Free fitting instructions for pressed tin ceilings


There are seven important facts you need to know before you think about installing a pressed tin ceiling:

  1. The panels should be nailed into place and not glued.
  2. On the backs of the panels there may be directional stickers. If this is the case please ensure all your panels are installed in the same direction.
  3. Barring a couple of exceptions, pressed metal cornice should be installed before the flat panels are fitted up against it. The cornices have a flange on them and this flange is used to nail the cornice to the ply. This flange area needs to be covered by the flat panels.
  4. When installing the flat panels you must start in the middle of the ceiling and work out to the edges, lapping the panels as you go.
  5. Some panels will need to be cut to size and this is best achieved by using a cutting disc (used for aluminium) fitted onto a grinder, by a nibbler fitted onto a drill or by using tin snips.
  6. The panels should fit tightly together at the lap-over joins. No shadow lines should be visible after the panels are installed and painted.
  7. The panels need to be painted. They are unfinished when they leave the factory.


By using these detailed instructions many of my customers have installed their pressed metal ceilings themselves and they are just average home handymen. However, if you feel you lack experience and would prefer to employ someone then please ensure your tradesman is a neat worker. Builders can usually do the job or you could aim for a shop fitter or a cabinet maker.


Before ordering your pressed tin panels:

1. Take into consideration how high the ceilings are when selecting your choice of cornice. Small cornices will look lost on a very high ceiling and large cornices will look cumbersome on a low ceiling. Generally either a pressed metal cornice or a timber trim are used with pressed metal ceiling panels. You wouldn't usually use a plaster-style cornice with a pressed metal ceiling.

2. A border (the photograph below refers) will give a ceiling a more formal look, but not all ceilings need borders. It is usual for borders to be utilized when large patterns are required for a ceiling. Some of the repeat patterns measure 610 mm x 610 mm and they need to be used in whole patterns. If you trim off (say) 7/8 of a pattern to fit up against the edge of the ceiling it sometimes tends to spoil the effect and you may lose the integrity of the design. For those ceilings you will need to have whole numbers of pattern in the centre of the ceiling and then the excess of ceiling around the edges is filled up by use of a moulding strip and a border panel. There are guidelines for the widths of borders and I can help you with that. Having said that, many contemporary projects use large patterns and don't use a border. It's all a matter or personal choice.

This photograph, courtesy of Russ Denyer, shows a typical layout where a border is being used.

Pressed metalceiling using a border to fill in the gap between the main panels adn the cornice.



Draw your room to scale and work out what the most economical layout will be. Have an understanding of which way you will lap the panels over each other. They need to be lapped away from the main doorway into the room so that any hairline joins between the panels will be even less visible.

Be careful with the direction in which you lap the panels



Preparation before you start installing your pressed metal ceiling

Pressed metal ceilings are nailed up via the use of builders ply as a sub strate. The ply should be 12 mm thick. The ply needs to be fixed securely as it will be reasonably weighty plus it will bear the load of the pressed metal ceiling too. In many buildings, especially the older ones, the walls and ceilings are sometimes not flat. If you find this is the case then you need to level the surface where necessary with plywood, plasterboard or render. Battens can be used in lieu of ply but you need to be careful in selecting where to install the battens so there is enough "nailable" timber above the exact spot in the metal where you need to nail. It is much easier and less time consuming to use ply in lieu of battens.

If you have an old ceiling and you don't wish to remove it you can attach the ply directly underneath it. If there is existing cornice this will need to be removed so the ply can sit flat around the edges of the ceiling.

When you have fitted your ply you need to mark out centre lines in both directions across the room. Do this with chalk or pencil. Make sure it is very accurate and that the lines intersect at a true 90 degree angle.

Many rooms are not square so installing the ceiling panels from the middle and working outwards will halve any differences in the square-ness by the time you reach the edges of the ceiling.

Layout the cornices and panels on the floor so you know exactly where everything goes.

