Tin Ceiling Panels: Your One-Stop Guide

Tin Ceiling Tiles
Tin Ceiling Tiles

Tin ceiling panels are a great way to refurbish a ceiling or add flair to your room décor. There are several choices in materials as well as installation systems available. You can go with authentic metal tiles or opt for faux tiles. The architectural style of your home and which room you want to tile can guide you in selecting the right tile.

Types of Installation Systems

There are four main types of installation systems for ceiling panels: nail up, drop in suspension grid, SnapLock and glue up.

Nail Up Panel

Nail up panels are installed with a six-inch overlapping seam. 18-gauge brad nails are placed all around the panels by using an automatic 25 lbs. pressure brad gun.

This is the same system used in the original tin ceiling installations in the late 1800s. You can use either a plywood substrate (base) or a strip grid that's spaced twenty-four inches on center. If you opt for the furring grid (method for fixing plasterboard to suspended metal grid for smooth ceiling effect), you want to be sure it runs in both directions so there's support for your brad nails every six inches.

Drop-In Suspension Grid Ceiling System

A drop-in suspension grid ceiling system is designed for the panels to be placed flush with the grid. The grid is attached to the ceiling. Unlike the nail up method, the panels are dropped into the suspended grid. Most grids are painted the same color as the panels so they become part of the aesthetical design.

Patented SnapLock System

The SnapLock system is a patented embossed metal panel. It is screwed directly into any ceiling material. The paneling system was designed specifically for DIY home owners. It can be installed over an existing tile system as long as you have the correct screws.

Glue Up Faux Tile

Glue up installation is easy and simple to install. You simply glue laminated vinyl faux tin tiles over the existing ceiling. Whether the original ceiling is a smooth traditional ceiling or popcorn, the tiles can be glued directly to the ceiling for a quick transformation.

Types of Tin Ceilings and Finishes Available


There are several finishes available for tin ceiling tiles. Each gives a distinctive look to your décor. You can go with a state of the art metal ceiling or opt for a less expensive route with imitation panels that have a great look.

Authentic Tin Ceilings

You can purchase authentic tin ceiling tiles and panels that are available in many patterns and a wide range of colors. This type of ceiling tile is going to be on the higher end of most budgets, but is worth the extra money for a truly sensational nostalgic ambiance.

Copper and Other Metals

Copper remains a very popular choice for tin ceiling tiles, especially for kitchens. Consider a copper ceiling for added depth and charm to a wood-paneled study, office or den. Copper speaks antiquity and opulence for any of these rooms.

High-ceiling foyers may lend themselves to this ceiling choice. This is the most expensive metal tile available and should be considered when adding any 'must haves' to your budget. If you wish to preserve the original copper look, you'll need to seal the metal or buy pre-sealed. A thin coat of sealant is applied to the original metal finish. The polyurethane coating also makes it easier to clean the tiles. If left unsealed, the copper will develop a patina finish that many homeowners find attractive.

Other metals available include:

  • Brass
  • Chrome
  • Lacquered or perforated steel
  • Pewter
  • Plated or antique plated copper

Faux Tiles with Painted Finishes

Painted ceiling tiles have an authentic look and are available either in plastic or foam. Pre-painted tiles are also available either in one color or several colors to mimic ornate plaster ceilings. Custom painted faux tin ceiling tiles can also be ordered to specification or you may opt to paint the ceiling yourself. Be sure to purchase Class A fire-rated plastic or foam tiles.

Where to Buy


American Tin Ceilings

American Tin Ceilings offers over 70 colors and 33 designs. You have a choice of the traditional nail up panel or drop-in suspension system as well as the company's patented Snap Lock system that can be screwed into any ceiling.

Renovator's Supply Inc.

Renovator's Supply features traditional tin tiles as well as tin tiles that are hand-painted with various faux finishes. These finishes include:

  • Plantation Charm: Off-white with brown and copper highlights
  • Cooper Patina: Pale green with copper highlights.
  • Tuscan Sunset: Yellow with burgundy highlights.
  • Gothic Gold: Black background with gold and copper highlights.

The Tin Man

The Tin Man offers a wide variety of tin ceiling tiles including pressed styles. The company also offers the same faux finishes as Renovator's Supply Inc.

Metallaire by Armstrong

Armstrong's trademarked Metallaire is considered a faux tin ceiling that's made out of composite materials, the most prominent one being steel. This line of metal ceiling panels offers authentic turn-of-the-century tin ceiling designs.

Armstrong has duplicated twelve historical tin ceiling tile designs available in four color options:

  • Brass
  • Chrome
  • Copper
  • Paintable white

If you're green-minded, you'll be pleased to learn that 60% of the material used to manufacture this product comes from post-industrial recycled steel.

The panels are available in two sizes. You can purchase either a 2' X 2' or a 2' x 4' lay-in tile system (suspended grid) or a nail-up system.

Tin Look is another Armstrong trademarked line of tin-looking decorative tiles that are paintable. Instead of panels, these are traditional 12 inch squares. Made out of a mineral based fiber, you can choose from several turn-of-the-19th century styles.

Plastic Tin-Styled Tiles

This plastic type of tile is available at most hardware stores. A common imitation of tin ceiling tiles, these are usually made out of a thermoplastic material. The advantage of this faux tin ceiling is that you can realize a tremendous savings in the cost of your ceiling. Most of these tiles come in numerous embossed designs and finishes.

Cleaning Your Tin Ceiling

Cleaning a tin ceiling can be a difficult job since the metal is fragile and can easily be dented by rigorous cleaning. For this reason, regular cleanings are essential to prevent build up.

If your ceiling is newly installed, you may only need a soft, dry cloth to clean each panel. An air gun can remove dust in crevices and ornate panels. For ceiling tiles that are located in the kitchen, a dry cloth may not be enough due to grease build-up. Be sure to consult the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning products for your ceiling. Test all cleaners on a scrap piece of ceiling panel before using on your ceiling.

Deciding on Your Tin Ceiling

There are many things to consider when purchasing tin ceiling panels. Your budget will play a deciding role on what type of ceiling you shop. Keep in mind that once your ceiling is installed, it will be very difficult to discern a real tin panel from one of the faux ones.

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Tin Ceiling Panels: Your One-Stop Guide