Monday, October 17, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 5 - Ceiling

This is SO exciting! We're into the final stretch, only days away from completion. 

After exhaustive research including pricing, ease of installation, availability, and online reviews, we opted for tin ceiling panels from American Tin Ceilings. We ordered some samples and color swatches, made our choice, and dug into the bank balance. Eeep! 

Here is the before of the ceiling. The center right was where the concussion cabinet was removed and across from there you can see the two different colors that the ceiling was painted. It was fairly obvious and bothered me every time I saw it. Which, of course, was often because I knew it was there and was bothered by it! LOL

The panels were delivered in a very neat bundle ahead of schedule. Actually on a Thursday, which meant we would be spending our weekend installing ceiling. Originally they were scheduled to leave the factory on Friday, so we would have got them around Tuesday. One occasion that arriving ahead of schedule was not appreciated, even if it was appreciated, if you know what I mean! ;) Actually, though, we were impressed with the speedy delivery and thrilled that it meant we could get stuck in and get it done.

There were three square boxes with the panels and one long box with the molding. Each panel was separated from the others by neatly wrapped paper.

The installation guide was fairly simple and easy to follow. There are also How-To videos on the website, which we watched. Step one was marking the first line of the panels. Himself arranged two ladders, the smaller one for him and the safety-bar-designed-for-clumsy-wives* for me. It is definitely a two-man job, so I was up and down that ladder doing the fetching and photographing in between the holding and helping.

*No, I did not fall off the ladder. Instead I fell off the table I was using because I was too impatient to fetch the ladder. I did, however, manage to stub my toe on the ladder and bleed on the floor a little, so it is not going to snow in Hawaii after all.

The panels go up from one corner and they're not difficult to install with two of you. We went for the Snap Lock system which installs directly onto the ceiling, no furring strips or any other time/money-consuming preparation. Just several boxes of #6 coarse drywall screws and a drill with a screwdriver attachment and you're all set! The only thing they don't tell you is how to support the corner of the very first panel. I phoned the Helpline and they told me to just stick a screw in it. So simple! We propped it up with a piece of wood instead, as we had a handy-dandy cupboard right below it.

Our biggest headache was getting the corners perfectly aligned. You need to ensure your up-and-down and left-and-right joins meet perfectly at the corners, or your tiles will be off further down the line. We ended up having to remove some tiles to work our way back to the off-kilter one at one point, and were extra careful with our matching up going forward.

We added a chalk line at the edge of the ceiling where it is open plan to the living room and ended it off at a fixed point along that line. We bought a huge paper guillotine that worked well to cut the straight lines of the tiles. The cut edges were screwed through wooden shims that Himself cut from a piece of two-by-four with his table saw. The shims prevent the tin panels from being flattened at the cut edge. ATC recommend you use paint sticks, but we didn't have any, so he made them. (Shameless plug for my amazing man!)

No, there is nothing wrong with my clock! It works perfectly and I can read it faster than a normal one. It's especially designed for deranged unusual people like me.

The panels have to be cut wherever there is something in the ceiling like air vents, downlights, light/fan fittings, etc. Himself had already completed the cut and installed the air vent and the next one up was the fan light fitting. We changed out the light fitting (scroll up to see the original - pretty but very Victorian and not practical in our heat) for a new fan/light combination.

Cutting the straight edges on the guillotine were a snap. Cutting out any edges, straight or curved, in the middle of the tiles turned out to be a lot trickier! We chose the Antique Nickel option and the two sides are almost identical. This means that you have to be positive which side is up. Two sides of each panel are "female" and two sides are "male" so that each panel slots into the previous set, and you have to be careful to have the panel pointing in the right direction, with a male sliding into a female edge. Holding the panel with male-male edges or upside down and you're cutting into the wrong corner of the panel.

This was annoyingly easy to do - and we ended up with several incorrect cuts. Even after lots of practice! Grrrrrrr!

However, we did use these pieces in the ends and corners, so they didn't go to waste, and we did order some spares in case of mistakes, so it all worked out in the end. And Himself got the cuts right way up and right direction most of the time! He also wore a protective glove for handling the cut edges, as you can see in the previous pic. I stepped on a cut piece and the edges are fffff.... sharp!

In case you're all wondering if Himself really did the work all alone, no. I would help him slot it into place and he would put in a screw on each side to hold it steady. Once the panel was stable enough for me to let it go, he put the last four screws in while I got down and fetched up the next panel, making it more of an assembly line affair. It was during these "down" periods I'd quickly snap a shot.

But it occurred to me that you all might be wondering where I was in this flurry of photos, so I went to a lot of trouble to set up the (uncooperative) camera on auto to take a pic of us together. Himself is not the most patient man and held little truck with my fiddling with the camera instead of working my assembly line duties, so I had a limited window of time for set up.  Multiple tries later, this is the exclusive one you get, and it really is an action shot snapped as we were fitting the panel into the set. The only other legible one has an awkward view of my ass climbing the ladder and I'm not sharing.

However, it's time for another #bragonyourman as I show you his absolutely perfect cut for the next air vent. Each line exactly correct! And he calls me a perfectionist?

We needed the light to work by as the day progressed (I've shown you before how dark this room gets in the afternoon) but the fan blades were not ticklish as they whacked the back of your neck. So I removed the blades. The fan motor ran on double time after that, but it was just for a short while before we actually had to remove the fitting entirely, so Himself gave it his dubious approval. It worked well, and didn't overheat or seem to suffer much harm in the 20 to 30 minutes we had it running. I got a matched set of fan lights, so this one is moving into the garage anyway. I thought black would look better against the ceiling than white, so I got a pair of black units. You can see how stark the vents are against the tin, but the new black fans are almost invisible against the ceiling. Superb! Here Himself is adding the last screws without the fan blades whispering in his ear.

We opted to complete the bulk of the ceiling and do the finicky edging last. I don't know how ATC thinks it should be done, but it worked out well for us. There was a lot of cutting and shaping involved in this section, and we used up most of the mistake cuts as well as about a dozen more panels getting it all done.

All in all, this took two days: Friday and Saturday. On Sunday Himself put up the crown molding. It comes in 4' lengths and he was able to do it on his own using a brad nailer. While simpler, it was more awkward fitting the corners, and the miters and coping didn't always fit comfortably. I'd say there was more swearing in this section that in the rest of the ceiling! In the end, Himself opted to have me caulk and paint the corner gaps than lose his temper and possibly a thumb trying to cut it into shape.

The new cabinets didn't work out with the crown molding, the doors are too high, so quarter round wood cut and burned to match the cabinets did the trick.

Isn't it absolutely fabulous? I cannot tell you how thrilled I am!

While he worked on the molding, I put polycrylic on all the wood and worked on the curtains. A few more finishing touches and we're DONE!


  1. Absolutely fabulous Toni. Well done both of you.

  2. Great installation! Thanks for sharing your project and having confidence in American Tin Ceilings. Enjoy!


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