Services & Maintenance: Ceiling Tile Selection - Pay Now Or Pay Later - Facility Executive Magazine

Aesthetics, acoustics, and moisture control contribute to the selection process.
Aesthetics, acoustics, and moisture control contribute to the selection process.

Services & Maintenance: Ceiling Tile Selection – Pay Now Or Pay Later

Services & Maintenance: Ceiling Tile Selection - Pay Now Or Pay Later - Facility Executive Magazine

By Tim Tu
Published in the May 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Findingthe right ceiling solution in commercial and institutional buildings isa juggling act that requires a great deal of dexterity. Facilitymanagers must balance decoration, functionality, and cost. Buildingconditions factor into the decision because age, maintenance history,traffic, and how space is used will influence what to buy.

 NRC is a measure for rating the overall sound absorption performance NRC is a measure for rating the overall sound absorption performance ofa material when used in an enclosed space. A material with NRC <0.50 is a poor absorber, and NRC > .80 is a very good absorber.(Photo: Parkland Plastics)

One of the first things facility professionals shouldconsider during this process is the choice of a ceiling tile thateither engenders the desired appearance or accommodates the activitiesof the users. The next step for the customer is fairly obvious: goshopping, but keep in mind that inexpensive products usually lead torepetitive repair or replacement.

In the wide spectrum oflay-in ceiling tile selection, there is one key decision every facilitymanager needs to make early on in the process: is the primary goal ofthe purchase to enhance the appearance of the facility? Or is it moreimportant to satisfy practical criteria for building visitors andoccupants?

Considered independently, the price for aestheticscan generally be rather high. But if performance is the most importantfactor, the two most common issues will more than likely come down toprioritizing between acoustics and humidity resistance.

Moisture Proof

Moistureis the most common enemy to ceiling tiles. Simple clues to identifyproblems include evidence of brown stains, peeling paint, flaking dust,or pest and insects.

For example, water spots on fiber basedceiling tiles are a tell tale sign there is a problem caused by adripping pipe, a condensating HVAC unit, or a leaking roof. Soaked intoabsorbent material, this incubator of mold can lead to health concernsbesides the ugly visual aspect. To save from repeated replacements,waterproof tiles are long lasting and cost effective—especially in dampareas or older facilities.

Anytime indoor air quality (IAQ) and health codes are strict, ceilingtiles must be extremely resistant to mold, mildew, andbacteria—microbial growths that can contribute to sick buildingsyndrome. These conditions are especially important in health care andinstitutional environments.

Facility managers should selecttiles that have been tested using ASTM D 3273 (a standard designed toimprove hygienic conditions) and have received an exemplary score.Tiles that can be scrubbed and disinfected on the face and the backshould be seriously considered under these circumstances.

Sound And Sustainable

Noisein a room can be reduced using sound absorbing technology. Open areassuch as offices, hospitals, schools, and libraries require productsthat help to lower decibel levels.

Acoustical ceiling tilesare typically made from fiber based materials with perforated surfaces.Generally, facility managers should look for tiles with a high NoiseReduction Coefficient (NRC) or good Acoustical Absorbance (AA).

resistance to growth of mold For inherently damp conditions (like this swimming pool), a good ASTM D3273 rating is especially important, since it indicates resistance togrowth of mold on the surface of interior coatings. (Photo: ParklandPlastics)

While present day trends lean toward sustainablebuilding materials to reduce maintenance costs and generate thegreatest return on investment (ROI), durable ceiling tiles cost moreinitially, but long-term performance makes them economical solutions.[For more on ceiling sustainability, see the accompanying sidebar belowentitled “Old Ceilings Never Die” by Joann Davis Brayman.]

Asimple quality test of how well a ceiling tile may hold up over time ishow easy it is to handle. If the surface or corners are easily damagedor the tile crumbles when cut, service life may be short.

Ceilingsare important to the overall impression of a facility, and byextension, to the company that it houses. Any instance of aestheticimperfection might be regarded as unprofessional, implying that thecompany is unable to meet expected standards of a quality operation.

Sincemaintenance crews often work around business hours to avoid degradingpublic appearances, replacement budgets and new constructionspecifications ought to include tiles that are easy to maintain andwell suited to their environments. The payoff can result in loweroperating costs and a healthier, more attractive building.

Tu ([email protected])is national distribution sales & marketing manager for Middlebury,IN-based Parkland Plastics, Inc. For more on his company’s products,visit the Web at


Old Ceilings Never Die

By Joann Davis Brayman

Sustainabilityis an increasingly important concern in commercial buildings. As aresult, when acoustical ceilings reach the end of their useful lives,facility managers should consider recycling them rather than dumpingthem.

Recycling old ceiling tiles Recycling old ceiling tiles is an eco-friendly alternative to dumping. (Photo: Armstrong Ceiling Systems)

Ceiling recycling programs enable facility managers toship old, discarded mineral fiber and fiberglass ceilings fromrenovation projects to a ceiling manufacturer’s plant as an alternativeto landfill disposal. Under these programs, the manufacturer even paysfreight costs for shipping the old ceilings (30,000-square-footminimum), which it uses as raw materials in the manufacture of newceilings.

The programs are designed to help facilitymanagers reduce their impact on the environment by redirecting usedceiling tiles from landfills back to a manufacturer, thereby creating aclosed loop process and offering a valuable end to what typically wouldhave been thrown away.

A ceiling recycling program usuallyinvolves four steps. First, provisions for ceiling recycling should beincluded in the renovation project’s specifications or constructionwaste management plan.

Second, facility managers need toverify with the ceiling manufacturer recycling the old ceiling tilesthat the materials can indeed be recycled. The old tiles do notnecessarily have to be that manufacturer’s products to qualify for theprogram.

Third, following verification, managers orcontractors must stack the old ceiling tiles on pallets and shrink wrapor tightly band them for pickup. More information on other packagingprocedures and options (and the availability of consolidation locationsfor smaller quantities) is available from the ceiling manufacturer.

Finally,once there is a full trailer load of old ceilings (30,000 square feet),the manager or contractor needs to contact the manufacturer, who willthen arrange for a truck to pick up the material and transfer it to itsnearest manufacturing facility.

In addition to its economicbenefits, ceiling recycling also has a significant impact on theenvironment. For example, recycling just one ton of old ceiling tilesaccomplishes these milestones:

  • Eliminates 980 kilograms of greenhouse gases—the equivalent of not driving a car 1,500 miles.
  • Saves 10 tons of virgin raw materials required for manufacturing new ceilings, which also saves 1,000 gallons of water.
  • Saves 2,800 kilowatt hours of electricity—enough energy to power four homes for a month.
  • Recycling ceilings can also contribute to LEED® Material and Resources, Waste Management MR Credit 2.1 and 2.2.

Intime tests, the process for recycling old ceilings has proven to benearly as fast as dumping them, so the program has little, if any,adverse impact on demolition schedules. And it can be less costly thanthat of local handling, transport, container, and landfill fees.


ceiling suppliers


Armstrong World Industries
2500 Columbia Ave.
Lancaster, PA 17603

Parkland Plastics, Inc.
Tim Tu
P.O. Box 339
Middlebury, IN 46540
F: 574-825-4438
[email protected]

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