Tin nail-up ceiling tiles can be used to upgrade just about any ceiling and installation is so easy that most DIYers should be able to handle the project without any problem. In most cases residential ceiling heights are 8, 9, or 10 feet above the floor so you’re going to need step-ladders for the installation, but if you have access to scaffolding or a rolling work platform, they can make the project go much quicker.
Regardless of whether your ceiling is exposed joists or a material such as plaster or sheetrock, plywood should be installed prior to nailing any tiles in place. The plywood provides a secure nailing surface for the tiles – 3/8 or ½ inch material is recommended. It is always a good idea to check for high or low spots in the existing ceiling prior to installing the plywood – stretch a string line from one side of the room to the other holding it tight against the ceiling at both sides. Install shims or use a chisel and belt sander to remove minor low and high spots as needed – check the ceiling in several spots across the length and width of the room.
Your plywood should be installed perpendicular to the way the ceiling joists run – even if they are covered by another material. Apply the plywood so that the end seams are situated on joists and each end can be nailed to a solid surface. If your joists are covered by sheetrock or another material, you may want to mark the joist locations with a chalk line to make your plywood installation a little easier. Once the plywood has been nailed into place, you are ready to begin the tile installation.
Find the Center of your Ceiling
Starting in the center of your room with your tin decorative tiles normally provides the most appealing layout – in many cases you may already have a ceiling fan or light in this spot, but if not, use the string method to determine the room’s center. Stretch two strings across the ceiling at a diagonal from opposite corners and where they cross should be the center – finish nails tacked into the ceiling plywood can be used to secure the ends of the strings or ask a helper to lend a hand. Draw two perpendicular lines at the room center where the strings cross to divide the ceiling into four quadrants.
Measure across the ends of your room and make a mark on the ceiling at the center of each perimeter wall taking into account any offsets or unique situations that may affect the measurements. Use your chalk line to snap lines through the exact center of the room previously marked to perimeter wall centers – this should provide square lines to guide the installation of your first tile and those that follow. Before installing any tiles stand back and inspect the lines to ensure they appear correct.
Nailing Tiles in Place
Your first tile should be placed in the center of the room and a corner lined up with the perpendicular lines you drew. Subsequent tiles should be installed in parallel rows – if you are installing a design with overlapping edges, take care that the overlap is in the same direction with each tile. It can be a good idea to situate the exposed edge of the overlap away from the entry door to avoid the appearance of any gaps at seams. You may find it helpful to snap additional ceiling lines based on the width of the tiles, but be carefull not to get chalk on the surfaces of the tiles already installed. If you are using decorative ceiling tiles with a directional pattern, take care that all tiles are installed in the proper direction.
When you reach the edges of the room, filler tiles will need to be cut. In many cases crown molding or another type of edge trim will be installed after your nail-up ceiling tile installation is complete. If this is the case with your application, a tight fit at your perimeter walls with the filler tiles isn’t critical – you just need them long enough so the edge is covered by the trim. When measuring the length of each filler panel, remember to allow for any edge overlapping needed at the adjacent full size tile. Tin tiles can be cut with tin snips, ensure that all ceiling vents or other fixtures are also cut out. When all perimeter filler tiles have been installed, your crown or cornice molding can be measured, cut, and nailed into place.
Gaps at overlapped seams can sometimes be closed by reversing a framing nail and placing the head against the stubborn seam while tapping lightly on the other end of the nail. Clear silicone caulk can also be used to fill any unsightly gaps, but make sure any excess is wiped up before it hardens.
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