded that when installed to the underside of a fire-rated floor-ceiling assembly, the metal ceiling tiles did not compromise or reduce the fire resistance rating of the floor-ceiling assembly.
  1. Lightweight. The weight of decorative ceiling tiles varies by material. Faux tin/PVC tiles weigh as little as 8 oz. for a standard 2-by-2-inch tile, while aluminum tiles are roughly 0.75 pounds per tile, which makes them easy to work with and reduces shipping costs. Obviously, steel/tin and copper tiles are considerably heavier (1.5 pounds and 3 pounds respectively) but can be easily dropped into an existing grid system or nailed.

Most decorative ceiling tile products are also mold- and mildew-free, which can also help achieve proper indoor air quality — a growing concern in corporate, healthcare and education applications in step with today’s wellness trend.

Finally, because of their inherent durability characteristics, many decorative ceiling tiles have an exceptionally long lifecycle. That means they will look and perform beautifully for the life of the project. Some manufacturers offer 15- or 30-year warranties, and when specifying metal tiles, the life expectancy is even longer. So, once installed, these products won’t need to be replaced any time soon, which gives them sustainable characteristics as well, which we’ll explore in greater detail in the next section.


The sustainable design movement has evolved tremendously over the past 10 years. Most architects and designers expect the products they specify to have a reduced impact on the environment or have a certain level of recycled content or recyclability. However, one of the simplest ways to ensure responsible environmental management when it comes to building materials is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill.

Next to source reduction, building and material reuse is the next most effective strategy for reducing environmental waste because reusing existing materials lessens the environmental footprint of additional manufacturing, according to the EPA.20 In fact, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that construction and demolition waste constitutes about 40% of the total solid waste stream in the U.S. and about 25% of the total waste stream in the European Union.

To help combat the problem, the LEED rating system was designed to reward the reuse of materials, and LEED v4 offers more flexibility and awards points for material reuse achieved by a project — both as part of a building reuse strategy and from off site as part of a salvaging strategy.22 In the case of renovation projects, decorative ceiling tiles use existing mineral fiber tiles as a backer and eliminate the need to discard old tiles that would end up in a landfill. Extending the useful life of existing mineral tiles helps mitigate the amount of construction and demolition waste during a project.

Specifying the appropriate decorative ceiling tiles on a project may help earn valuable LEED points in the several categories, including:

  • MR Credit 1.2: Building Reuse, Maintain Interior Existing Non-Structural Elements. One point may be earned by using existing interior nonstructural elements (e.g., interior walls, doors, floor coverings and ceiling systems) in at least 50% (by area) of the completed building, including additions. If the project includes an addition with square footage more than two times the square footage of the existing building, this credit is not applicable.
  • MR Credit 3: Materials Reuse. This credit may be awarded by using salvaged, refurbished or reused materials, the sum of which constitutes at least 5 or 10%, based on cost, of the total value of materials on the project (5% for one point and 10% for two points).
  • MR Credit 4: Recycled Content. To attain this credit, specifiers must use materials and furnishings with recycled content such that the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus half of the pre-consumer content constitutes at least 10 or 20%, based on cost, of the total value of the materials in the project. The recycled content value of a material or furnishing is determined by weight. The recycled fraction of the assembly is then multiplied by the cost of assembly to determine the recycled content value.23
  • MR Credit 5: Regional Materials. Building materials or products that have been extracted, harvested or recovered, as well as manufactured, within a specified distance of the project site for a minimum of 10 or 20%, based on cost, of the total materials value, must be used to attain this credit. If only a fraction of a product or material is extracted, harvested, or recovered and manufactured locally, then only that percentage (by weight) must contribute to the regional value.24
  • IEQ Credit 3: Minimum Acoustical Performance. Design learning spaces to include sufficient sound-absorptive finishes for compliance with reverberation times requirements as specified in ANSI Standard S12.60-2002, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools is the intent of this credit. In the sample case, 100% of ceiling areas finished with materials having a NRC of 0.70 or higher or equivalent material areas to equal ceiling area on walls, ceiling and furnishing.
  • IE Credit 4.2: Low-Emitting Materials, Ceiling and Wall Systems. All gypsum board, insulation, acoustical ceiling systems, and wall coverings installed in the building interior must meet the testing and product requirements of the California Department of Health Services Standard Practice for the Testing of Volatile Organic Emissions from Various Sources Using Small-Scale Environmental Chambers, including 2004 Addenda.26

Additionally, research conducted by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) has shown that interiors featuring suspended ceilings (including those with decorative ceiling tiles) use less energy than open plenum spaces due to a number of factors.27 The study compared the use of a return air plenum with low static pressures and fan horsepower versus ducted air returns with higher static pressures and fan horsepower. Return air plenums were also found to be more efficient at removing heat from lights, reducing the air conditioning load in the space. CISCA’s research also determined that energy savings are significant for suspended ceilings, with a total energy savings ranged from 9 to 10.3% for the office design and 12.7 to 17% for retail design.

