Our house was built in 1895, back when substance was more important than style. The old girl was rock-solid with a subtle beauty: there corbels under all four balconies and the front porch had a curving overhang to one side. On the other hand, the kitchen ceiling needed work: the plaster was cracked and lumpy. When it came time to sell the place, we headed for the local hardware for an alternative to new plaster or icky drywall. Our choice? We chose to install Armstrong Tin-Look Ceiling Tile.
If your room’s ceiling is unsightly or if you just want a vintage flavor, I recommend trying this. It’s not as historically accurate as real tin tiles, but the faux vintage look is easier to come by and less expensive. Armstrong sells a number of different patterns; we chose the tin-look pattern seen here. You can stick the tiles to a flat ceiling with some adhesive, though that’s probably not an option except with new construction. For uneven surfaces, you’ll need to use Armstrong’s Easy-Up system of rails and clips. One package of rails contains twenty 8-foot rails, enough for a room of about 10 x 15 feet. There are 135 clips in a package. A box of tiles covers 40 square feet. When installing the rails, you have to keep them straight and may need to shim them to keep them level. The rail system can be installed over plaster, drywall, or bare-wood joists. Total thickness once the tiles are up is about 1-1/2 inches. Unlike the metal grid for drop ceilings, the rails are out of sight once the tiles are in place.
The rail system includes installation instructions with a calculator for supplies and guides for layout and proper trimming, including additional guidance for handling corners. You’ll need some sort of molding to cover gaps at the edges. In the middle of the room the tiles ended up nice and even, and I had alignment problems only a couple of places along the wall,
Armstrong’s Tin-Look Tiles are well-made and consistent in design and thickness, whether between tiles or from carton to carton. Installation in a room of about 8 feet by twelve, including both the rails and the tile, took about twelve hours plus the tine needed to install molding. The tiles are plain white, which can be painted or left unpainted. There are videos on Armstrong’s website showing custom paint jobs to give tiles a metallic look, but I didn’t feel all that ambitious.
This isn’t a project I’d advise for a rank beginning, especially if your room has ells and alcoves. Measuring, installing and leveling the rail system is tedious and tricky, although once the rails are in place, the tiles go up quickly – at least until you get to a wall. Patience isn’t just a virtue for this job, it’s a necessity. All said, though, it’s ultimately an attractive solution for an ugly ceiling; one that went up in a couple of days and cost less than $300.