Go for the Old With Metal and Faux-Metal Ceiling Tiles

USA, New York State, New York City, Brooklyn, Pendant lamp on tiled ceiling
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Nothing says traditional and classic in your house more than the installation or restoration of metal ceiling tiles.

The tiles, usually tin, came in vogue around the turn of the 20th century. They fell out of vogue because they provided little insulation and sound absorption. But tastes change, and now metal ceiling tiles have become popular again.

  • 01 of 05

    Metal and Faux-Metal Ceiling Tiles: Instant Traditional Look

    Real Antique Metal Ceiling Tiles
    Image Public Domain; NPS

    Above, you're looking at the Real McCoy—an antique pressed-tin ceiling tile from the National Park Service's restoration of structures at Ft. Baker, near San Francisco. It's ironic that this style element signifies fancy or showy today, yet in years past tin ceiling tiles were essentially the equivalent of today's acoustic ceiling tiles:  cheap, mass-produced, and applied to quite ordinary buildings such as hardware stores, general stores, and the Army barracks shown here.

    Now, prepare yourself to leave the world of ​reality and enter the world of plastic metal-look ceiling tiles.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Metal Ceiling Tiles: Rusty, Tin, and Embossed

    Pl04 Faux Tin Finish Decorative Fancy Design Distressed Ceiling Tiles 3d Emboss Coffee Pub Rustic Wall Deco Panels 10pieces/lot

    Why take a century "aging" your metal ceiling tiles when you can buy them already rusty and distressed? Unlike many ceiling tiles, these are made of real metal and have an embossed stars and stripes design.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Pressed Metal Ceiling Tiles: Fleur-de-Lis

    Tin ceiling tiles

    These are .3" thick vinyl plastic metal-look tiles with a fleur-de-lis pattern. 

    How Can You Tell Metal and Faux-Metal Apart?

    If you held the two tiles in hand, of course, you would be able to tell the difference just by touch and weight. Metal clangs when rapped, and it's far heavier than the polystyrene versions.​

    But how can you tell when you're looking at them online?

    We've found that online retailers are sneaky—sometimes downright deceptive—when it comes to revealing the composition of their tiles.  They'll go on and on about "antique tin" and "embossed metal" and "coppery luster," while holding back the fact that the product is actually plastic.

    Judge by price. Real metal panels will run in the $40 to $50 range for a 2" x 2" square. Faux metal will run $15 to $20 for the same size.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Metal Ceiling Tiles: Metal-Look Copper Tiles Made of PVC

    Majesty Antique Copper Patina (24x24" Pvc) Ceiling Tile

    As fancy as these 24" x 24" "copper" metal ceiling tiles look, they can be adhered directly to any flat drywall ceiling.

    These tiles are very inexpensive, mainly because they are not real copper—just plastic.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    When Metal Ceiling Tiles Aren't: Faux Tiles

    Ceiling Tile - Faux Tin Like - Anet Antique Bronze 20x20"

    So-called metal ceiling tiles are often clever reproductions made of polystyrene foam. These faux metal ceiling tiles adhere directly to the ceiling with adhesive and look amazingly like copper.

    Did You Know?

    • Most homeowners today prefer bare metal ceiling tiles. But in days past, metal ceilings were typically painted.
    • When the National Park Service undertook the restoration of metal ceiling tiles at Ft. Baker, in 2006, the old lead paint was removed by placing the tiles a deep freezer and then flexing them. The paint fell right off!
    • Though considered desirable today, pressed metal ceiling panels were considered a cheap and inferior alternative to plastering.