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topic 1527

Tin ceiling restoration


Q. I am interested in finding out information on how to strip paint from a tin ceiling, and then repaint it. I have a very old tin ceiling in my house and I have had trouble finding someone who can answer this question as well as provide information on maintenance. I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide.

Thank you.........

Kelli R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


Q. I've just bought a house from the 1890's that also has tin ceilings, but they're covered with so many layers of paint that the details are hardly distinguishable. Anybody have information on how to strip this paint and whether it will be worth it?

Arthur O [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


A. It may be easier to replace the tin ceiling than try to strip and repaint (a messy process at best!) Stripping the paint may also remove the tin coating if not done properly. There are several companies that have been for several years remanufacturing the old tin ceilings. There are many design options and one that may match your current ceiling pattern. Some of the companies are actually using the old die sets from years ago.

ray s [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

A. Hi. Some sources for tin-ceilings include:

 Euro-Deco Ceilingssimultaneous.png [available styles on Amazon] 
 M-Boss Inc. 
 Renovator's Supplysimultaneous.png [available styles on Amazon] 


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. My wife and I have purchased an old Victorian Home built in 1908...we have a room with tin ceiling and someone painted over it...my question is this: What do I do to restore the natural metallic finish of this beautiful ceiling...The ceiling has at least one or two coats of paint over it...or is it more effective to just purchase new tin ceilings...I would like to restore this ceiling as it is the original ceiling.

Bobby Z [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Durham, North Carolina

affil. link
Heat Gun


A. I must first say that I am by no means an expert on tin ceilings. But I will tell you how I stripped and repainted a tin ceiling. First off, the panels were removed from another building and brought home. I then heat gunned a majority of the multiple layers of paint off. This was followed by a commercial stripper and 0000 steel wool [affil. link to info/product at Rockler]. I then applied primer and a few coats of a metallic spray paint. The result is beautiful. Yes this was a lot of work. I must admit that my next ceiling for my kitchen will be bought new.

I hope this information will help someone. Again, I do not claim this to be " The Right Way " but rather the approach that I took.

P.S. A heat gun does loosen the paint rather well.

David L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Salem, Ohio


A. I also have a tin ceiling that I am restoring. Do not take your ceiling down as others have suggested, this will bend and damage the tins. My ceiling has been painted with latex over oil base and lead base paint, which you should never paint latex over oil base or lead base paints this causes the latex to peel and also some of the under layers to peel. I found a new stripper that is environmentally safe, biodegradable, non caustic, and cleans up with water. This product is called Multistrip.

I suggest that you cut a piece of plywood that will fit the size of your tin panel, place a double layer of towels over it. Spread a thick layer of stripper on the towel, then use a two by four long enough to prop the plywood to the tin panel. If you should get any rust, this can be removed with a brass wire brush and rust removers. I have been told by tin ceiling manufacturers to repaint with acrylic or oil base paint, never use latex as this is water base and will cause your ceiling to rust.

Good Luck!

April L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Tidoiute, Pennsylvania


Q. Hi,

I have Tin ceilings that have started to oxidize. I was wondering if there is a chemical cleaner that will remove this problem.


Robyn L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Belchertown, Massachusetts


A. To restore the tin ceiling, simply get you a good sand/grinder. Sand the excess paint and crud off of it. Don't put too much work into this part. Get you a bottle of Jasco (turn the rust black and takes away the rust). Get you an oil based semi gloss can of paint and paint them. They be like new again. Cheap and cost effective. I bought about 700 square foot of antique tins that were over a hundred years old. Really rusted and did the work on it. After you nail in the tin then take some builders caulking and fill in the holes and repaint it one more time. You will be amazed at the results. Hope this helps you. Enjoy

Alex D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- phoenix, Arizona


A. I have a 1890s home in NJ with seven tin ceilings in fairly good condition and painted white. A decision was made to scrape and prime as needed and repaint white. We used latex paint and it looks great. I must say scraping was messy. For me it was best to fix as needed in this manner so that there would not be too many layers of paint. Also living in an old house I have come to the realization that sometimes you need to live with things that were done by others and that adds to the history.

