Last Updated on March 28, 2023 by Barry Gray
Acoustic ceiling tiles serve the vital purpose of helping to soundproof and improve the acoustics of a space. Acoustic ceiling tiles are made from many different materials, all of which have different characteristics.
So, what are acoustic ceiling tiles made of? Some of the most popular material options for acoustic ceiling tiles are mineral fiber, fiberglass, wood, metal, and melamine acoustic foam. Each material type has its own properties that make it great for specific applications and not so good for others.
A lot of factors will play into what acoustic ceiling tile is right for you and your space. Read on to discover more about how to determine the best acoustic ceiling tile for your project.
Common Materials and When to Use Them
Acoustic ceiling tiles have the power to absorb sound. You can fasten them directly to a ceiling as a means of controlling noise. Alternatively, you can hang them in a suspended or dropped fashion, creating a small space between the ceiling and the tile where sound is trapped.
Either way, installing acoustic ceiling tiles is an effective way of keeping excess noise to a minimum.
Acoustic ceiling tiles are frequently used in commercial office buildings, schools, and spaces within residential homes including basements. The tiles can be made from mineral fiber, fiberglass, wood, metal, or melamine acoustic foam.
Let’s take a look at which acoustic ceiling tile materials are the best overall and which materials work well in different scenarios.
These tiles are some of the most popular ceiling tile options for sound control. When they were first introduced to the market, they were among the most effective tiles for blocking noise and they have maintained their popularity ever since, even as better materials were introduced.
They have kept their best-selling status primarily due to their affordability.
If you have a small budget, you may opt to install mineral fiber acoustic ceiling tiles for improved acoustics in any space. However, you should keep in mind that acoustic ceiling tiles made out of mineral fiber may not last very long.
Mineral fiber is prone to water damage and not a great option for areas that may get damp or humid.
A great soundproofing choice for both commercial and residential environments. In fact, many consider fiberglass to be superior to mineral fiber both at absorbing sound and withstanding the elements.
Fiberglass is a better choice than mineral fiber for damp, moist or humid conditions.
While it is not completely waterproof and may be somewhat susceptible to water damage, fiberglass has a higher likelihood of surviving water damage than does mineral fiber. It is also more sturdy than mineral fiber.
Another cost-effective option that you can use in both commercial and residential settings.
However, you need to keep wood tiles away from any areas with high humidity and potential for water damage.
Additionally, while they are somewhat effective for noise reduction, they don’t have as much impact as other materials including mineral fiber and fiberglass.
Metal acoustic ceiling tiles are a higher end option and are usually found in commercial buildings.
They are made from thin metal sheets which are formed into tiles and often include an acoustic pad or blanket for added soundproofing capability.
These are an excellent option because not only are they incredibly effective for noise reduction and improving the acoustics of a space, but they also come in a wide variety of finishes and patterns to help you achieve the aesthetic you desire.
These acoustic foam tiles can be found in both commercial and residential buildings and are one of the best options on the market for soundproofing.
Unfortunately, they are pricey, and can in fact be prohibitively expensive!
Characteristics of Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
Now you know some of the common materials, but there are also other factors to take into account when considering acoustic ceiling tiles.
There are three important characteristics of acoustic ceilings that you should be aware of. You’ll see these terms regularly when looking for tiles to buy, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with their significance.
1. Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)
The NRC refers to the ability of a material to absorb sound. The scale ranges from 0-1, with higher decimal numbers indicating superior sound absorption capabilities.
Generally, anything over 0.8 is an excellent option if soundproofing is a major priority.
2. Sound Transmission Class (STC)
The STC measures the soundproofing effectiveness of a material. The higher the number, the better the abilities.
An average STC within homes is 35. Any STC rating above 50 will make it difficult for you to hear a conversation of normal volume from a different room.
You should aim for a rating of at least 25 for acoustic ceiling tiles.
3. Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC)
The CAC measures the potential of a material to prevent the transfer of sound to nearby spaces. The higher the number, the better the material is at blocking sound.
Try to get a material with a CAC measure of at least 35.
Acoustic Ceiling Tile Installation
I mentioned earlier that you can either attach acoustic ceiling tiles directly to the ceiling or you can install them beneath the original ceiling in a dropped or suspended fashion.
Dropped or suspended installations are mostly used in commercial settings. And in these cases, you will require a professional to do the installation.
Most residential installations are done directly on the ceiling. If you are looking to install the tiles in your home, and you’re fairly handy with tools, then you can do this yourself.
If you have a drywall or plaster ceiling, you can glue acoustic ceiling tiles directly to the ceiling. You may also affix the tiles to your ceiling by using wood strips, screws, and staples.
You will also need to ensure you buy the right type of tile that’s suitable for this application method.
If you have ducts or pipes that you would like to conceal, you may opt to install your acoustic ceiling tiles in a dropped or suspended manner. This will be a more complex project and will involve designing a grid and measuring, cutting, and nailing the tiles.
You might also be wondering how long your acoustic ceiling tiles will last once installed. This is highly dependent on the ceiling tile material that you select, along with the environment of the space your ceiling tiles are in.
If conditions are generally favorable and your tiles do not suffer from water damage or heat/humidity damage, you can probably expect them to last about ten years.
After ten years or so, acoustic ceiling tiles may start to show signs of deterioration including warping or cracking.