Installing A Tin Ceiling And Cornice
- Procedure code:
- Developed For HSPG (NPS - Southeast Regional Office)
- Ornamental Sheet Metal
- Last Modified:
INSTALLING A TIN CEILING AND CORNICE
A. This procedure includes guidance on installing a new tin
ceiling to replace one that has deteriorated.
B. Metal ceiling panels are typically 2-feet x 8-feet and
are nailed to wood furring strips which are, in turn,
nailed to the ceiling joists of an existing ceiling.
C. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be
reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines
cover the following sections:
1. Safety Precautions
2. Historic Structures Precautions
4. Quality Assurance
5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
6. Project/Site Conditions
7. Sequencing and Scheduling
8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)
These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing
this procedure and should be followed, when applicable,
along with recommendations from the Regional Historic
Preservation Officer (RHPO).
1.02 DELIVERY, STORAGE, AND HANDLING
A. Packing and Shipping: Protect tin ceiling sheets from
damage at all times during handling, installation, and
operation of the building.
B. Acceptance at Site:
1. New metal sheets shall be delivered on the job
carefully packed. Inspect each piece immediately
before installation, and do not use the pieces
which have observable edge damage or face
2. Manufacturer's delivery or job markings on the tin
sheets, and adhesives for manufacturer's labels,
shall be a neutral material. In no case shall such
material be alkaline; any staining of the tin
sheets by alkaline materials will be cause for the
rejection of the piece.
C. Storage and Protection:
1. Metal sheets should be stored as to protect from
edge and face damage at all times, carefully packed
and should remain so from the time of delivery
2. Salvaged historic material shall be carefully
packed and stored under cover and in the building
away from work or traffic areas. Mark salvaged
material with the year of removal.
A. For Metal Ceilings and Cornices:
1. Chelsea Decorative Metal Co.
2. Kenneth Lynch & Sons
3. W.F. Norman Corporation
A. Furring strips 1x3's or 1x2's
B. 1-inch long flat head nails as required
C. 3-inch long flat head nails or 2-1/2-inch drywall screws
D. Wood shims as required
E. Glazing compound or latex caulk
F. Tin sheets - ceiling panels and cornice pieces (see
G. Appropriate primer and finish coat paints
H. Mineral spirits
I. Soft rags
J. Clean, potable water
A. Chalk line
B. Metal ruler
D. Sheet metal cutters
E. Hammer and/or screwgun
F. Heavy gloves and protective gear
G. Scaffolding/working platforms
A. Before proceeding with steps to install the metal
ceiling, it is important to first determine the cause and
extent of the problem:
1. Determine the age of the building and if a tin
ceiling did exist before or if it is an appropriate
ceiling substitute in terms of historical accuracy
2. If a ceiling exists, can it can be salvaged?
A. Surface Preparation:
1. Remove any residue from factor-shipped metal by
cleaning the sheets thoroughly with denatured
alcohol or mineral spirits. Allow to dry before
2. Prime the face of the metal before installation.
IT IS DIFFICULT TO PAINT OVERHEAD ONCE THE METAL IS
a. Apply a high-quality oil/alkyd primer
formulated for metals.
b. Apply two coats of oil-based paint.
NOTE: BE SURE TO USE THE SAME MANUFACTURER FOR THE
PRIMER AND THE PAINT.
3. If the ceiling is going into a high-humidity room,
back-prime the sheets before installation.
A. Furring the Ceiling:
1. Using 3-inch nails, attach 3-inch wide furring
strips to the ceiling around the perimeter of the
NOTE: 1x2 FURRING STRIPS ARE ADEQUATE, BUT 3-INCH
STRIPS ARE BETTER. REUSE HISTORIC OR EXISTING
FURRING WHEN POSSIBLE.
a. Nail the strips as far from the wall as the
cornice will project.
b. If necessary, add a few nailers between the
joists to enable nailing the strips at the
NOTE: ONLY DRIVE THE NAILS IN HALFWAY TO ALLOW FOR
LATER SHIMMING AND LEVELLING.
2. Mark the centerlines for locating the furring
a. Snap a chalkline from the center of the
ceiling, perpendicular to the joists.
b. Snap additional chalklines every 12 inches on
center, parallel to the first line.
NOTE: THE LINES NEED TO BE PRECISELY LOCATED
BECAUSE THE METAL SHEETS ARE RIGID AND CANNOT BE
ADAPTED TO NON-PARALLEL NAILING STRIPS.
3. Nail up the middle furring strip. BE SURE TO DRIVE
THE NAILS IN ONLY HALFWAY.
4. Nail up additional strips on every other chalkline
(every 24 inches on center). BE SURE TO DRIVE THE
NAILS IN ONLY HALFWAY.
5. Determine the locations where the 8-long sheets
will connect, perpendicular to the strips already
6. Nail furring strips at these 8-foot intervals to
secure the edges of the sheets where they overlap.
