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American Tin Ceilings Tile Installation Overview & Tips

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Overview & Tips

Considering the installation of a tin ceiling can be daunting. Traditional (Nail-Up) tin ceilings require a wood substrate and the challenge of adding wood plywood or furring strips over other ceiling material can be labor intensive and costly. Fortunately, American Tin Ceilings has 3 installation types that address any ceiling substrate you might have without having to replace or add to your substrate.

If you have a wood substrate (plywood, joints or furring strips), choose our traditional Nail-Up type.

Do you have drywall, plaster or popcorn ceilings? Choose our exclusive patented Snap Lock™ tin ceiling panel type. You’ll spend less physical time installing a Snap Lock™ ceiling and eliminate additional materials that can often double the cost of your tin ceiling. These panels use a tongue and grove system and screw directly into your existing ceiling.

Have a suspended ceiling grid? Our Drop-In panel types are specially formed to fit 24” x 24” grids with 15/16” bars. If your grid is currently formatted for 24” x 48” tiles, we have T-bars that easily convert your system to 24” x 24”.

Regardless what ceiling type you select, use our installation tips as a guide to installing your beautiful tin ceiling. The substrate material of your ceiling will dictate the type of panel required, and the panel type used will dictate the method of installation. The room layout will dictate the pattern selection and vice versa.

You should draw a plan to scale prior to purchasing your product. Draft the layout of panels, moldings, filler, crown, and other accessories you wish to use. You can then easily determine the type and quantity of necessary to complete the project. Transfer the layout of your plan to the installation area by making a grid with chalk lines.

The panels are installed first, and then crown and trim is installed over the panels. If possible, it is preferable to position seam overlaps away from prevailing light, entrances or areas of prominence. Nail-Up installations require nails every 6” inches around the perimeter of the panels, moldings and filler. Pre-cut miters and copes are available at no additional charge to help make your installation easier. Inside corners are coped, outside corners are mitered.

  • Caulk any gaps or open seams in the panels, molding, filler, or crown to create a smooth, tight fit.
  • Painted panels: Use painter's caulk.
  • Unfinished, silver or steel colored: Use clear caulk at your discretion.
  • To hide fasteners (nails), dab the nail head with matching touch-up paint.
  • Layout and design of your tin ceiling should be planned prior to purchase.
  • All of our tin ceiling panels measure 24" x 24" and cover 4 sq. ft.
  • We offer 6" and 12" repeating patterns and 24" patterns (12" patterns tile 4 times per panel). Panels with 12" patterns can easily cut in half without cropping the pattern, whereas panels with 24" patterns cannot.
  • Snap Lock™ tiles can be installed directly onto drywall with drywall screws.
  • Nail-Up panels require a plywood substrate for installation.
  • Drop-In panels are used in standard 2' x 2' commercial grid systems with 15/16” bars.
  • We offer tin crown and flat molding in standard colors.

Small Rooms

The rule of thumb is that any room smaller than 12’ x 12’ should use 12” repeating patterns. Patterns #1, #2, #4, #5 and #16 are 12” patterns.

Small Ceilings

Use small patterns to help make a room look bigger. If you have a 10’ x 10’ room using 24” pattern panels, you will have only 25 patterns on the ceiling (100 sq. ft. divided by a 4 sq. ft per panel is 25 panels). On the contrary, using 12” pattern panels will result in 100 patterns There are 4 12” patterns per 24” tin panel. The rule of thumb is that any room smaller than 12’ x 12’ should use a 12” repeating pattern like #1, #2, #4, #5, or #16.

Low Ceilings

Lighter color panels can help reduce the appearance of a low ceiling.


Bathrooms are the ideal place to be creative with color. These ceilings are usually smaller and can be more dynamic with our custom designer colors combined with wallpaper or faux finished walls. Depending on the height of the ceiling, 3” or 6” crown in metal or wood will work well here. If you opt for wood crown from your local hardware store, it can easily be painted to compliment the tin colors with off the shelf spray paints.


Trimming out your ceiling is a very important part of the process. The tin ceiling panels often need to be cut to fit flush against the wall, and therefore trim should be applied to cover the edges. Even if you are using filler with a 24” pattern, you generally need trim. The only exception is when you already have crown molding installed. We manufacture metal crown in 3”, 6” and 8” in all of our standard colors.

Another option is to use wood to trim your tin ceiling installation. Although not as decorative as tin, wood trim can be installed and painted to provide a clean, finished look. You’ll need to know how to make miter cuts in an effort to trim the inside or outside corners. If you’re not comfortable with mitering, you can hire and experienced professional such as a carpenter or handyman to help. To add the finishing touch, wood trim can be color matched using off the shelf spray paints at your local home improvement store.

Using Filler and 24" Patterns

If you have bigger ceiling or are seeking a specific look that requires a more ornate 24” pattern, consider using filler panels on the perimeter as a transition between patterned tiles and the edges of the ceiling. Larger patterns typically have deep profiles that are not easily covered with the edges of crown molding. Filler panels offer a smooth transition between the full size panels and crown molding. Use Flat Molding between pattern and filler seams. Imagine installing 24” pattern panels in a room that measures 15’ x 17’. Cutting the last panels in half to fit the last foot against the wall would leave a visual inconsistency between the pattern and the trim. To avoid this, install 14’ x 16’ of 24” pattern panels from the center out, then finish the remaining area to the wall with filler (2 runs of 14’ and 2 runs of 16’). The filler will border your panels and help maintain visual consistency.

Our filler ships in 24” x 24” sheets and can easily be cut with tin snips or a guillotine paper cutter. Mitering the corners on a 45 degree angle enhances the aesthetic.

Crown Projections

When you are measuring trim in your ceiling project, consider that crown molding projects out from the wall. The distance of the projection depends upon the width of your crown. Our 6” metal crown projects 4” from the wall to cover the panels. The projection of the crown is important when you have a ceiling panel layout that is not flush against the wall. For instance, if your ceiling is 10’ 3” by 12’ 3”, you can can easily install a 10’ x 12’ tin ceiling from the center out and leave a gap of 3” all the way around. The crown molding will project out from the wall covering the gap and the edges of the tin panels.

Shoe Moldings

Shoe Molding is a popular ceiling trim and is the easiest to work with. It adds a subtle touch to a beautiful tin ceiling. Shoe molding is 34” x 34” and is readily available from lumber stores for about 40 cents per linear foot. It works well in kitchens, baths and low ceilings or anywhere you want to avoid bulky crown molding.

Existing Crown Molding

If you would like to keep your existing wood crown molding, there are a few solutions. Layout the ceiling from center out to the wall. If you have a 13’ x 13’ room, you will layout 12’ x 12’ of tin panels. The gap of 6” around will be completed using filler. The filler is thin and will typically fit under the lip of the existing crown molding. If you would like to continue with your patterned tile and avoid using filler panels, you may add a panel molding to the edge of your crown. Panel molding comes in various styles and sizes and has a lip to cover the cut edges of the tin. When installing Nail-Up panels, the filler edge can be place underneath the edge of the tin panel. When installing Snap Lock™ panels, the filler edge should be cut to the edge of the tin panel.

When using Snap Lock™ panels, cut off the male flange where the male flange meets the filler and butt the filler flush to the trimmed panel edge. Where the female flange meets the filler, the filler will slide into the flange space. Use construction adhesive and a few brad nails to secure.

Long, Rectangular Rooms

Long rectangular rooms can benefit from round or elliptical patterns like #2, #7, #9, and #12. Our favorite for larger rooms is #7 as it has a deeper pattern that produces a recessed effect.