Just about every paint manufacturer produces a ceiling paint product. But that does not mean that every paint manufacturer offers a product that is appropriate for application to acoustical surfaces. Conventional paints are not the same as an acoustical coating and few manufacturers include such an item in their product line. But the right product does exist and it is available at the local level. It just takes a little research and knowing what to look for along the way.
The pivotal word here is “acoustical.” With few exceptions, ceiling white latex paints on the market will have a negative affect on the surface’s ability to absorb sound. The acoustical characteristic is in essence, the ability to absorb sound and to decrease the likelihood of sound waves “bouncing” off the ceiling creating, what is often referred to as, an “echo chamber.”
Every acoustical product has built into its surface, crevices, holes, and textures that redirect the sound waves and/or allow them to pass through to a highly absorbent material under the surface. A perfect example is the conventional acoustical ceiling tile which has a soft core and a coated perforated surface that allows sound to pass through. Conventional paint products tend to “bridge” or close up these perforations, thus restricting the ability of sound waves to pass through. This bridging characteristic is what causes the window to be left stuck to the window sill after having been painted. The paint bridged, or spanned that crack forming a film that once dry, left the two surfaces stuck together.
Therefore, acoustical coatings have as a major distinction a “non-bridging” characteristic that does not allow any space to be spanned by the coating material. Another advantage of such a product is that it can be applied (sprayed usually) on the entire ceiling surface and yet after it has dried, the ceiling tiles are not stuck to the supporting grid system. Of course, acoustical coatings used to restore aged/discolored ceilings have unique features other than “non-bridging.”
The question is where one may go to find such a product if it is not available at the neighborhood paint store. An excellent place to begin is on the internet surfing under “Acoustical Ceiling Restoration.” When a ceiling is restored it should appear and perform like a new ceiling or as close to it as possible. And this requires products designed specifically for this type of an application. Here, there will be more than one product described. The next challenge is to choose one manufacturer over the other and to do so require more effort than simply comparing cost.
The old adage of “talk is cheap” holds here as well. It is easy to make product claims in fancy brochures or displayed on web sites. So how does a person choose one over another? The following should help.
– Testing: There are five major tests that are conducted by independent laboratories, using appropriate ASTM protocols, on this type of product. They are acoustical, fire retardancy, light reflectance, toxicity, and aging. As an example, the acoustical test determines what actual affect, if any, is detected as a result of the coating material being applied. Unless independent laboratory test results are available to confirm the product claims, buyers beware.
– Availability: Does the manufacturer make the product available through local dealers who can provide technical assistance as well? Legitimate product dealers will not represent a product that is not equally legitimate. Their concern is that their reputation is at stake, should the product not perform as advertised.
– Established: Few companies who offer poor products or services remain in business for long periods of time. The economy has its ups and downs and only the strong firms have the base that allows them to ride out the challenging times. Also, the longer a firm has been in business the more they have learned and the more likely it is that they will have the technical answer when the problem situation arises.
In summary, only an acoustical coating should be used on an acoustical surface and not all paint manufacturers produce such a product. Manufacturers who produce products to be used in the field of Acoustical Ceiling Restoration are to be sought out through the internet or by referral from a knowledgeable source. In order to distinguish between one manufacturer and another, one should determine that five major tests have been performed on the product by an independent laboratory and that the results support all product claims. The product should be available locally through a legitimate dealer and the manufacturer should have been in business long enough to have a proven track record.