While not every decorative ceiling tile is inherently sustainable in nature, it’s important for architects and designers to understand the potential impact their ceiling specifications may have on a project. As such, decorative ceiling tiles may be a viable solution for a project’s sustainability objectives.


For too long, ceilings have been treated as a flat, white plane rather than a canvas for design and expression. Adding a design element to the ceiling can make a bold statement and affect the overall ambiance of a space depending on that goal of the project. When done properly, a ceiling can become the focal point of a room and contribute to a sense of openness, seclusion, intimacy or even energy.

Whether the decor is traditional, classic, elegant, modern, contemporary, Art Deco, Victorian, or eclectic, there are decorative tiles to fit virtually any aesthetic. As noted earlier, decorative ceiling tiles are available in a large selection of materials and finishes including solid copper, aluminum, faux-metal and styrofoam, and can be used in nail-up, glue-up or drop-in grid installations (for more on installation techniques, see 3 Types of Installation Methods for Ceiling Tiles below).

This gives specifiers virtually endless design options to create unique looks that align with a client’s goals or brand identity, including:

  • Textures. Given the advancements in printing and manufacturing technology, nearly any shape, size or pattern can be created. From organic, geometric, weave, wave and faux textures, decorative ceiling tiles can give interiors a unique appearance and tactile appeal that’s attractive to both the eyes and the hand.
  • Finishes. Many suppliers now offer dozens of finishes, including wood grains, metallic, patinas and solid colors. Many decorative ceiling tiles are offered in a variety of standard finishes, including wood grains. Custom finishes such us stainless steel, oxides, marble and granite are also available, often with low minimum runs.
  • Colors. Today’s decorative ceiling tiles can be specified in virtually any color, including the full spectrum of Pantone hues, although silver and white still tend to be among the most popular. Custom colors are also available from many suppliers, which means the sky is literally the limit when it comes to color choices.
  • Custom designs. Because of innovations in technology, customers that desire a completely unique tile design can see their visions come to life. Many manufacturers are able to create custom products using everything from CAD drawings, replicas from samples, photographs and even hand-drawn designs from customers. This is an especially attractive option in branded environments where every detail speaks to a client’s look and culture. Additionally, custom solutions can prove extremely valuable in renovation projects where replicas of historic tiles can be recreated to replace or match an existing ceiling. (See the case study in the next section.)

Many decorative ceiling tiles aren’t just used for ceilings, either. They have been used to create decorative and functional backsplashes, headboards, photography backdrops, wall decorations, set designs and decorations, wet bars, kitchen bars and even light sconces. When it comes to aesthetics and design options, this is a product category that isn’t limited by choice or availability of product, as custom reproductions can be made for any type of project.

For architects and designers who are exploring ceiling materials and products for an interiors project, perhaps it’s time to take another look at decorative ceiling tiles and consider the possibilities. With hundreds of designs and color combinations, easy installation, and overall flexibility and performance, there’s no limit in terms of the features that specifiers have at their fingertips.


In December 2018, construction contractor CCS Building Group was in the process of renovating the sanctuary of a historic church built in the late 1800s in Mt. Nebo outside Lancaster, PA. Part of the project team’s task was to remove lead paint from the interior as well as replace and repair about 1,500 square feet of existing tin ceiling tiles that had rusted due to water damage.

Because the original tin tiles were originally produced in the late 1800s or early 1900s, removing lead paint from them would be a delicate process requiring the use of an Ibex machine that was used to carefully remove the paint to retain the integrity of the tin panels that could be salvaged. For the tiles that needed to be replaced, however, the project team faced a challenge: the style of tile were no longer manufactured and they needed replicas to patch the ceiling where they were severely damaged to preserve the historical tin ceiling from going to waste.

As a result, CCS reached out to a manufacturer of decorative ceiling tiles to get pricing for creating custom tooling and replicating the historic design without the need for detailed patching or plaster casting. The project team sent a sample to the manufacturer, who was able to scan the existing tile and create a replica within five weeks of receiving the sample. The newly created, replicated tiles were then seamlessly installed and painted to match the rest of the existing panels in the ceiling. As a result of the collaboration, the project team and manufacturer were able to prevent 1,500 square foot of ceilings from being ripped out, and preserved the historical value of this late 1800s church.

