Should you paint a suspended ceiling tile?

When it comes to painting a suspended ceiling tile you should really check with the manufacturer to ensure that painting it will not invalidate the warranty or impact the tile’s acoustic or fire rating properties.

For example; Armstrong do not recommend painting any of their ceilings generally.  Their reason for this is that a layer of paint, of undetermined thickness or type, could adversely affect the tiles technical performance, such as; fire performance, acoustic absorption, light reflection or sag.  They recommend that if you are going to paint your suspended ceiling tiles that you use a “specialist companies [sic] who can offer a cleaning or redecoration service. However the decision to repaint Armstrong mineral fibre or Orcal metal tiles must be considered carefully” and that “If there is any doubt, then laboratory testing to assess any possible differences in technical and legislative performance should be conducted on repainted samples.“.

Armstrong then go on to state that – “It should be noted that the repainting of ceiling tiles supplied by Armstrong will invalidate any warranty that was provided when the tiles were new.” (source – Armstrong FAQ Installation and Maintenance point 37).

Rockfon state in their literature Rockfon Alaska Product Information (Aftercare section) that “Disclaimer: The application of refinishing paint will influence acoustic properties and fire safety performance. Rockfon takes no responsibility for these properties after treatment.” Rockfon do however, also say that “tiles can be post factory treated with a re-finishing paint, e.g. a PVA water based latex paint. The paint should be applied with an airless spray in a low amount (no brushing or rolling). Rockfon advises the use of the smallest amount of paint in order to minimise reduction in sound absorption. The surface of the tiles must be clean and dry and the existing paint surface must be firmly adhered to the tile prior to refinishing. Heavily discoloured tiles should be replaced.

The other issues that come with painting ceiling tiles is that the majority of paint can also cause the patterns on the face of the tile to become less distinct, the tiles to stick to the grid so that they will no longer be removable – not to mention that the actual painting of them is a pain!  To paint a ceiling tile that can be easily removed again the tiles either need removing from the grid or the grid needs taping beforehand, and then the tiles need laying out flat to ensure that they don’t ‘sag’ when they get wet with the paint; or a special non-bridging paint should be used to ensure that the tiles don’t get stuck in the grid.  The entire room will need protecting with polythene (or similar) in order to ensure that mist from the paint spraying doesn’t stain the rest of the room.

If you’ve go stained ceiling tiles, also remember that normal emulsion paint isn’t stain-clocking; stains such as nicotine will slowly bleed through the fresh paint to show on the surface again, the same with water stains.  Standard paint isn’t isn’t acoustically neutral either, the ceiling makes up a huge proportion of the surface area of a room and painting this will affect the acoustics.

So in summary; if you want to paint your ceiling tiles there is nothing stopping you so long as you are careful with your choice of paint, you take the tiles out of the grid (as a best practice and unless you are using special non-bridging paint) and you are fully aware of the consequences of doing so.  If you are in any doubt any ceiling tile manufacturer will be able to give you further information, but they are likely to tell you the same things that we have just covered; you can do it but ensure that you make your client aware of the results and that you are not endangering people by altering the qualities of lining that could be there to ensure a fire rating.

If you’re looking for new ceiling tiles then we can help you at Suspended Ceiling Shop; we supply all styles, from major manufacturers such as Armstrong or Rockfon and we’re always happy to help out whenever we can as much as we can, just contact us.

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