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How to Spec a Home Project: An Interview with Our Lead Engineer

March 20, 2014

If you’re embarking on a home remodel, the first step is to construct a blue print of your plans, which involves spec’ing out specific products and materials you’re interested in using. We caught up with Ken, one of the lead engineers for American Tin Ceiling Company, to answer all your burning questions and provide tips for any type of home improvement project.

What is spec’ing?

Specifying, or spec’ing for short, is the process of providing specifications for a product to fit into a blueprint of a construction project. Generally done by architects, designers, or builders, they are trying to fit our product into a specific size and location in their space. Many times, our tin ceiling tiles are specified on a drawing without anyone contacting us if the contractor can find all the information he needs on the website. If it’s a more unusual or unique installation, they may call us for assistance. Recently, a wonderful designer in Manhattan contacted us. She was working on a restaurant and wanted to use our tin ceilings because she loved the Artisan finishes. The panels needed to be perforated however, which would give them some acoustical properties. We are in the process of developing these new tiles, but only have a few prototypes. Fortunately, our Production Manager had developed a good pipeline for the perforated material and the fabricator had existing tooling to get us exactly what we needed. We got the samples here within a week and proved that we could stamp and faux finish them with no problems. We were specified for the job and got our first acoustic panel order two weeks ago. That was pretty exciting for the tin business.

Is spec’ing different for commercial vs. residential projects?

Not really — it is more common for a commercial project and more of a process. Every project needs to satisfy the customer’s taste, budget and schedule. Homeowners and small business owners alike are treated with the same attention to detail as any of our large commercial customers.

Where are you from?

I was born in Wyoming, but grew up on Long Island. Sayville, NY

How long have you been working with the American Tin Ceilings Company?

I have been here 10 years this month. I worked in the warehouse for two days and the next day the sales manager quit. The previous owner asked me if I knew how to make drawings and if I was comfortable speaking to customers. I sold more than he did that first week and have been here ever since.

Can you describe your job with the American Tin Ceilings Company?

Spec’ing can help you envision what tin ceilings would look like in your home, office, or business space. Spec’ing projects can help you envision what tin ceilings would look like in your home, office, or business space. I am in charge of commercial sales, but my specialty as an engineer is product development. I am always looking for ways to make our tin ceiling tiles better - more attractive or easier to install. This may involve anything from developing new finishes to creating how-to videos. On a day-to-day basis, I provide drawings and quotes, answer technical questions and work closely with production to make sure we are meeting everyone’s schedule to the best of our ability. If you help enough people in a professional and timely manner, people remember you as a problem solver. When they need assistance on another project, they think of you. I want customers to remember me anytime they need something.

What are some of the best tips you have for business or homeowners looking to design or redesign their space?

I would say that tin is not as expensive as people think. If you have a plaster ceiling that needs to be repaired, you may find that covering it with tin tiles is no more expensive than repairing the original plaster. Your neighbors or customers will think you spent $5000, when in reality, it cost just $2000. It’s all perception.

Why do you think tin ceilings are so popular for commercial and retail spaces?

Tin ceilings are a product that have been around for 140 years, and just like many trends and fads, they cycle in and out of style. Tin has been growing in popularity for the last 10-15 years, and I do not foresee it slowing down anytime soon. The great thing is that more and more people are discovering tin outside the U.S. tin ceilings used to be pure Americana — an art form unique to the United States and somewhat in Australia from the 1870s.

So our tin tiles are primarily installed in the US, or where can you find them internationally?

Primarily in the U.S. but they are getting more and more international exposure. We have many good customers in England, Ireland and France, and we’re starting to see more business in the Netherlands, which is kind of a style leader in Europe. Once a trend is adopted in the Netherlands,then countries like Germany start taking notice and it starts to spread.

What are some of the more unique installations you’ve seen with tin?

Food trucks, horse trailers, wall art. I did a bar ceiling at Burning Man the last 2 years. They build it in place before the festival starts and take it all down when it is over.

What are some common questions you get when trying to help a business plan a redesign using tin?

What size pattern works best in this space? What finish options do I have within my budget? What is best product to install on the particular wall or ceiling material? How do I finish the material myself? How hard is it to install the metal crown molding?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As a business, there are 4 main things that set American Tin Ceilings apart. Our finishes, our pricing, our lead times, and our outstanding customer service. On a personal level, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has bought a product from us. The people I work with here every day are fantastic. They are extremely dedicated, professional and always go the extra mile for each other and our customers. They are some of the best people in the industry, and certainly the best I have ever worked with. In business you cannot make everyone happy, but we do pretty well.


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