Free fitting instructions for pressed tin feature walls


By using these detailed instructions many of my customers have installed their pressed tin feature walls 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 ask a shop fitter or a cabinet maker.

There are six main facts you need to know before you think about installing a pressed metal feature wall:

  1. The panels should be nailed into place using ply as a sub strate 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. When installing the panels you generally start in the middle of the wall and work out to the edges, lapping the panels as you go. However, each project is different. Play around with the positioning of the panels before you start installing and work out what suits your wall best.
  4. Some panels will need to be cut to size and this is best achieved by using a special cutting disc (used for aluminium) fitted onto a grinder, by a nibbler fitted onto a drill or by using tin snips.
  5. The panels should fit tightly together at the lap-over joins. No shadow lines should be visible after the panels are installed and painted.
  6. The panels need to be painted. They are unfinished when they leave the factory.


Preparation before you start installing

It is important that the panels are nailed up via the use of builders ply as a sub strata. If your installation is behind a wood fire (or similar) that produces very high heat then please consult the ply manufacturers (e.g. James Hardie) regarding the suitability of the sub strata. If the wall becomes exceedingly hot then pressed metal may not be the way to go. The painted finish on it could be seriously affected.

In most cases the ply should be 9 mm or 12 mm thick for a wall installation. The ply needs to be thick enough for the nails to hold with an absolute minimum of 9 mm thickness. In some instances it may have to be thicker so that the nails don't hit something hard like brick (and then refuse to go any further). As you install the ply please use a spirit level on it in various places and directions to ensure the ply is level everywhere..

Trimming the panels can be done as in point four above, ensuring that if you use a cutting disc it is suitable for cutting aluminium. Some discs will burn the edges of this metal so it is important to buy the correct disc.

Sometimes, in some projects, there is insufficient room to install ply so in those cases something like Sikaflex can be used but nailing is always my preferred method of installation. If you need to use Sikaflex then enquire at your hardware store for the correct version of Sikaflex. Nailing the panels up to a smooth and flat ply or fibre cement surface seems to produce a better end result because the panels sit flatter. When gluing up, there is always the concern that the back area surface may not hold the glue well. Tests are now showing that some glues are breaking down after just a few years.  Some glues also don't perform well in very cold areas and others only last 12 - 18 months in warmer areas. Glues are full of strong chemicals and some may react with aluminium. Also, a wall that appears flat when it is made from painted plaster often doesn't look so flat when pressed metal is glued to it. It can show the wall bowing in and out. If your wall bows in and out your panels won't join together well.

If you feel the panels will be subject to extreme wear and tear you can fill the indentations on the back with car body filler. Usually this is unnecessary though. I don't know of any projects I've supplied in recent years where this has been done but it is an option for bar fronts where some patrons constantly kick their feet against it.

You should find the mid point of the top of the wall. Draw a vertical line from this point so you have a guideline for installing your first panel. 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 line. Installing from the centre out to the edges ensures the pattern is equal on both the left and right sides of the walls.


Nailing up your pressed metal panels

The placement of nails is important. They should only ever be nailed into the panels in the decorative areas. Providing they are nailed into patterned 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 outwards at a 90 degree angle. 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.

When fitting the next panel, ensure the lap joint faces away from the main door into the room. This will help make the joint "disappear". 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. For a stunning end result it is important that the panels lap over each other tightly. No shadow lines should be visible after the panels are installed and painted.


Finishing off your pressed metal project

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. In most cases it should not be necessary to fill these joints, however a small amount of latex based "No More Gaps" compound can be used. Sealing the joins is more important if you are installing a splash back.

A small timber trim is generally needed along the top of the wall to finish it off and to hide the thickness of the ply. A small timber trim can be used down the 90 degree corners of the room where the walls meet each other too.

The following projects will give you ideas on how pressed metal panelling is installed on a wall:

The Bawden project
The Lacey project and
The Turnbull project


Painting your pressed metal project

If you buy pressed metal 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.

If tougher finishes are needed you can use powder coating or even the two-pack auto paints. In the case of powder coating, the metal should be cut to size before it receives the powder coated finish. In some cases powder coated finishes can chip along the cut line if they are cut after being coated. Another point to consider is that the extra thickness of the powder coating may mean that when the panels are lapped over each other they don't sit as tightly up against each other as they should. The two pack car paint is tougher than powder coating but it is also pricier. In my experience it is better to use good quality oil based paint and to paint the panels after they are installed. Doing this will automatically mean the nail heads are painted and it will also allow the paint to seep into any hair line joins in the panels thus making the join even less visible.

Once finished, you should have a stunning asset using uniquely Australian designs. This is an economical, DIY feature wall project that will add far more value to your home than it will cost.



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




Authorship by Come and find us on Google+ or visit us on Facebook