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Decorative Metal Ceilings

Time Has Stood Still

Based upon the response from people who read my column about metal ceilings, I am convinced that many people thought that the ceiling panels were unavailable. I have to admit that until I did the research for the column, I didn't realize that many of the original dies, used over 100 years ago, were still in use! Two companies are still in business that made the metal panels nearly one hundred years ago. In fact, one of the companies - W. F. Norman - still prints its 1908 catalog! Talk about time standing still in an industry. That surely must take the record here in the United States.

Multiple Uses

The restaurant industry is partially responsible for the renewed interest in metal ceiling and wall panels. Several national chain restaurants use metal ceilings. In fact, I was in one not too long ago that had thousands of square feet of metal ceiling in place. It looked fantastic in the bar area. I was eating dinner at the bar because the regular tables were full. Seriously, you can ask my wife!

I happen to like the metal panels when they are used on wall surfaces. If you choose a pattern that compliments your tastes, you can add a nice touch beneath a dining room chair rail. Metal wall panels also look smart inside of first floor powder rooms or in a basement family room. The facing to a family room bar will really look snazzy with metal wall panels in place. Perhaps the most innovative use is a kitchen counter top backsplash. Several photos show this in the brochures and booklets that I received while doing research for the column and this Bulletin.

Installation Tips

You need to keep in mind that the metal panels are just that. They are primarily steel or in some cases tin plated steel. This means they can rust if exposed to water.

Each manufacturer provides you with detailed painting instructions should you choose a material that requires priming and a finish coat. Always paint both sides of the ceiling panels, trim, cornice, etc. Remember water can come from a roof leak, plumbing leak or an accident from above!

Pay close attention to instructions regarding mill oil removal from the steel. Some steel mills coat rolled steel with an ultra-fine layer of oil. If your panels have this oil, paint will not adhere readily. Don't forget that water based primers can NOT be used to paint bare metal. You can often coat the panels and trim with water based paints once an oil primer has dried.

Attaching Panels and Trim

Metal ceiling panels are attached to furring strips in many instances. The spacing between strips, the shape of the strips, width of the strips, etc. are all a function of the pattern you choose. Each manufacturer gives clear instructions on what to do. Do not bother to install your furring strips until you have selected your material. You could make a big mistake!

Furring strip layout and installation is critical. The metal panels are precise. If you do not center your strips correctly or you install them with humps and dips, you will be able to see these defects when your ceiling is finished. Be sure you take your time with the furring strips!

Suspended Systems

Do you have a standard suspended ceiling in your office or basement? Did you know that many of the metal panels will fit into the grid system without any trimming? In fact, you leave the fiber panels in place to keep the panels from "lifting" when a door is opened.

If you want a really sleek installation you can choose a slimmer grid system or an invisible one. The invisible grid accepts metal panels that have a turned up edge. The metal ceilings that install in this fashion can look seamless if done correctly.

Check out the web sites of the manufacturers listed in this column. You will be amazed at the selection of patterns, trim pieces, accessories, etc. If you choose to use this material, you will not regret it.

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