Tin Ceiling Restoration

Tin ceiling stripped and ready for repainting.

Tin ceilings were introduced in the late 19th century and were popular well into the 20th. With patterns stamped into thin sheets of steel, they were intended to mimic more expensive ornamental plasterwork and were promoted as a fireproof material.

While most tin ceilings were installed in commercial and institutional buildings, a great many houses got them as well. Often these ceilings were installed over earlier plaster ceilings that had cracked. They were usually painted to resemble molded plaster.

As long as they are protected from excessive moisture, these ceilings can remain in good condition indefinitely. With excessive moisture, they will lose their paint and rust. Fortunately, many patterns are still produced, so replacing damaged pieces is often possible. I recently was able to match all but one of the patterns in a building where nearly a dozen field, molding, fill, and cornice patterns were used.

Often these ceilings have a thick build up of paint layers that are chipping off in some areas. This ceiling was stripped with a low-pressure grit blasting process, one of several ways to strip them.

Tin ceilings are included in Chapter 16 of “Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners.”

The 720-page hardcover book is available in bookstores nationwide and from online retailers. Signed copies are available directly from the author at YourHistoricHouse.com and in the shop on this page.

Bookstores can order copies from W.W. Norton.

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