To cover a ceiling with tin (steel, actually) you need panels for the field and cornice pieces to bridge the junction between ceiling and wall. The good news is that, once you provide room measurements and — configuration, manufacturers will calculate for you how many of the 2-by-2-foot panels and 4-foot cornice pieces you actually need. That includes cornice pieces cut to fit together tightly: At inside corners, one piece will be coped (cut at an angle and shaped to hug the curves of the adjoining piece) and at outside corners both pieces will be mitered to meet at a point.

The steel comes either powder coated or bare; the former is meant to be left looking like metal (and is colored in different finishes), while the latter is for painting. Traditionally, tin ceilings were painted; if you have any trepidation about installing the ceiling neatly, you should probably plan to go that route. That way, you can caulk and paint over mistakes. If you leave the metal showing, you can still cover imperfect joints with clear caulk and metallic touch-up paint, but these spots will be more visible. Keep in mind, also, that the patterns on these ceilings have a repeat; a smaller repeat is better for a smaller room.

The metal used for the panels is heavy—if you hang them directly off of drywall or plaster the nails will pull out. So first you'll need to cover the ceiling with plywood to create a secure nailing surface. This is the most difficult part of the job: finding the joists and then raising and screwing plywood sheets to them. Think about layout before you start putting up panels. A row of panels should be centered over the entry to the room, and the joints between panels should overlap in such a way that cut edges face away from the room's entry. This will make the ceiling look neater to someone walking through the door.

Once you have your plywood up and your layout scheme established, nailing up the metal—especially if you rent yourself a brad nailer and compressor to alleviate the tiresome work of hammering overhead—is just a matter of finessing the panels and cornice pieces into place.
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    Tools List

    • circular saw
      Circular saw,
      for cutting plywood sheets
    • jigsaw
      for cutting holes in plywood
    • drill
    • chalk line
      Chalk line,
      for snapping layout lines
    • gloves
      used to protect hands from sharp-edged ceiling panels
    • brad nailer
      Brad nailer and compressor,
      rent for about $40 a day
    • pencil compass
      used to mark round cutout holes
    • framing square
      Framing square,
      used to mark square or rectangular cutout holes
    • metal cutting snips
      Tin snips,
      for cutting ceiling panels
    • hammer
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level,
      used to mark cornice layout lines on wall

    Shopping List

    1. Pressed-metal ceiling panels

    come in 2x2- or 2x4-foot sizes

    2. Press-metal cornice

    come in 4-foot-long sections

    3. 3/8-inch plywood

    creates solid nailing surface for ceiling panels

    4. 2 1/2-inch decking screws

    for attaching the plywood underlayment

    5. 2x4s

    used to build T-braces for supporting plywood during installation

    6. 11/4-inch-long, 18-gauge finishing nails

    for brad nailer to fasten ceiling panels; or use special cone-headed nails

    7. Latex caulk

    used to fill gaps at the seams

    8. Metallic touch-up paint

    for concealing caulked gaps and mistakes on an unpainted ceiling

    9. 1x4 tapping block

    used to seal panel seams

    10. Fine-point indelible marker

    for marking cut lines on ceiling panels

    11. 1/8-inch drill bit

    used to locate ceiling joists

    12. 3/8-inch drill bit

    for boring tin-snip starting holes in ceiling panels