Over the last couple of years I’ve had at least a dozen calls concerning Celotex ceiling tiles. The reasons for these calls can range from the ceiling having a wet spot from a leak, tiles being damaged to the point that they are sagging, or the customer wanting to change the looks of their ceiling.
So you may be wondering, what is Celotex ceiling tiles? The pic to the right shows some Celotex tiles (CT). CT was a product that was used in the past to cover ceilings. If I had to guess I would say it was something that was used up until the early to mid 80’s (based on past work experience) when sheet rock became the staple for all wall and ceiling coverings. It usually comes in 12″ x 12″ tiles that fit together much like the new laminate flooring does. These tiles were stapled over some type of backing (plywood strips or 1×2″ furring strips) that were laid out on 12″ centers perpendicular to the ceiling joists. So if you look at the photo, wherever there is a seam there will usually be a furring strip used to attach the tile.
CT’s had some advantages. They were relatively cheap and easy to find as most building supply stores carried them. They were easy and fast to install, making them more feasible than to install sheet rock. And with the several choices in color, one could choose anything between a plain ceiling white to something as crazy as an off white with grey or gold accent lines (oops, sorry I hit the sarcasm button on my laptop). One other advantage, which at the time was not a big deal, was the fact that the tiles did add some insulation. Maybe not a lot, but they did help.
Now for the disadvantages. As is usually the case with things that are cheap and easy to install, they did pose a few problems when it came to maintenance. One problem is if they ever get wet, say from a leaky roof, then there is very little chance to remedy the situation. You can prime and repaint to take care of the stain, but if CT’s get too wet then the chances are good they will start to sag and even fall if the material breaks down. Also, if CT’s are not stapled sufficiently then that could cause them to sag. If you do develop a sag, they are almost impossible to face nail without damaging the finished side.
So, lets say you have a problem with your tiles and you want to fix them. Most people assume that the best thing is sheet rock. And if you’re a sheet rock prince/ princess living in a sheet rock palace, then yes, that is the best fix (Again, I hit that sarcasm button. Just to be clear I am not a hater of sheet rock. My house is a sheet rock palace. Although, I do wish I had more contrasting materials in my home other than boring old sheet rock.) But there is another option out there that, and given the age of your home, may make more sense.
Yep, bead board. Its pretty easy to find at most home centers. It does cost more than sheet rock, but lets look at the advantages. Its more durable, it will last forever if installed correctly, and it will add a little something that most homes in your neighborhood are lacking: character.
The great thing about going over the CT’s (Remember that thing earlier that I said about a little added insulation. Now a days that’s a pretty big deal) is that the bead board is pretty easy to install. You just snug it up to the previous board and nail, at an angle, through the tongue of the board you’re installing. I use a 16 Ga finish nailer, with 2″ nails, and it’s nailed at every seam of the CT’s (every 12″). Thats all there is to it. Sure, it will not be perfect. There will be the occasional small gap in the grooves that will need some caulk attention. And there will be a few knots that will need some wood putty. But you know, its like a lot of things. Some may see it as being imperfect. I like to think of it as being rich in character, showing a certain patina that comes from years of use.
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