History of Tin Ceilings

Tin Ceilings throughout History

Tin ceilings were first manufactured and sold in North America in the mid 1800s, as a more affordable option to emulate the look and elegance of the ornate plasterwork that was popular in Europe at the time.  Tin ceilings were primarily painted white to emulate the plaster ceilings in Europe, but more modern applications vary widely in the methods used to finish the tin ceiling tiles.  The use of tin ceilings really developed in the mid-nineteenth century, when mass produced sheets of thin rolled tin plated steel became readily available in America and reached the zenith of their popularity in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  As a result, many old buildings boast original antique tin ceilings, wall panels and wainscoting over 150 years after they were first installed.

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Tin ceiling tiles were also introduced into Australia and South Africa in the late nineteenth century, they are virtually unknown in the rest of the world, and are only in more recent times becoming more popular as a design element in other countries.  Tin ceilings gained popularity in the later 1800s and were often used in both commercial applications as well as residential.  Popular commercial applications included churches, courthouses, schools, libraries, city halls, banks, train stations, hotels and other public venues.


Tin Ceiling Design

A classic tin ceiling design was primarily comprised of various pieces: Tin ceiling tiles, moldings, fillers and cornices.   The tin ceilings were installed in a variety of intricate patterns which made each ceiling unique, as the possible combinations and finishes when painted were literally endless.  Some applications varied from minimal installations, which served as decorative focal points and were installed as small accent pieces in the room, while others would be much more elaborate, with the incorporation of a variety of tin ceiling designs, with multiple transitions that would cover the full room, and would continue from the ceiling down the wall to the floor.  Tin ceilings were manufactured in tin plate, and other metal sheets such as copper, steel, aluminum or stainless steel panels.  The metal was then stamped with complex and sophisticated patterns, copied and developed from the finest carved and molded plasterwork. Such plasterwork had been fashionable in the wealthiest European households and tin ceilings were originally developed as a more practical substitute, which could easily be shipped anywhere across North America.


Tin ceilings in the mid 20th century

Although quite popular at the time, the use of tin ceilings as a decorative element lost popularity in the mid 1900s due to the hardships of the great depression, and the increased demand for metal that was used to manufacture weapons and vehicles for the second world war.  They are only regaining popularity over the last 30 to 40 years as a modern design element that gives a historical look and feel to an otherwise often neglected element in the room, the ceiling.  Although the popularity diminished, the tin ceiling installations from the previous century were built to last, and many of the original tin ceiling tiles are still in good condition today.  The restoration of tin ceiling tiles, and the interest in nostalgia they have generated in recent years, has led to a rise in popularity around the world.  Today tin ceilings are back in style, with new uses and a wider selection of creative designs, with many different creative paint effects to accent the intricate designs and add to the uniqueness of each separate ceiling. Tin ceilings are today being installed in all types of public, commercial and residential properties, and particularly in new developments where the add character and individuality to any building.  One of the more modern popular effects, that is quite beautiful, is achieved by “pattern painting” or faux painting the panels. The effect is created by picking out the details in the panel’s pattern in different colours which highlights the embossed design.

Modern Adaptation of Tin Ceilings

Brian Greer’s Tin Ceilings is proud to be at the forefront of the tin ceiling resurgence and we offer historically correct tin ceiling tiles, moldings, fillers and cornices.  Our high quality tin ceiling tiles offer superior definition and clarity of design,  and we have been shipped all over the world for restoration jobs, as well as new applications in commercial and residential areas.  Tin ceilings often outlast the hundred year old buildings that they are in. Tin ceiling tiles are lightweight, fireproof and more durable over long periods of time, offering a number of advantages over traditional plasterboard, drywall and suspended ceiling installations:

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