Glossary of Acoustic Rating Terms

Before specifying products to address acoustic concerns, it’s important to be familiar with their ratings in terms of their ability to reduce, absorb or isolate unwanted sound. According to AcoustiGuard, a Canadian supplier of soundproofing products, the following are several of the most common classifications and their definitions:

  • Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) determines how well something absorbs sound within a given space. It is measured using values between 0 and 1. An NRC rating of 0 indicates perfect reflection, meaning a material bounces 100% of the sound back into the room. An NRC rating of 1 indicates perfect absorption, meaning a material soaks up 100% of the sound.
  • Sound Absorption Average (SAA). The single number rating obtained from ASTM C423 is the SAA. This is the average of the absorption coefficients for the twelve one-third octave bands from 200 to 2500 Hz. The SAA supersedes the NRC, which is the average of the sound absorption coefficients of a test specimen for 250, 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz rounded to the nearest multiple of 0.05. The higher the SAA or the NRC value, the better the material absorbs sound. NRC and SAA values are both single number ratings that indicate the level of sound absorption provided by the product being tested. The NRC value is the average of the sound absorption coefficients at four 1/3 octave frequencies (250, 500, 1000 and 2000 hertz). The SAA value is the average of the sound absorption coefficients at 12 1/3 octave frequencies ranging from 200 to 2500 hertz. The NRC value is rounded off the nearest 0.05 increment. The SAA value is rounded off the nearest 0.01 increment. The NRC and SAA values normally range from 0.00 to 1.00, with 1.00 indicating 100% sound absorption per square foot of material. These values can exceed 1.00 when thick specimens or specimens with large air spaces are being tested.
  • Sound Transmission Class (STC). This represents a material or product’s ability to block sound from traveling through a wall, ceiling, floor or other building assembly. It is the most common sound measurement system in North America, which is why it is associated with so many soundproofing products. The higher the STC rating, the better a material’s ability to block sound. STC is expressed as an integer and is calculated by taking the Transmission Loss (TL) values tested at 16 standard frequencies over the range of 125 Hz to 4000 Hz and plotted on a graph. The resulting curve is compared to a standard reference contour. Acoustical engineers fit these values to the appropriate TL Curve to determine an STC rating.


3 Types of Installation Methods for Ceiling Tiles

Specifying decorative ceiling tile products isn’t only about choosing the right material, style or color to match the desired aesthetic or even performance of a space. It is also important to understand the installation process and what is required before making a final selection.

There are three main installation practices with tin ceiling tiles:

  1. Glue-up
  2. Nail-up
  3. Drop-in

Glue-up ceiling tiles are a quick way to get the job done while still making a new design look high quality. As implied by its name, these ceiling tiles are installed using an adhesive. They work best if they are applied to a solid, flat surface. Before adhering glue-up tiles to any surface, always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for adhesives. For renovation projects, existing popcorn ceilings need to be scraped completely clean before new glue-up tiles can be applied. As a general rule, trowel and latex adhesives can be used to adhere the tiles to drywall or other ceiling surface. Brush or roll-on, non-flammable, spray-on and water-based contact adhesives suitable for PVC also work well. Because glue-up ceiling tiles are lightweight, they can also be used to create accent walls, backsplashes, and other applications for vertical surfaces.

Nail-up ceiling tiles are, as their name suggests, installed by affixing the tiles to a wood backing using nails. The first thing to remember when installing nail-up ceilings is that regardless of whether the ceiling is exposed joists or a material like plaster or drywall, plywood should be installed prior to nailing any tiles in place. The plywood provides a secure nailing surface for the tiles, and it is recommended that the material be commercial-grade and 3/8- or 1/2-inch thick. Plywood should be installed perpendicular to the ceiling joists, even if they are covered by another material. Apply the plywood so that the end seams are situated on joists and each end can be nailed to a solid surface. If joists are covered by sheetrock or another material, marking the joist locations with a chalk line will make plywood installation easier.

The first tile should be placed in the center of the room and subsequent tiles should be installed in parallel rows. If installing a design with overlapping edges, ensure the overlap is in the same direction with each tile. It can be a good idea to situate the exposed edge of the overlap away from the entry door to avoid the appearance of any gaps at seams. At the perimeter, filler tiles will need to be cut. In many cases, decorative crown molding or another type of edge trim will be installed after the nail-up ceiling tile installation is complete.

Drop-in/lay-in ceiling tiles are a good solution because of their flexibility and easy installation and removal. In an existing grid, installing new decorative tiles is simple: Slide the tile through the grid opening at an angle, and carefully lower into place. For panels that need to be trimmed, use an existing mineral tile as a template and using a marker and utility knife (or razor, scissors, etc.) to score tiles to size and then snap the pieces apart. If grid covers are required, install them prior to the decorative panels, which are inlaid directly over the existing mineral tiles within the suspension grid. If making room for a ceiling lamp, ensure that an opening is cut on the tile where the lamp will be attached.