Step-by-Step Instructions for Installing Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles
Tools and Materials Needed for the Project:
- Utility knife – used to cut the ceiling tiles to proper size when a full tile won’t fit -- a box cutter or wallpaper knife will also work
- Adhesive Options:
- AcrylPro - Ceramic Tile Adhesive. (Buy here at The Home Depot) -- important: glue and paint must be water-based
- Instant Grab #310 (Akfix) - Comes in a tube and it is available in most hardware stores.
- Caulk – color that matches your tiles – this is to fill any gaps between tiles that may occur. (We often use this kind)
- Gloves – these help to keep your hands clean while working with caulk and mastic – form fitting rubber gloves are ideal
- Caulking gun – used to apply the caulk – look for a model designed to discourage drips
- Sponge – this is used to wipe off excess caulk and mastic – a clean rag will also work and either should be rinsed often
- Straight edge – handy for cutting tiles – a four foot level or any metal rule longer than two feet should work
- Measuring tape – used for laying out your ceiling design
- Carpenter’s pencil – any pencil will do, but the marks of a heavy duty carpenter’s pencil are easy to see
- Chalk line – used for installation guidelines
All of these materials should be available at your local hardware or home improvement store. It’s usually a good idea to gather everything needed prior to starting the project.
Utility knifes are very sharp – always guard against injuries when cutting your ceiling tiles – tiles should be secure and on a flat surface when trimming.
Styrofoam ceiling tiles can be installed on ceilings and walls covered with drywall, lime, lime-cement, dry plaster, chip-board, aerated concrete, masonry, silicates, and popcorned or textured ceiling finishes. When installing over any existing ceiling material, the surface should be dry, stable, even, hard, and free of any dust or debris.
Do NOT attempt to apply Styrofoam ceiling tiles over a popcorn ceiling that is soft or unstable. If the surface falls into these categories or is questionable, always remove the popcorn before installing the tiles – simply soak the popcorn with water and scrub it off the surface.
Preparing the Surface
Before installing decorative Styrofoam ceiling tiles on any surface, it should be cleaned of any dust, grease, wax, or any other dirt that may be present. If the surface displays any cracking or other defects, these defects should be corrected with filler prior to proceeding with the tile installation – cracking or flaking paint should also be removed.
Take Your Time
Whether you’re an experienced DIYer or attempting your first project, installing decorative ceiling tiles is a job where planning is just as important as the actual installation -- taking a little extra time in this phase can result in a more attractive ceiling.
Find the Center of your Ceiling
Starting in the center of your room with your Styrofoam decorative tiles normally provides the most appealing layout – in many cases you may already have a ceiling fan or light in this spot, but if not, use the string method to determine the room’s center. Stretch two strings across the ceiling at a diagonal from opposite corners (Figure 1) and where they cross should be the center – finish nails can be used to secure the ends of the strings or ask a helper to lend a hand. Draw two perpendicular lines where the strings cross to divide the ceiling into four quadrants (Figure 2).
Applying Adhesive to Tiles
The mastic is applied to the backs of your tiles in small 1 to 1 ½ inch thick mounds (Figure 3). If you happen to have a porous surface such as popcorn, you may want to increase the thickness of the adhesive, but a hard flat surface such as sheetrock or plaster may take a little less – use the first several tiles to determine the ideal amount needed for your ceiling. The mastic should be placed in mounds approximately two to three inches in diameter and located at each corner of the tile, in the center, and a few other spots as needed. It isn’t necessary to spread the mastic as pressing the tile into place on the ceiling should take care of that task – try to keep the adhesive in from the edges enough so that it doesn’t flow past the tile when installed.
Installing the First Tile
Measure across the ends of your room and make a mark on the ceiling at the center of each wall taking into account any offsets or unique situations that may affect the measurements. Use your chalk line to snap a line through the exact center of the room previously marked to perimeter wall centers – this should provide square lines to guide the installation of your first tile and those that follow. Before installing any tiles stand back and inspect the lines to ensure they appear correct.
Place adhesive on the back of your first tile and press it into place with one corner in the marked center of the room (Figure 4). Make sure the edges follow your chalked lines.
Press each tile into place with enough force to spread the mastic evenly, but be careful of damaging the tile surface.
Tiles should be installed in parallel rows (Figure 5) taking care to keep the edges as close together as possible. You may find it helpful to snap additional ceiling lines based on the width of the tiles, but take care not to get chalk on the surfaces of the tiles already installed. Trim tiles at the perimeter of the room as needed for a good fit – be careful when cutting!
When you have completed your tile installation, use your caulking gun to apply a bead of caulk at all tile seams – paying particular attention to where gaps exist (Figure 6). This helps to ensure a seamless and solid appearance for your Styrofoam decorative ceiling tiles. If you’re an inexperienced caulker, you may want to practice on a few spare tiles before starting on your finished ceiling.
Caulking the ceiling tiles is much the same as applying grout to ceramic tiles – work it down into the gaps along the entire length of each tile. Be careful not to apply too much and promptly smooth the bead out with a clean finger. Excess caulk can be wiped off with a damp sponge – remember to rinse the sponge often and wring it thoroughly to remove excessive water and avoid smudging the tiles.
If you’re planning on painting your tiles, white caulk can be used, but if the tiles are pre-finished, a matching or clear caulk is normally your best choice. Excess caulk should always be wiped off before it has a chance to dry or it may become very difficult to remove.
Hopefully these instructions will help with your ceiling installation, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email us.