• In this video, This Old House features editor Amy R. Hughes explains how to build an embossed metal planter.

    The patterns in most old metal ceilings were stamped in a tic-tac-toe formation, but instead of Xs and Ox, the same floral and geometric design was repeated in each quadrant. To sheath a wooden planter box, I used salvaged tiles in just such a grid with four 6-by-6-inch squares stacked one on top of the other and 12 across. Working from those dimensions, I cut the box's wooden sides so the metal would fold neatly around its four corners. I left a 6-inch reveal at the top so I could tuck and nail the last layer of metal squares inside the box for a finished look. To guard against rot and insect damage, I built the planter out of ½-inch pressure-treated plywood and inserted a plastic liner.


    1. Brush off loose rust and cracked paint. To protect against toxic lead, which can be released in paint dust, work outdoors and wear a respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Also, pull on a pair of thick gloves so you don’t cut your hands on the sharp metal.

    2. Fasten together precut 18-by-18-inch panels to form the sides of the plywood planter. I used a pneumatic nailer, but a hammer and 1½-inch finish nails will also do the trick.

    3. Secure the bottom (this is a 16-by-16-inch panel, sliced in two), leaving 2 inches of space in the middle for water to drain through. Then, nail a pair of scrap lumber “feet” perpendicular to the bottom boards. This will help reinforce the box and elevate it off the ground.

    4. Fold the metal sheeting around the sides of the planter, and use a rubber mallet to tap it flush against the wood.

    5. Fasten the metal to the planter box by driving in steel tacks along it’s bottom seam.

    6. Use snips to cut the corners where the metal overlaps the top of the planter.

    7. Fold the metal over the planter’s top edge, tap flush against the inner walls, and secure with nails.

    To preserve the patina and prevent more rust, apply an exterior-grade polyurethane sealant such as Rust-Oleum American Accents Clear Top Coat Spray.

    8. Insert the plastic liner, and fill your new planter with flowers.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      It’s like wrapping a present only with sharp paper, and nails instead of tape.
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      Tools List

      • hammer
      • mallet
        Rubber mallet
      • metal cutting snips
      • mason's brush
        Wire brush
      • gloves
      • dual cartridge respirator

      Shopping List

      1. Vintage embossed metal ceiling panel
      (about $10 per square foot at salvage yards)

      2. ½-inch pressure-treated plywood

      3. Plastic planter insert

      4. 1 ½-inch finish nails
      5. Steel tacks