Sandra S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Verona, New Jersey

Ed. note: Letter 3603 is on a similar topic and has some additional suggestions.


Q. We purchased an old brick railroad hotel (c.1879) in upstate NY which, as far as we can tell was remodeled/redecorated about 1910. Both the walls and the ceiling of the main hall are covered with tin panels. As with many of these ceilings, it is covered with at least 11 layers of paint! I think we will probably paint instead of strip but there is conflicting advice about what type of paint to use. Will latex or acrylic have better adhesion?

Kathy M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Jordan, New York

affil. link
"Walls and Ceilings"
from Abe Books



A. We recently purchased a 2 story brick building on the town square that was built in 1864. The building is one of the bank buildings robbed by Jesse James. The tin ceiling was mostly intact and spanned 25 X 80 feet. We removed the panels that were irreparable and then sandblasted the rest. The tin is much stronger than you might think and the result was wonderful. We stripped off at least 4 layers of paint. We ordered about a dozen replacement panels online to repair the rest. We then primed it and painted an antique bronze. Very good results.

Dawn H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Gallatin, Missouri

affil. link
Air Compressor


A. I am in the middle of restoring 5800 sq ft of an old tin ceiling. The best way to return tin to its original look is blasting with dry ice. I did some samples and was extremely pleased. The tiles were shiny and spectacular. However, one 2' tile took 7 minutes to blast--the cost for me was prohibitive. A smaller project or larger budget would be better. Sand-blasting beats the tin up too much. Even soda blasting takes the shine off the tin. I have heard that blasting with walnut shells works well, too. In the end, I elected to leave most of the paint on, scrape the rest, and repaint. We took the loose paint off by air blasting it with a HVHP (325 CFM) air compressor and then spinning the rust off with a metal brush on a power drill.

Incidentally, the easiest and cheapest method if you've already got the tin down, is to bang it against wood. The tin is left almost perfect and most of the paint is on the floor.

Paul M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada


Q. There is this tin ceiling. I have been asked to do the repair.
The ceiling has two 2'x2' inch holes in two corners and one 3' hole as well other than these holes the whole ceiling looks great.
There is also , however, about 8-12 layers of paint on these , which is chipping away quite easily . Just want to know the best way to bring this paint down and also if making a mold is the best way to repair the holes.

Terrance M. Wahl Jr.
artist - New York, New York


Q. Our bathroom is above our kitchen, which has a beautiful tin ceiling. Due to a slow leak from our shower the ceiling now has a hole in it due to rust from the water collected from the leak. What is the best way to repair this?

Anne Higgins
consumer - Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada


Q. Thanks for the great advice, April! We have an 1870 house with a great tin ceiling in the dining room. When we bought it, the guy who had been restoring it had painted the tin ceiling with white latex paint. It looked great!

Two years later, the paint is peeling off in great sheets, along with the old layer of lead paint. We regularly must vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum to clear up any chips which may have scattered when a bigger sheet falls off. It's a bit nerve-wracking with two busy toddlers in the house, not to mention wondering if we're lead-poisoning dinner guests (fortunately we haven't yet had a mid-dinner lead-paint dusting).

On the bright side, all the paint is coming off the tin cleanly, so eventually we'll have a clear tin surface to prime and paint the right way.

Can anyone tell us if it's possible to polish our ceiling? Will the tin go from black to some fabulous shiny finish with Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or something?

Thanks and good luck to all.

Gwen MacCaughey
- Winchendon, Massachusetts


A. Use a simple fiberglass repair kit to repair tin ceiling holes. It works great.

Julie Breuer
- Pampa, Texas


A. We bought an abandoned 1890 12 room farmhouse with a tin ceiling in the kitchen about 20'x12'. The heat pipes froze and leaked causing rust and peeling paint everywhere. After trying everything from strippers to a homeowners sandblaster the only thing that worked was hiring a guy to come over with a tow behind compressor and a professional sand blaster using play sand. The only damage was the previous water damage. We'll repair that with body filler. It's painted a dark grey and looks brand new. It was messy but we used lots of drop clothes and plastic to cover everything. It took about 4 hrs from start to clean up and around $400.00. It was well worth it considering all the time wasted trying to do it manually.

