Ceiling Tile Installation Tips and Tricks from Do-It-Yourself Homeowner Craig Strangland

Written by Milan Jara on 19th Dec 2012

Two years ago, homeowner Craig Strangland embarked on a massive project to completely gut and remodel the kitchen in his 100+-year-old house all by himself. Needless to say, this has been a huge undertaking. As with any large task of this kind, Craig ran into a few questions and challenges along the way. Now that he has finished adding decorate ceiling tiles to his kitchen, Craig has kindly offered to share his favorite ceiling tile installation tips and tricks in the hope that it will be helpful for other do-it-yourself ceiling tile installers.

To add depth to his ceiling, Craig chose one of our most intricate designs, the DCT04 Elizabethan Shield in a beautiful Antique White finish.

Elizabethan Shield

With its intriguingly complex design, this faux tin glue-up tile is one of our favorites for adding interest as well as dimension.

Different Strokes

As Craig points out, everyone’s installation will be different depending on the condition, age, and layout of their room, but there are some experiences that most users will have in common.

Craig Strangland's Kitchen

Craig hopes that his ceiling tile installation tips will save time for other folks who may experience some of these same challenges that he did.

Craig’s Top 12 Tips for Decorative Ceiling Tile Installation

  1. Measure from the longest wall. Getting the first row lined up properly can be a challenge, especially in an older house. The room may not be square, and walls may not be straight.
  2. To fit a tile tightly to the ceiling around a vent or light fixture, cut a hole into the tile. Craig’s kitchen has a vent above an island that requires a rectangular metal piece to be screwed into the ceiling. Rather than work around it, Craig decided to simply cut the tile to fit around the vent.
  3. Place the tiles next to each other based upon the design first, not the edge of the tile. This makes sure the design appears straight, even if the ceiling is off square.
  4. Expect one person to be able to put up from four to six full tiles at a time before having to take a short break.
  5. Check to make sure you are cutting and gluing up only one tile at a time. Craig had the experience of feeling as if the tile was not completely glued to the ceiling, only to find out that he had actually tried to glue up two tiles stacked on top of one another! The faux tin tiles are very thin, and two can feel like one.
  6. Like the old carpenters’ adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” Craig recommends that you measure twice and glue once. Measure once, measure again, and then place the cut tile on the ceiling to make sure the design and placement are the way you want them. Craig used a straight edge and marked the back of tile with a pencil.
  7. Tiles that go along the walls do not need to go all the way flush to the wall, especially if you are using a border. Craig says that he learned that trying to get the tile cut so that it’s right up to the wall often resulted in overlap or a poor fit. Any gap can be covered when you put up the metal or wooden border.
  8. Use wax paper to help you align the tiles. Craig says that this is an absolute must. Just as you are ready to place the tile, place wax paper on half of the tile. Again, align the tile according to the design, then the edge. When you start the second row, you will have two edges to deal with, so this requires even more attention to detail. Make sure the design is aligned or the ceiling will not look right.
  9. The contact glue is highly vaporous, so make sure your windows are open! You might want to wait for more comfortable temperatures and a bit of a breeze or wind to help ventilate the house. If the vapors get too strong, leave the area immediately. If possible, have another person come check on you periodically.
  10. Foam paint rollers work great to roll on the glue. They are available in inexpensive six-packs with rolling pans at most home improvement stores. Craig says that if there is a lot of glue in the rolling pan and it becomes stringy, “like melted cheese,” after a while, it still works fine—just “keep rolling!”
  11. You can use a paint brush, but they seem to dry out faster than the foam rollers, so use them only for areas that are too small for a roller.
  12. If you are using a tile that has a lot of texture, such as the Elizabethan Shield that Craig used, not all of it may stick to the ceiling. Craig suggests that once the tile is in place, it is a good idea to keep running your fingers over the parts of the tile that do stick to the ceiling. Craig also found that it was not necessary to sand the ceiling—the tiles stayed just fine on the flat, unsanded ceiling and wall.

We would like to give a big thank-you to Craig for letting us share these tips with you. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more helpful information. If you have any photos or tips that you would like to share with your fellow do-it-yourselfers, please email us. We’d love to hear from you!

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