Tin ceilings were introduced in Africa and Australia in the mid-1800s, but it wasn't until the United States mass-produced rolled sheets of tin that the tin ceiling trend was born. Tin ceilings were middle-class Americans' response to the decorative plaster ceilings en vogue in Europe. The tin ceiling trend peaked in the late 1800s and was eventually replaced by dry wall or acoustic drop-ceiling panels.
The recent surge in historic home restoration has increased popularity in stamped tin ceilings. Vintage panels can be found at architectural salvage suppliers. These reclaimed, three-dimensional panels often need to be cleaned, mended or stripped and repainted. Newly manufactured ceiling panels come in contemporary and vintage designs and are produced in metal as well as compressed foam.
Do as much research as possible before planning the project. Online photo galleries and slideshows will provide a variety of visual examples and creative ideas to assist in the design process. Price panels and decide on design, color and material.
The ceiling dimensions that will be covered with panels should be taken and drawn to scale on graph paper. When sketching the design in advance, identify where the predominant light source(s) are located (window, chandelier, sconces, etc.).
Floor dimensions are usually identical to the ceiling. Measure the floor instead of climbing a ladder to take ceiling measurements.
The size of the ceiling will determine the needed quantity of stamped tin panels. At Blog Cabin 2011, the recessed alcove in the game room measured 8' x 9'. Reclaimed stamped tin ceiling panels were purchased from an architectural salvage supplier to cover this recessed space. The reclaimed panels were in need of cleaning, and random patterns and slightly different dimensions had to be accounted for. Prices for reclaimed tin panels range in price from $15 to $70 per panel, based on condition and material.
The tin panels are nailed to furring strips which are screwed into the marked ceiling joists. The ceiling dimension will dictate the amount of 2” x 2” furring strips needed, based on the length and width of the panels. Don't forget to include furring strips for the perimeter of the ceiling. The shopping list above will help with the remainder of project purchases.
What About New Stamped Tin Ceiling Panels?
If purchasing reclaimed panels is outside the budget constraints, newly fabricated, less costly ceiling panels may be purchased online. With some DIY research, many of the Web links advertise a variety of panels in different patterns, styles, materials, colors, shapes, sizes and prices. Websites displaying newly stamped ceiling panels can be found under the Web browser heading “stamped tin ceiling panels.” Prices range from $4 to $50 per panel, based on the style and material.
Try to purchase tin panels that are nearly identical in size to minimize trim work.
Place a large drop cloth or tarp outside and lay panels on top of the cloth. With a wooden spatula or plastic mixing spoon, lightly chip off loose paint chunks still clinging to the panel. Be careful not to scratch the face of the panel during the chipping process. Once the panels are free of loose paint chips and wiped clean, set them aside to dry and collect the lead-based paint chips on the tarp. Bag the loose chips carefully and set aside for proper disposal.
When the panels are dry, place them back onto the tarp and apply a coat of polyurethane spray to both sides of each panel. Apply a second coat to seal in both sides of the lead-based paint.
When the polyurethane as dried, lay out panels in the desired pattern. It may be helpful to number the sequence of the panels by applying blue painter's tape to the corner of each panel.
Lead-based paint is toxic. Always wear gloves and a heavy-duty dust mask when working on surfaces painted before 1978. When cleaning up, place the paint chips, rags and dust mask in a heavy-duty garbage bag and seal. State mandates vary when dealing with lead-based paint cleanup and disposal. Visit your state's Department of Health's website for further details.
Remove lights, fans, vent covers, smoke alarms or other objects that are normally attached to the ceiling.
Locate each ceiling joist and mark it with a snap line. Place a nail in the center of the ceiling joist to attach the snap line. The lines and nail holes will be covered with the ceiling panel.
To locate ceiling joists behind drywall insert a long finish nail probe into the ceiling. The nail will enter easily if no joists are present. Work additional nail holes to the side until entry is more difficult. This is the joist edge. Find the center of the joist, then test again 16” to the side, the probable distance to the next joist.
Once each ceiling joist has been marked with a snap line, measure the ceiling panel width. Note: Panel sizes must be consistent. Next, measure and mark the ceiling for furring strip attachments. The furring strips are attached to the ceiling to correspond to the width of the ceiling panels. Note: When attaching the ceiling panels, the edges should be in the center of the furring strip.
Screw the 2” x 2” furring strips into the marked ceiling using 3” screws. Note: A framing nail gun may be used with 3” nails instead of 3” screws. Continue attaching the furring strips across the ceiling joists until you reach the opposite wall. Make certain that the perimeter of the design has furring strips to connect the outside edges of the ceiling panels. Note: Ceiling panels placed against the wall may be smaller in size than the rest of the panels; therefore, panels will have to be custom cut to fit. Furring strips must accommodate this attachment.
Safety Tip: When working on electrical fixture removal, switch the circuit breaker off to cut power to the working area. It is recommended that an electric current device be used to test each fixture to ensure that the power is off. Wire-cap each loose wire when the fixture is removed.
Builder's Tip: When attaching the furring strips to the ceiling, ensure that the width between strips is consistent to match the width of the panels. An assistant helper is recommended to hold the furring strips during attachment.
Line up the first panel along the center of two furring strips. A second hand is always helpful. Use a finish nailer with 2” finish nails to secure the ceiling panel to the furring strip.
Attach the second ceiling panel with a slight overlap, using a heavy-duty construction adhesive to connect the edges.
Wear heavy-duty leather gloves and safety glasses when handling the tin ceiling panels above the head.
To accommodate ceiling lights, ceiling vents, fan boxes and smoke alarms, measure carefully and, with tin snips, hand-cut openings in tin panels to ensure a snug fit.
It may be necessary to lower the ceiling fixture boxes to the level of the furring strips. Some modifications to the fixture boxes may require an electrician if the DIYer is unable to make the adjustment.
Apply panels down the furring strips, working toward the light and/or the wall with the narrow panels. These panels must be carefully cut to fit snugly against the wall.
When cutting the stamped tin ceiling panels at Blog Cabin 2011, a cutting table and cutting guide were set up to cut clean and straight panel lines with a circular saw.
When all ceiling panels have been installed, reattach the ceiling fixtures using the electrical safety tips provided above.
Some stamped tin ceiling projects are finished with crown molding, decorative switch-plate covers or ornate medallions around center-of-the-room drop lights or chandeliers. A wide array of accessories like cornices and corner miter box embellishments can give the room a more finished look.