How To Paint Acoustic Ceiling Tiles (The 8 Steps)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

The decision to paint acoustic ceiling tiles depends on the tiles’ material. Once you are confident that the ceiling tiles can be painted, you need to decide on a suitable paint. After this, you are good to go.  

Cover a working surface with drop cloths and remove the tiles, making a mental note of where any uneven tiles must go after being painted. Clean the tiles and prepare the surfaces by smoothing rough edges before applying suitable paint. Let the paint dry and carefully replace the tiles.

Painting acoustic ceiling tiles may sound like a challenge but the method doesn’t differ much from painting other surfaces. The secret lies in choosing the paint wisely. Using the wrong paint could reduce the acoustic properties of the tiles. Luckily there are creative and interesting alternatives to enhancing the acoustics of a room that do not involve painting. 

The 8 Steps For Painting Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Use paint made specifically for porous acoustic ceiling tiles. Traditional paint fills the pores in these tiles, which blocks sound absorption and defeats the object. After you have selected an appropriate product, follow the steps below to paint the tiles.

  1. To prepare the work area, cover a flat work surface with drop cloths. 
  2. Remove the tiles from the grid. Remove as many tiles as you have space for on the prepared work surface. Lift every tile carefully and pull it away gently from the bracket.  
  3. Prepare the tiles. Make sure to keep oddly shaped or cut-down tiles separate to make it easier to return to their original positions in the grid. Vacuum both sides of all tiles to remove all dust to make sure that the paint will stick. Place the clean tiles on the surface, textured side up. Do not stack them.
  4. Paint exposed edges of tiles with a small brush. (Note that edges that are concealed by the grid don’t require painting.)
  5. Paint the textured surfaces with a roller. Avoid excessive pressure to prevent damaging the tiles. 
  6. Let the paint dry thoroughly, as per the product’s specification.
  7. Clean the furring support structure (the grid) with any suitable household cleaner. 
  8. Reinstall the tiles and take care of them to avoid damaging them. Touch up any blemishes on the paint with a suitable paintbrush.

Repeat the steps until all the ceiling tiles have been repainted.

The 4 Steps For Spray-painting Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Spray-painting

This spray-paint technique can be used as an alternative to removing tiles, cleaning, and painting them individually. 

1. Inspect The Tiles

Inspect the tiles and remove and replace badly damaged ones.  

2. Prepare The Work Area

Remove or mask all fittings and fixtures. Mask walls and furniture and cover the floor. Dust down the surfaces to be painted properly to ensure that the brush and paint stay dirt-free while painting. Dusting down also helps the paint to stick. Clean all vents with a damp microfiber cloth and sugar soap.

3. Keep Yourself Safe During Painting

Because liquid aerosol enters the air, fumes accompany the paint particles. These fumes are potentially harmful, as they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause health issues. They enter your system through inhalation or skin absorption. For this reason, you have to wear full personal protective gear and equipment (PPEs).

4. Prime The Surfaces

Prime the surfaces using specific stain blockers for acoustic ceiling tiles. When the tiles are dry, spray them with a very light first coat of suitable paint. Then spray the tiles with a second coat. Move quickly and keep the spray gun more than 60 centimeters from the tiles. When the paint has dried, remove and dispose of all masking materials.  

The Mechanics Of Acoustics and Ceiling Tiles

ceiling tile

Sound is absorbed when sound waves come into contact with absorbent materials like walls, ceilings, floors, and other objects. When sound is adequately absorbed, it will not be reflected back into the room from where it originated.

An open window is an excellent absorbent because the sound passing through the open window is not reflected back. Open windows are inefficient sound barriers, though. On the other hand, a painted concrete block is a superb sound barrier but a poor absorbent since it will reflect back about 97% of the sound that strikes it. 

Painting To Solve For High And Low Sound Frequencies

sound frequency

The microfibers used in acoustic tiles absorb micro amounts of sound wave energy. The density of the microfibers and thickness of the panels results in the levels of absorption that are achieved. Lower frequencies need denser and thicker panels to have an effect. Depending on the tiles, painting may still be effective at lower frequencies if they are thick enough.

Painting acoustic tiles will diminish the effect of absorption at higher frequencies as the paint becomes hard and reflective. 

Examples of low-frequency sounds are ‘rumbly’ sounds like thunder, waves, and a man’s deep voice. Examples of high-frequency sounds are whistles, squeals, birds chirping, and clinking cutlery.

Can Acoustic Foam Be Painted?

acoustic foam

Acoustic foam is not a good candidate for painting since paint can easily block the open-cell structure.     

Alternatives To Painting Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Consider the alternatives below if you are not convinced that you can paint your acoustic ceiling tiles without severely affecting their sound absorption properties or have tried and failed to get the required result. 

Hang Fabric From The Ceiling Or Walls

A creative way of absorbing sound in a room is to hang fabric from the ceiling or the walls. Velvet and wool are great at absorbing sound. You can even purchase art acoustic panels that will absorb sound while enhancing the aesthetics of your room. 

5 Steps To Make Your Acoustic Screens

Feeling creative? You can make acoustic panels (or screens) and place them against the walls and the ceiling. Follow the steps below:

  1. Select sound-absorbing core material and cut it into a panel.
  2. Build a wooden frame for every panel and frame it.
  3. Select a sound-transparent fabric that will complement the intended interior of the room. The test for sound transparency is simple: Hold the fabric you’ve chosen to your mouth and exhale. If the airflow is resisted, it is not adequately sound-transparent. Rather look for something else. Colored burlap or calico are popular choices. 
  4. Stretch the fabric over the panel and fasten.
  5. Install the panels. This article explains where to locate the best spots in the room for installing acoustic panels.

Conclusion

Painting with high-quality paints made specifically for acoustic materials should be effective and not significantly diminish the sound absorption qualities of acoustic ceiling tiles. If it does not work optimally on your tiles, there are alternative solutions for you to choose from.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.