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What Are the Pros and Cons of Fiberglass Ceiling Tiles?

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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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Ceiling tiles can add a new layer of decoration to interior spaces. From familiar drop ceilings to ceiling-mounted tiles inlaid with elegant geometrical patterns, these decorative elements come available in numerous materials and finishes. Fiberglass ceiling tiles are typically made from glass fibers encased in polymers and offer numerous advantages across a range of rooms. These compositions are often environmentally friendly building materials; lighter tiles can also be mounted directly to the ceiling without sustaining damage from aging or sagging. Additionally, these materials are generally noncombustible and possess effective sound absorption characteristics.

Understanding the different types of fiberglass can help make better choices for the unique needs of a space. One common variety is polyester resin fiberglass, a liquid resin polymerized into a solid, and resistant to most solvents. Fiberglass can be laminated from the epoxy resin, crafted into glass-reinforced plastic structures, glass wool, or chopped strand mats of randomly arranged short fibers.

This material is cheap to produce and easily shaped for irregular surfaces. The unique characteristics of such compositions provide for reliable stiffness and strength in tension and compression forces. These properties can be reinforced when multiple layers are laid atop one another with grains oriented in different directions.

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To get the best fiberglass ceiling tiles for a given situation, properties like acoustics, indoor air quality, and light reflectance should be considered. Fiberglass can be crafted into panels with varying degrees of rigidity, from cloth to semi-rigid panels painted with woven textures, as in drop ceiling panels, to rigid ceiling mounted decorative tiles built for endurance. Fiberglass ceiling tiles, along with other ceiling tiles made of materials like polystyrene (PS) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), typically offer long-lived service that is virtually maintenance free. These affordable installations are lightweight and can be affixed to the ceiling without reducing room space. Most of the time, they are fixed to common ceiling materials with adhesive.

Although fiberglass ceiling tiles have few disadvantages, the ones they do have are important to understand. Most fiberglass is produced with a formaldehyde binder. This can introduce a health hazard in installations and removals, when microfibers fall into the dust. These microfibers can penetrate dust masks and require the use of specially rated vacuum cleaners for removal. In the short term, these microfibers can irritate respiratory systems; with prolonged exposure, they can cause long-term health damage.

Considered a lower-cost alternative to modern materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass tiles typically offer relatively easy installations and low maintenance. They are often made of recycled or reclaimed glass with excellent noise reduction coefficients and light reflectance values. The variety of production techniques and designs merits some research before installation into a room. Following manufacturers' installation recommendations can help preserve warranties and produce desired appearance. With the proper selection and use, fiberglass ceiling tiles can provide an elegant, efficient decor in a wide range of commercial properties and residences.

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