Metal Ceilings Make A Comeback
We live, work and play, in the town where we were born and raised – Pittsburg, California. Urban renewal hit our downtown in the early ‘70’s. Dozens of turn-of-the century buildings were leveled to make room for a new waterfront complex and several new housing developments. And what was once our local business district – and the epitome of small town America – seemed to disappear into oblivion. Since then there have been repeated attempts to revive the old area. And although several of the old buildings have been beautifully restored the downtown area as we once knew it has simply vaporized. The people, the small town atmosphere, the quaint, the old – all gone. The unique sparkle that once was is no more.
Only one of the original businesses still remains (or should we say survives) – an interesting place to say the least – The New Mecca Café. It’s been there since we were kids. The man who owns it is from Mexico and the food there is known for hundreds of miles around. When asking for directions to our place people from out of town always want to know where we are located in relation to the Mecca. Everyone knows where the Mecca is. One really neat thing about the Mecca is that it isn’t fancy or new. It’s ancient. The dining area is about 15-feet wide and 60-feet long. A counter with stools spans the length on one side and wooden-seated booths-for-four span the entire length on the other side (except at the far end where there is a table and chairs for 6 or so). Nothing fancy and nothing new. The food served there today tastes EXACTLY like it did 30 years ago. Even the metal ceiling – an excellent example of restoration (restored about 20 years ago) – looks exactly as it did when the old building was originally built in the early 1900’s.
Well, our downtown may not have survived, but the experts say that there is a resurgence of interest in old-fashioned architectural finishes – and in specific – metal ceilings. The Internet is teaming with companies that offer metal ceiling tiles in all shapes and sizes. Even more interesting is the fact that metal ceiling tiles aren’t just made of metal anymore. New offerings are available in plastic and in fibrous acoustic materials as well. For more on what’s available on the Internet simply go to your favorite search engine and type in ‘metal ceiling tile’. You will be amazed by the choices.
Metal tiles used to be made of plated brass and painted copper and were usually found in 1-by-1, 1-by-2, 2-by-4 and 4-by-8 sizes. They were tacked to wooden furring strips spaced 12-inches apart. Crown moldings, borders and center medallions also were available. All of those shapes, sizes and accessories are still available today. You can make a ceiling in your home look just like the turn-of-the-century ceiling you used to enjoy down at the old five and dime. Yep, wall panels can still be found as well. However, we caution you that, as ornate as they might be, metal panels are not acoustically “sound”. That was a pun, but you could be asking for reverberations galore by installing metal surfaces in some modern homes. Keep in mind that metal ceilings were most often used in commercial buildings and therefore were usually 20- to 30-feet up. It’s really hard to see installation details (nails and seems) from such a distance. And the acoustics in a store with a high ceiling are quite different from those in a home with a much lower ceiling. No, we aren’t contradicting ourselves. We love metal ceilings. But remember, there is a place for everything and everything has its place. Metal ceiling tiles work well on large, high ceilings. The reason is that the smallest tile is one-foot square – not so small by tile standards. Using large metal tiles in small rooms and halls was once popular – but try to remember that today’s ceilings are lower. And that can make a difference.
If you do have “just the right place” for a metal tile ceiling then you will need to install a grid of wooden furring strips. The spacing of the strips will depend on the size of the tiles that you purchase. Also, some sculpted tiles are available that can simply be glued into place. How easy can it get? In any event, you definitely must select the tile BEFORE deciding on the installation method.
One other very important factor. Tiling a ceiling is no different than tiling a floor or a counter. A good job cannot be done unless the tiles are “laid out” first. In most instances you will want to start the first tile dead-center in your room. That is, centered in both directions. In this way, opposing edges will match in width, and the end result will be more uniform. First, draw the ceiling to scale on a piece of paper. It can then be transferred to the ceiling. And, that’s all there is to it. Whenever we see a metal tile ceiling we think of Mexican food. What do you think of?