Painting ceiling tiles on its own can seem daunting, let alone figuring out what paint, brushes, and related supplies you’ll need to do the job.
But if you are strategic and have patience, ceiling tiles can be painted using the correct type of paint and tools.
Ceiling tiles should be ideally painted with either flat latex paint or spray paint unless the tiles are made up of wood. Applying the paint using a sprayer instead of a roller or brush is also easier.
Paint Options for Different Ceiling Tiles
When you are just starting, you first need to know that there is a significant difference between interior wall paints and ceiling tile paints.
This simply means – never use wall paints for painting ceiling tiles.
When painting ceiling tiles, the type of paint you opt for typically depends on the type of tile you have.
They can be made of various materials, including:
Faux tin (manufactured using thermoplastic, like PVC), Fiberglass, Wood, Metal, and Mineral fibers. Mineral fibers are usually used for Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC).
Typically, a matte finish is a look to go for on all kinds of ceiling tiles. It is much rarer to see a sheer or glaze finish on ceiling tiles unless they are tin tiles.
1- Tin/Faux-Tin Tiles
Latex-based spray paint can be used after adequately thinning it if you plan to paint over tin or faux tin tile.
Some types of tiles will require a coat of primer before you begin.
For these types of tiles, you can just use primer spray paint, which is usually best since they have a lot of grooves to get the paint into.
Furthermore, the paint goes on thinner, which is ideal for this type of application. You want to avoid thick paint on tin tiles.
Painting faux-tin tiles can be tricky. This is especially true of any of the old-fashioned ceiling tiles.
When you use one color to paint 19th-century-style ceiling tile, it will end up looking quite flat.
This can be an issue with tin tiles as well. This is due to the fact that the tiles have intricate designs on them.
Fortunately, you can get away with using a single color on this kind of ceiling by using sheer paint or paint that doesn’t have a matte finish.
If you choose a paint product with a matte finish, you’ll quickly see that you’ll have to make up for the shadows and highlights with other shades of the same paint.
This will add a lot of extra time and effort to your project that you wouldn’t have to necessarily give otherwise.
2- Drop Ceilings or Acoustic Tiles
Drop or acoustic ceilings are good for hiding away unsightly elements like wiring and pipes.
Still, they are quite the investment and can lose their visual appeal after only a few years.
For this reason, painting them is almost always a must.
Painting an acoustic ceiling using standard ceiling paint will diminish some of the tile’s sound-absorbing abilities.
If you want to retain the noise reduction quality, then there is a specific kind of paint you need to use: Acousti-Coat.
Acousti-Coat is a latex, flat water-based paint that is made using ceramic microspheres with sound-absorbing fillers.
It is an excellent paint for acoustic tiles if you want to limit the reduction in sound absorption.
This paint will help the material block out the noise even more.
3- Asbestos Ceiling Tiles
Many homeowners have used asbestos ceiling tiles because of their higher quality than other materials. However, they have been prohibited in certain regions due to their health dangers.
It’s critical to understand that asbestos ceiling tiles are dangerous only if they’re damaged or destroyed.
So if you have these tiles in your place, consider sealing them correctly using the spackle (to fill up the cracks and holes) and then spraying the latex paint with at least two coats of paint.
If you are painting the asbestos ceiling tiles yourself in a DIY way, it should be done cautiously.
Or better to hire services that offer more advanced paint sealer application processes known as encapsulation – which refers to the use of high-tech paint.
4- Metal False Ceiling Tiles
Metal false ceiling generally uses materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, or galvanized iron.
These materials are easy to install and maintain, which makes them ideal for use in false ceilings.
However, false ceilings made of these materials can also degrade over time. to keep them in good condition, you can use enamel paints.
Enamel automobile paints also work pretty well on metal false ceiling tiles as they are durable, come in easy-to-use spray cans, and may be colored to any shade you like.
Usually, a coat will do the job of repainting the metal grids. But if you want to go dark, either choose a darker color or apply two or three layers of a light shade.
5- Plastic and Wood Suspended Tiles
The primer and paint used for plastic and wood ceiling tiles are generally oil-based.
The issue, however, is that it has chemicals you don’t want to breathe in for long periods. So, when using an oil-based product, be sure the area is well ventilated.
Plastic and wood ceilings will also need an oil-based primer. If you don’t use enough oil-based primer, the paint will simply not stick.
The primer could also bleed through and discolor the wood if not applied correctly.
You must also remember that the primer on wood and plastic ceiling tiles can take as long as eight hours to dry. So, you will need to wait for a long.
Once the primer is dry, you can paint the tiles using latex-based or oil-based paint.