Depending on what your particular layout is, you will start installing with either the panel edge or the middle of the panel aligned with the chalk lines. When ready, start fitting the main panels to this line, either with the edge of the panel on the line or the centre of the panel on the line depending on the layout.



Nailing up your pressed metal ceiling

The placement of nails is important. They should only ever be nailed into the panel in the decorative areas. Providing they are nailed into decorative areas then the nail heads won't be noticeable when the panels are painted. Many designs have little "bumps" in the pattern and these are ideal to be used for nailing. Some designs, such as the Fishscale, don't have decorative or floral areas to nail into so these panels, by their very nature, will always show the nail heads. It is especially important that you are neat with your rows of nails with designs such as Fishscale.

At the start of the installation it is best if you use long tacking nails and just partially nail them in at 610 mm intervals. When you have your first few panels in position stand back and take a look at the job to ensure you have got the panels in the right spot. If the panels need to be moved slightly then your tacking nails can easily be removed without damaging the panels. The tacking nails should be 40 - 50 mm long. If the panels are in the correct position then you simply remove each one (there won't be many to remove) and replace them with a 20 mm long nail. Using the finishing nails you should nail at 310 mm intervals through the centre of the panels and bring that down to approximately 150 mm around the edges. Buy 1.4 mm zinc plated nails. Sometimes 1.4 mm nails are not available in some hardware stores so you will have to use 1.6 mm nails instead. These nails are often called Wallboard Nails.

N. B If you lack confidence you can drill pilot holes with a 1.5 mm drill bit before nailing. As you gain confidence this may no longer be necessary. When removing nails please do not lever them out. Use pliers and pull directly downwards. When nailing around the edges of the panels be continually aware of whether or not the adjoining panel needs to be slipped underneath it or over it. Remember it is often difficult to remove nails.

Continue nailing back and across the room until all the main panels are fitted but don't cut any panels to fill in around the edges of the ceiling. Also, do not nail around the very perimeter of the area. If you are using a moulding strip it will need to be slid underneath the perimeter. If you are not using a border then the flange on the cornice will need to be slipped underneath the perimeter of the main panels.

If you are happy that the main panels are installed as needed then finish the nailing with a hollow pointed punch. Tap gently until the nail is just seated into the little bumps in the pattern. Don't be heavy-handed.



Finishing around the edges of the ceiling

If you are using a panel with a large repeat pattern then the edges of your ceiling will most likely be finished off with a border as illustrated below. If you are not using a border then please skip this section.


Insstallation of mouldings and borders


Fit the moulding strip as in Fig. 3 above. The flat area of the moulding strip is to slide underneath the perimeter of the main panels. Mitre the moulding strips where they meet each other at the 90 degree angles. Now nail down the edges of the main panelling. The moulding will now be attached on one side. Do not nail the other side of the moulding yet. The rosettes should not be fitted at this stage. They will be nailed on after the border is fitted.



Fitting the pressed metal cornice

There are two ways of fitting pressed metal cornice depending on the shape of the cornice at its lower edge.

They are all installed in the same way up at the top where they connect with the ceiling - barring, of course, a couple of small exceptions. Running along the top of each length of cornice is a smooth flat area about 15 mm wide called the flange. This flange sits tightly up against the ply on the ceiling and it is nailed into place. Later on this flange will be covered by the flat panels.

It is the bottom edge of the cornice that is attached differently depending on its profile. The two profiles are shown below.


Cornice style 1

This style of cornice is made with a tiny vertical section running along the bottom of the cornice for its full length. This tiny vertical part simply clips into a special cornice mounting strip (drawn in red in Fig. 4) which is installed at the appropriate height down from the ceiling. See a typical profile of this type of cornice below - Fig.4. and also the profile of the mounting strip - Fig. 5. The mounting strip will be sent to you along with your cornice and is complementary. It should be connected to the wall by either a small nail, a tack or a screw depending on your project. When the bottom edge of the cornice is slipped into the lip edge of the mounting strip you can, if desired, use a tiny amount of glue to at the back of it to hold it even more securely.


