Decorative Ceiling Tiles

How to Install Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

Give a Room a New Look with Decorative Ceiling Tiles

By Kevin Elliott



Styrofoam ceiling tiles are suitable to be applied to a range of ceiling or wall surfaces: plaster, brick, popcorn, silicates, cement, lime, chip-board and the like. Always clean the surface where you want to attach the ceiling tiles. If the surface has already been painted, make sure that all loose paint has been removed. If you are applying the tiles to a new surface, then make sure that any cracks or joins (e.g. between chip-boards) are filled in with a suitable filler. The surface should be washed, preferably with sugar soap, to remove dust, cobwebs and loose odds and ends and allowed to dry thoroughly before the tiles are applied.

 Selecting your tiles:

Ultimately, the choice of tile depends on your tastes and the overall look that you want to achieve in the room. You will need to get the right amount of tiles to cover your ceiling (or the area you wish to fill with tiles), which means that you’ll have to revisit some of the math you learned at school when you were 12 years old or so. The typical Styrofoam ceiling tile measures 20 inches square (20 by 20) – that’s 50.8 cm by 50.8 cm for those who prefer metric units. Measure the length and the width of your ceiling in inches, and divide each parameter by 20 to calculate how many tiles long and wide your ceiling is. This will tell you how many tiles you will need, but it’s wise to add on 15% more tiles to allow for error – Murphy’s Law will be there to get you if you don’t!

If you plan to add color to the Styrofoam ceiling tiles, paint them using water based paints and allow them to dry before installing them.

Sample Products

Basic Glu Styrofoam 20x20 Ceiling Tile $3.99
Clearance Item 3 Styrofoam 20x20 Ceiling Tile $3.49

 Installing the tiles:

First, find the center of the ceiling, as the tiles will look best if you work from the centre outwards. A simple method of finding the center of the ceiling is to use two lengths of string running from corner to corner along the diagonals to form an X. The arms of the X will cross at the center. Once you have found the center by either method, mark the place and re-use those lengths of string to make a cross (+) that divides the ceiling into four equal quadrilaterals that meet at right angles (use the set square to check the angles). Draw the lines in place, using the straight edge. Remember, it’s better to measure twice and glue once!

Next, apply the mastic glue to the Styrofoam tiles. You do not need to spread the glue flat onto the tile’s surface – it should be in little blobs that the pressure of applying the tile will flatten. The exact amount of mastic you need to apply a tile will depend on the surface that you are applying the Styrofoam ceiling tiles to: popcorn and other porous surfaces will need more, while flat, hard surfaces need less. Blobs about half an inch to an inch thick is a good rough guideline.

Press the first Styrofoam ceiling tile into place, making sure that one of its corners fits neatly into the junction of the perpendicular lines you drew on the ceiling to mark the center. Press hard to flatten the mastic and to ensure the tile adheres. The next tiles you apply should be placed as close as possible to the first, with as small a gap as possible between them. Start with the four central tiles, then work outwards from the middle. It can be useful to get down from the ladder and look at the tiles from the perspective of the floor after laying a few to make sure that you have the tiles lined up properly. The tiles near the edge, if your ceiling will not take a whole number of tiles, will need to be cut to size using the box cutting knife.

Once all the tiles are in place, apply caulk to the joins between the tiles. Inevitably, some caulk will remain on the surface of the tiles, and this will need to be wiped away as soon as possible with the damp rag. Once you have wiped away the excess, use your finger (wearing rubber or latex gloves) to smooth the caulk down into place.

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