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Nail-Up Tin Ceiling Tile Installation

The Nail-Up tin ceiling panel is the traditional product that initially popularized tin ceilings at the turn of the century. The design hasn't changed in 130 years and is what most retailers sell today. It requires a plywood substrate or furring strip grid spaced twenty-four inches on the center. The grid must run in both directions to support nailing every six inches on all four sides of the panel. The Nail-Up tin ceiling tile has a quarter inch overlapping nail rail that helps create a smooth transition from panel to panel and minimizes the appearance of seams. Exposed nails are common so having touch up paint provides a more finished look. The standard Nail-Up tile measures 24" x 24" plus the 1/4" overlapping nail flange.

You will need a four-foot level or T-square, a chalk line, a box of cone head nails or brad nailer, a tape measure, a putty knife, and a pair of tin snips. Many people find that a guillotine cutter and a Roto-Zip tool can also be useful. Depending upon the height of your ceiling, you may also need a ladder, or scaffolding. 3/8" plywood is most commonly used as a wood substrate. OSB (7/16") can also be used, as well as a furring strip grid (on 2 foot centers).

How to Install Nail-Up Tiles:

Map Your Lines - The first step of installing Nail-Up tin panels is to map out your positions. Run chalk lines from center of the ceiling and work you way out toward the walls. Mark a center point in the middle of the room. If you have a fixture installed, you can often center the initial panel around this, or have 4 panels meet at the fixture. You can also start on the wall facing away from the door. That way, the panels are seamed towards the "dead" wall and won’t be seen from the entrance. This is recommended when using a white or light-colored finish.

Install the Substrate- Nail-Up panels are installed using 5/8", 18 gauge brad nails and an automatic brad gun (available to buy or rent from Home Depot). 25 lbs. of pressure on the gun will go through two overlapping tin Nail-Up panels. Brad nails are used around the edges every 6 inches. Although the tin panels are only 1/100th of an inch thick, they overlap and will show the seams.

Finishing - Without filler: cut the final rows of panels to fit flush against the walls. Trim out the edges with crown molding or flat molding. With filler: Install your panels up to your filler area. Cut the filler to fit flush against the wall. Nail the filler panel into the substrate, placing one nail every 6 inches around the perimeter of the filler panel. White colors need to have their edges caulked with white caulking; otherwise the edges will show. Nails can be hidden with touch up paint purchased from most hardware stores.

12" Patterns vs 24" Patterns

12” and 6” embossment patterns generally have shallow profile depths. Tin ceiling tiles with shallow profile depths, usually under 14”, can be installed wall to wall with the final perimeter panels cut to fit flush against the wall. Crown molding is then installed directly over the tin panels, hiding the cut edge. If the panel does not reach the wall, the remaining gap can be hidden with crown molding, assuming the projection of the crown is sufficient to cover the gap. This is the most common installation scenario and the easiest.

Most 24” patterns have significant profile depths, sometimes exceeding a 12”. Installing crown molding over a panel with such a deep profile will result in a noticeable gap. This gap is unacceptable by most standards, therefore 24” patterns require an alternate installation method. The embossed panels are installed uncut, and the remaining area around the perimeter is finished with filler, instead of cropping the 24” embossed panel flush against the wall. The seam where the embossed panel meets the filler panel is commonly covered with a flat molding to produce a more pleasing aesthetic transition.