Installing a Tin Ceiling

A vintage tin ceiling.

Old fashioned tin ceilings are making a comeback, and vintage tin tiles rescued from old construction are at a premium. You can achieve the same look for less money with new tiles and save even more by installing them yourself. Most reputable ceiling suppliers will offer detailed fitting instructions and most metal ceilings are fitted by their owners.

These instructions assume you have already painted your panels before installation begins. Painting them first is the easiest way to proceed - especially if you want the panels painted in fine detail.

Hang Plywood Panels

The easiest way to install pressed tin is to first affix plywood to the old ceiling or walls and then nail the tin to the ply. You can use timber battens, but plywood will make for a much easier job. For the best results, remove any existing cornices before attaching the sheets to the ceiling.

How you fit the ply to your ceiling depends on the kind of ceiling it is. In general, you measure the area of your ceiling and use enough plywood to cover that area, cutting it to fit the shape of your ceiling. Screw the panels through the plaster or sheetrock directly into the ceiling joists, with screws every 6 to 8 inches. If you are lucky enough to have timber ceilings, you can omit this step and nail straight onto the timber.

Find the Center Lines of the Room

When fitting your ceiling panels, it is important to have them sitting square. This is complicated by the fact that very few rooms are built truly square. You need to find five points: the center of the ceiling and the center of each of the four edges of the ceiling. Draw lines dividing the ceiling into four, equal quarters.

Lay your metal from the center of the ceiling toward the edges. This method ensures that any discrepancies in your ceiling are halved by the time you reach the edges of the room.

Install the Crown Cornice

After drawing out your central line markings, attach your crown cornice. Most cornices have flanges along one side of their length that will eventually be covered up by the ceiling paneling. Nail these flanges to the plywood and then nail the lower edge of the crown cornice to the timber batten supports attached to the walls.

Some manufacturers are now supplying aluminum strips. They attach to the walls and then the cornice clips onto them. Ask your supplier for advice on installing their cornices.

Lay It Out on the Floor

Before you attach the main ceiling paneling, lay out the panels on the floor. This allows you to familiarize yourself with them and get some useful practice for later. Ask yourself, when people walk into this room, from what direction do they see the ceiling? To keep the joins in the paneling out of sight, you'll have to lap the panels away from the main entrance.

Hang the Main Paneling

Tacking nails are quite long, but if you only nail them in part of the way they're pretty easy to remove with pliers. Use them while you're still trying to get everything into place. When you're done, replace them with smaller nails. The manufacturer's fitting instructions may have more information regarding the specific nails to use with their tiles.

Nail the main paneling from the center of the room out toward the edges, remembering to be consistent with panel lapping. If you are using a small pattern, continue to nail your panels right out to the cornices - trimming the outside panels until they fit tightly up against the crown cornices.

Install Borders

If you are using a large design in your main paneling, stop well short of the cornices to leave enough room for the molding strips and border/filler panels. Most large designs do require a border or filler strip around the edge; otherwise, they don't look so elegant when installed.

Border or filler panels usually have a small pattern on them, which complements the larger main panels in the center of the ceiling. If you require a border, it will be worth it to consult an expert to find out how wide the border should be. It is easy to upset the balance of your ceiling by having a border that is too wide or too narrow.

Install Accessories and Medallions

There are some aluminum accessories that can give a classy finish to a ceiling. One example is an attachment to hide rough cutting in the area where the cornices are mitered. There are also rosettes to place at the junction of the molding strips. If the budget and ceiling height permits, consider installing an aluminum ceiling medallion. These are truly works of art. They're handmade and expensive, however, the effect they create is stunning.