Tin Ceilings for an Authentic Period Look

Tin ceilings offer a relatively inexpensive method for adding period feeling and flair to any room.

Click here for suppliers of tin ceilings
Click here for suppliers of ceiling medallions
Click here for suppliers of other ornamental ceilings
Click here for suppliers of ceiling domes

Real estate ads that proclaim "Original Tin Ceilings" probably have it wrong. The tin may be old, but odds are it's covering the original plaster ceiling. Tin ceilings came into use in the late 19th century -- and their most frequent original application was as an overlay on molded plaster ceilings. When a leak caused part of an ornamental plaster ceiling to collapse, it was quicker, easier, less messy -- and cheaper -- to cover the damage with embossed metal than it was to call in a skilled wet plaster craftsman. Tin ceilings have been in continuous production for over 100 years, and the reason is the same now as it was in 1900: Tin ceilings provide a lot of visual bang for the buck.

Another advantage of tin ceilings is they can installed by a reasonably competent carpenter -- a much more available trade than wet plasterers. (Hint: After the installer is through, if you see any open seams or cracks where panels meet or where the panels meet the cornice and wall, make sure all of these openings are filled with a high-quality caulk before painting.)

Still another of the material's attraction is the array of finishes. Clear lacquer coatings can be applied to embossed sheets that come with a copper, brass or other metal plating for a contemporary, high-tech look. At the opposite end of the finishing options are glazes and a wide variety of fantasy finishes, which can make a tin ceiling resemble embossed leather, ceramic tile or other fool-the-eye looks.

Probably the trickiest problem in the world of tin ceilings is patching a tin ceiling that has sections that are either missing or damaged to a point where you need to replace them. If you're lucky, the pattern you have is also one that's still in production. In such cases, you just have to order new material from suppliers in the online list above. If your pattern is not still being made, then you still have several options.

THE BONDO PATCH
Small damaged areas can be filled with auto body filler. Filling holes larger than 1 in. dia. requires patience, but the same techniques used to patch "bottomless" holes in drywall can be adapted here.

THE SCAVENGE PATCH
Scavenge some panels from the least conspicuous part of your space, and use this material for patching. Then fill in the scavenged area with new tin ceiling panels that come as close as possible to the original pattern. Once painted, few people--besides you--will notice the mismatch.

THE NEEDLE-IN-A-HAYSTACK PATCH
It's possible (not likely but possible) that an architectural salvage dealer might have a supply of the tin ceiling patterns you're looking for. If you want to try this route, explore this list of leading architectural salvage dealers. But be sure to have another option in mind in case you can't locate your exact pattern.

THE CAST-YOUR-OWN PATCH
Because tin ceilings are produced from expensive machined dies, custom runs of small amounts of tin ceiling are usually not cost effective. Faced with this dilemma, resourceful renovators have found ways to make a mold from an existing intact part of the ceiling and then to cast their own replacement pieces. Depending on the way the original tin ceiling is mounted, a variety of materials can be used for the castings, including fiberglass and plaster.

With the vast array of tin ceiling patterns available today, you can restore or replicate the most elaborate ceiling created in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, for new construction, you can give the client an authentic period look at a cost that won't break the bank.

 

Click here for suppliers of tin ceilings
Click here for suppliers of ceiling medallions
Click here for suppliers of other ornamental ceilings
Click here for suppliers of ceiling domes

 





Floors, Walls, Ceilings, Surface Finishes