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Restoring Ceilings Cuts Costs

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Lisa Ploss is VP, ProCoat Products, Holbrook, Mass., lisa@procoat.com.

Aged and discolored acoustical ceilings can make a store look outdated and old before its time. But replacing an existing ceiling can be costly. An option for retailers that want to improve the look of their ceilings without replacing the tile is ceiling restoration.

Chain Store Age: What is ceiling restoration?

Lisa Ploss: Ceiling restoration refers to a combination of cleaning and coating technologies that result in a ceiling system with a completely new surface finish. The coating utilized in this process is similar to the one applied by the manufacturer on new acoustic tiles.

In addition, ceiling restoration treats the tile, grid system, speaker plates, air diffusers, etc. Consequently, the end user doesn’t simply get new-looking ceiling tiles, but a fresh surface appearance on the entire ceiling system.

CSA: What types of ceilings qualify for restoration? Are there any surfaces for which it is not recommended?

Ploss: Ceiling restoration can be used on all types of acoustical tiles, as well as popcorn, in addition to combination ceilings, metal, open deck, even plaster and drywall ceilings. We suggest not using it on ceilings that are not structurally sound. It is not always the preferred treatment on blown acoustical ceilings where the products are not amenable to a coating application. These substrates must be tested in a sample area before committing to ceiling restoration.

When we see ceilings that have a small percentage of broken tiles, we recommend that the retailer replace the broken ones with new ones prior to having the ceiling restored. The same recommendation applies to tiles that are sagging from old roof leaks or are saturated with grease. Ceilings that have some water stains can be restored, providing that the leak has been fixed and the tiles are dry.

It’s important to understand that the coating doesn’t change the structure/ texture of the tile. A restored warped tile will still be warped. It is all about expectations, and we try to point this out to our customers. Also, tiles laden with mold and mildew should not be restored.

CSA: Is restoration appropriate when the ceiling color also needs to be changed?

Ploss: Yes. In fact, ceiling restoration is the most ideal option when ceiling color changes are specified.

We are also frequently called for applications on new construction projects to provide color to the ceilings. It is less expensive to order the new ceiling tiles in white and have them sprayed to the specified color than to order tiles from the manufacturer in a specialty color, not to mention the time constraints involved with custom color orders.

CSA: What is the difference between using ProCoat and regular latex paint to restore ceiling tiles?

Ploss: There is a world of difference between spraying a ceiling with a regular latex paint and using ProCoustic, ProCoat’s acoustical coating. We never refer to what we do as “painting” because we do not want to be associated with the negative aspects of conventionally painting acoustical tiles. Conventional paint is made to go on walls and trim, and not to be applied on acoustical tile.

ProCoustic is a non-bridging product, meaning it will not fill in the fissures of the tile. Therefore, the acoustics will not be compromised, nor will the tile stick to the grid. Paint will cause ceiling tiles to warp, whereas ceiling restoration will not.

CSA: Costwise, how does restoration compare to tile replacement?

Ploss: Retailers can realistically expect to save 50% of the total cost by restoring a ceiling vs. replacing it. If it is a ceiling with a more expensive type of tile, the savings can be even greater.

To give you an example, we do a lot of supermarket remodels. In the July 2007 issue of Chain Store Age, it was reported that new ceilings were costing an average of $ 1.86 per square foot in supermarkets. Those same ceilings can be restored at 85? to 95? per square foot.

CSA: Besides cost, are there any additional benefits of restoration vs. replacement?

Ploss: Yes, ceiling restoration can be done in about one-third the time it takes to replace tiles. Also, it is typically done at night after the store closes so there is minimal impact on the store personnel and normal business routine.

CSA: What about the environment—is restoration an eco-friendly process?

Ploss: Yes, ceiling restoration helps the environment by reducing the amount of tile that gets dumped into our already overburdened landfills. The product itself has low VOCs so it is not a pollutant. Also, restoration helps retailers qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits in two different categories.

CSA: Do restored ceilings require any special maintenance?

Ploss: No. A restored ceiling requires the same maintenance as any ceiling would need. That being said, ProCoat has developed maintenance products to combat two common problems related to acoustical ceilings: the appearance of water stains and the accumulation of soot around air diffusers/returns.