Tips for Applying the Paint to Your Ceiling Tiles
Being patient and applying the touch-up paint correctly is the key to success here.
So, ensure you follow the process and invest some time – do not try to complete the project quickly.
When you are painting the suspended ceiling tiles made of metal, plastic, or wood, it will require some preparation work.
It isn’t challenging to do, and it will always be worth it.
Besides cleaning the ceiling and preparing the room, you will also want to gently use sandpaper for sanding the decorative tiles.
Sanding won’t be anything you need to spend too much time on; you just need to roughen the surface a little bit so it can better hold the paint.
Sandpaper with a grit of 180 or a similar sanding brush will do just fine to complete the job.
The biggest thing about painting the drop ceiling grids in your home or business premises is to ensure you apply the paint evenly.
You’ll also want to be mindful not to use too much paint on the tiles and grids. This could cause bubbles and dripping to form on the tiles.
If you’re applying spray paint, keep the spray can six inches to a foot from the tiles and apply it in straight sweeps across. This ensures even application.
In most cases, you will likely only need a single coat for ceiling grid tiles, but it could be changed based on your preferences.
Remember that drop or acoustic ceiling tiles can easily be removed for painting and then placed back in the ceiling.
This makes painting them more convenient, and you won’t need a sprayer. Instead, a brush or a mini roller set may be more efficient and effective for coating drop or acoustic ceiling tiles.
Once you’re done painting with brushes or rollers, it’s good to take some time to clean them well so that they can be reused later whenever you need them in the future.
How Much Paint Will You Need for Ceiling Tiles?
Another thing to figure out before touching up your old ceiling tiles is – how much of the paint you’ll need to purchase.
Typically, it is recommended that you put two coats of paint on the ceiling tiles, though sometimes, all you need is one.
Acoustic ceilings, particularly, should be coated with a single coat of paint. This is especially true if you use acoustic tiles for their NRC abilities.
The reason for a single coat of paint is to cover what you need to cover while saving some of the natural sound-absorbing components from the original tile.
On the other hand, drop ceilings that may be covered in dark, ugly stains or grime might show through the paint if you only apply one coat. However, this is something that can be mitigated using a good primer.
Also, remember that you’ll have to buy more paint and primer if you opt for thinner, cheaper paint. Cheap paint simply doesn’t go as far as high-quality paints regarding coverage.
Generally speaking, here is a good rule for determining how much paint you’ll need:
- One gallon of liquid paint usually covers 400 square feet of smooth ceiling grids
- One can of spray paint usually covers around 20 square feet of smooth ceiling grids
What Paint Colors are Best to Pick for False Ceiling Tiles?
Commonly, people choose to paint their ceiling tiles white or black.
Black is usually used in places like home and restaurant kitchens, as any possible smoke stains are well hidden.
White paint on ceiling tiles is the most common for home use – as it makes the room seem brighter.
If you’re painting tin tiles, you can choose a fun, sheer color instead.
Here are some tips for choosing a color based on your room size:
For a large room:
- Paint the ceiling tiles and walls of a larger room with a dark color to make it feel cozy.
- Paint the ceiling tiles and walls in lighter colors if you want to bring the atmosphere of a wide-open space.
For a small room:
- Open the space up using matching lighter colors on the ceiling and walls.
- Make it feel cozier using dark colors for walls and ceiling tiles.
If the decorative tiles on your ceiling are outlined with wood trim at the intersection of the wall and ceiling, this can accentuate the wall and ceiling colors.
Painting this division area in white better shows the size of the room.
Who makes the best ceiling tiles?
No matter whether you need to install the ceiling tile grids in your bedroom, living room, kitchen, or bathroom, some of the most popular names you can trust are Armstrong, A la Maison, Art3d Drop, and USG.
All these manufacturers are known to build high-quality ceiling tiles made from materials such as fiberglass, gypsum, perlite, clay, cellulose, mineral wool, metal, etc.
What are acoustic tiles made of?
Acoustic ceiling tiles are placed between the grid of a suspended or dropped ceiling and the room’s environment to change its acoustics.
These tiles are available in a variety of materials, including fiberglass, foam, wood, polyester, and other substrates.
What sizes do drop ceiling tiles come in?
The most common ceiling tiles sizes available are 24″ x 24″ or 24″ x 48″.
However, there are also the drop and acoustic tiles that are available in 12” x 12”, 6″ x 48″, and 5″ x 84″ plank styles.
The Bottom Line
Painting drop ceiling grids can initially seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
Understanding the size of your space, the materials your tiles are made of, and how much and what quality of paint to use beforehand can save you a lot of effort during the project.
So, don’t fret and start with your project, and your ceiling tiles will look good as new in no time!
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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