Cornice profile style 1
aluminium cornice mounting strip











Cornice style 2

This style of cornice is shaped differently along its lower edge. This cornice returns back to the wall at a right angle at the bottom. Fig. 6 illustrates its profile.

It needs to be fitted via the use of a timber batten which is fitted near the top of the wall at the appropriate height down from the ceiling. It is usual for a pine batten to be used and it's dimensions should be 25 - 50 mm high by 12 - 15 mm deep. Neatly nail the bottom (horizontal) area of the cornice onto the batten.

Cornice profile style 2
Create a timber bracket to support the cornices where they overlap.










The joins in the cornice should be lapped away from the main doorway into the room.

In the areas where the cornice sections join you need to fit a timber support bracket. These should also be installed in the corners of the room where the cornices meet at a 90 degree angle. The timber bracket need not be anything fancy and should be shaped roughly as in the example in Fig. 7. The red line is the cornice shape. The cornice needs to meet up with the bracket in a few spots so that the lapped over cornices can be nailed to the bracket where they touch each other.

Carefully mitre the cornices so they meet neatly in the corners of the room. Many of the cornices now have matching corner accessories which are later nailed into place and they cover the mitred join quite well. Some are shaped in the form of leaves and some are ribbon-shaped. Please note some of the accessories, called cornice mitre boxes, are installed before the cornice is fitted. I will explain about these if you buy them.


Finishing off the ceiling

If you are not using a border then you can now finish fitting your main panels. Ensure you trim the panels neatly and that the flat panels hide the flanges of the cornice.

If you are using a border you need to cut the border to size. Start fitting the border on one of the long sides of the room. Measure the distance from the cornice to the mid-way point of the moulding strip ensuring you allow enough border to cover the cornice flange. When fitting the border please, where possible, ensure the factory-cut smooth edge of the border panel is fitted alongside the cornice. The trimmed-down hand-cut edge will slide underneath the moulding strip. On the outer edges, tack the border panels to the ply with the cornice flange sitting in between the two. Next, tack the outer edge of the moulding strip to the ply with the border in between the two.

As you proceed fitting the border panels you must ensure the pattern matches exactly so the joins within the border will then appear seamless. When fitting the borders and reaching a corner do not mitre the border panels. Simply run the last section of border up to the cornice (on the next wall) and then start again at a 90 degree angle ensuring the pattern in the border always matches the last border sheet fitted.

Fitting the border is probably the most "difficult" part of the process. It is wise to only tack it into place to start with. When you have tacked up the whole border you can ensure it fits well together and, when it does, then nail it up properly. Always remember that when they are nailed home fully it is near impossible to remove those nails without ripping a hole in your panels. It is always safest to tack first and then later nail up properly.

Next, nail the mitre accessories and rosettes (if used) into place.

Re-visit the nail heads with your hollow pointed punch. Tap down joints where needed to close up any gaps. Don't use a hammer directly on the metal panels. Always tap down with a soft piece of timber in front of the hammer. If you feel it necessary you can close up any hairline gaps with a latex based product such as "No More Gaps". For a stunning end result it is important that the panels lap over each other tightly. If there are any tiny hairline gaps where the panels lap each other then you need to carefully use a small amount of a product such as No More Gaps in that area. No shadow lines should be visible after the panels are installed and painted.


Painting your pressed metal ceiling

If you buy panelling that has a greyish white appearance it means it is already coated with etch primer. If you purchase panels that look very shiny then you will need to give them a coat of etch primer before you begin to paint. Paint in dry weather only, to ensure the best finished job. I recommend oil based products ensuring your etch primer (where used) is compatible with the top coat paint. For lighter paint colours, two top coats are generally sufficient. For darker colours a third coat is sometimes needed to ensure enough depth of colour.

Once finished, you should have a stunning asset using uniquely Australian designs.



If any of these instructions are not clear then please ask me to explain better. No question is every considered silly - I promise you!




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