Steve Forgacs
- Smithville New York

February 13, 2008

Q. I have a 100 year old house with a tin ceiling in the kitchen. Someone framed in a drop ceiling over it. I now want to remove the framing which indeed will leave me with much damage and nail holes. Is there a way to carefully remove each tile so that they could eventually be reinstalled?

Nancy Wels
homeowner - Manchester, New Hampshire

September 12, 2008

A. I have been a contractor for over 30 years and I have found that tin ceilings can be cleaned from paint with a small sand blaster.It takes time but it does a good job. If you want to keep the natural look a clear coat of paint or lacquer will bring back the original shine. Patience is the key.

Gerald Mahin
- Mason City, Illinois

April 12, 2010

A. Peelaway is my product of choice, I have a place built in the early 1800's and my tin ceilings were covered in lead paint which meant no heat. Sandblasting can damage the detail you're trying to retain so I used Peel Away [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] and left it on for 72 hrs, came back and all layers of paint literally came off on the paper you apply it with. Coat of Peel Away Neutralizer [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], Rust Converter [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], Self-Etching Primer [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] and top coat and it looks beautiful.

Jess Anderson
- Australia

April 18, 2010

A. I feel the need to add my experiences with "tin" ceilings. We have 2 buildings with much of the original ceilings. These are actually not tin but a mild steel. They are a silver-ish in color and were dipped in or sprayed with a chemical solution which turned them black. That is a rust proofing but not an actual anodizing. (This may or may not be 'exactly' right, but what I have learned from reading on the net. I forget the name of the solution.)
Sometimes the solution did not completely cover the piece and one can see the original untreated metal color.

We are refinishing one building which has been covered with a dropped ceiling for the last 3 decades. Sandblasting removed four layers of chipping paint and feathered what remained of the original layer, which is adhered very well. We will prime with an oil based metal primer.

Seams between tiles which are large and can't be reclosed for whatever reason are being covered with paintable aluminum automotive repair tape. So are rusted holes from many years of poor roof repairs.

The finish coats are still being researched. We hope for a metallic copper and verdigris wash. We're keeping our fingers crossed on that!


Tom Evans
- Moberly, Missouri

July 1, 2011

Q. I have purchased a 100 yr old commercial building in rural Alberta and would like to refinish the old tin ceiling. It has been covered by suspended ceiling for about 30 years and so some wiring and conduit must be moved and changed. It was painted and seems to be adhering well. Some repairs will be required so I am hoping to remove loose paint and possible rust, fill holes, move tiles as needed and then paint with metallic paint I found on the internet. Sounds like a metal primer tinted with base color of orange or coppery color would be a first good start. Should I use a roller with a textured ceiling pile or would renting a sprayer be a better option? Any suggestions would be welcome. Am I delusional?

Caroline Tokarchik
- Stettler, AB, Canada

May 23, 2014

A I am restoring a tin ceiling that only covers part of the kitchen ceiling. It was in the barn and painted.


I used HEAVY DUTY OVEN AND GRILL CLEANER to strip it with joy! My first panel I used paint stripper and it took forever. The Oven Cleaner I spray on and, depending on humidity, can use a wire brush and 1-3 Steel wool to easily remove the old paint. It takes 1-2 hours to let it sit and work. It comes off like black crust on your grill. It is sooo easy and does not discolor or damage the original tin. It is amazing! You can only do this with it lying flat. Then I hose it off; go over the surface with Naval Jelly(follow directions) and then seal the front with Rustoleum clear Spray Enamel. I spray the back with Rustoleum flat primer to ensure no rust. I have rehung 2 panels 2'x4' with 8 tiles so far. I just used the old nail holes My house is 1905.
As disclaimer, Home Depot has chosen me to answer questions for restorations on a "pro" or expert panel.

- Eureka, California USA

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