NOTE: WHEN USING 2- INCH FURRING, THESE STRIPS
WILL BE APPROXIMATELY 22 INCHES LONG.
7. Nail furring strips on the intermediate chalklines.
These should be approximately 12 inches on center.
8. Check the level of the furring strips to see that
they are in the same plane. Shim strips as needed
to level the ceiling.
a. Use a good straightedge to align the strips.
b. Move around the room holding the straightedge
against the strips. Use the claw of the
hammer to pull high strips down into the same
plane as the lower strips.
9. When all the strips are in line and in the same
plane, drive all nails home. Use care to avoid
damaging metal ceiling components.
C. Installing the Metal: The sheets are usually 2 feet wide
by 8 feet long.
NOTE: USE EXTREME CAUTION AND WEAR HEAVY GLOVES WHEN
HANDLING METAL SHEETS AS THEIR EDGES ARE RAZOR-SHARP.
GRIP THE EDGES OF THE SHEETS BETWEEN THE FINGERS AND THE
THUMB. NEVER LET THE SHEETS SLIDE ACROSS THE PALM.
1. Cut the metal panels with tinsnips as required.
2. Beginning at the furthest corner from the entrance
to the room, secure the metal panels to the furring
strips using 1-inch, flat-head nails.
NOTE: THE FIRST SHEETS INSTALLED ARE USUALLY THE
STRAIGHTEST, SO IT IS BEST TO START IN THE AREA
THAT WILL BE THE MOST VISIBLE.
a. Have an assistant hold each sheet flat using a
piece of furring.
b. Nail the ends of the each metal panel into the
short furring strips described in 3.03 A. 5.
above. This provides a secure nailing surface
so that the ends of the panels will lay flat.
c. Drive the nail to one side of the decorative
d. Nail the long edges of the metal panels to the
furring strips. Again drive the nails to one
side of the bead.
e. To line up the next sheet, overlap the beads
with the previous sheet (the way a ball and
socket fit). Nail directly through the beads
on the overlapping sheet.
NOTE: ANY SHEETS THAT NEED CUTTING MUST HAVE THE
CUT EDGE TO THE WALL, SO IT WILL BE CONCEALED BY
THE COVE MOLDING.
D. Installing the Cornice: Generally the cornice is
installed after the ceiling is in place.
1. To ensure solid nailing, measure the cornice before
furring for the new metal ceiling.
a. Measure the depth of the cornice (down from
the new ceiling) at several points on the
b. Snap a chalkline at these marks.
NOTE: MAKE SURE THE CORNICE RUNS STRAIGHT ALONG
THE WALL. DEVIATIONS ARE MORE NOTICEABLE AT THE
WALL EDGE THAN AT THE CEILING.
2. Locate and mark all of the studs in the wall for
attaching furring strips.
3. Nail furring strips to the wall for attaching the
cornice. Try to attach the strips so that the
joints occur at the studs. This ensures a tighter
connection. If this is not feasible with each
joint, however, use a small sheet-metal screw to
attach the two pieces.
NOTE: WHEN A SMALLER CORNICE IS USED, IT CAN BE
NAILED DIRECTLY TO THE WALL, OMITTING THE FURRING
4. Beginning at an inside (coped) corner and working
toward the outside (mitered) corners, drive nails
through the cornice's decorative buttons or bumps
and into the furring strips.
NOTE: BE SURE TO DRIVE THE NAILS IN ONLY HALFWAY
UNTIL THE ENTIRE CORNICE IS IN PLACE. IF THE NAILS
CAN BE EASILY REMOVED, MINOR ADJUSTMENTS CAN BE
MADE WITHOUT DAMAGING THE CORNICE.
a. Install the metal cornice so that it overlaps
the edge of the last metal ceiling panel
abutting the wall.
b. Nail the cornice to the furring strips at the
ceiling and the wall with nails spaced about
every 12 inches.
5. Fit the inside and outside corners.
NOTE: THIS IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF
INSTALLING A METAL CORNICE.
a. Make a template by cutting and fitting scrap
pieces of cornice by hand using tinsnips.
Make one template for a coped joint (inside
corners) and one for a mitered joint (outside
corners). Position the scrap piece on the
chalkline when fitting and cutting to ensure
an accurate joint.
b. Once a template of each type has been made,
make subsequent ones by using the template as
a guide and tracing the pattern onto the
cornice with a marker.
NOTE: SOME MANUFACTURERS OFFER PREFABRICATED
PIECES FOR BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE CORNERS WHICH
CAN SAVE TIME AND MONEY.
6. Before fitting the corner pieces, make a series of
cuts along the edges (approximately 1/8-inch deep
every 1/8-inch). These cuts make is easier to bend
the metal when the joint is tapped closed.
7. After the metal cornice is installed, seal any open
joints by holding a wide chisel or the back of a 3-
inch nail head against the joint and striking the
point gently with a hammer.
8. Fill any remaining open joints with glazing
compound or latex caulk.
END OF SECTION