How to Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

How To Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles
How To Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

In the “old days”, ceilings in banks, schools, and other institutions were covered with painted, patterned tin, often to hide imperfections in the plaster. Today, faux tin ceiling tiles accomplish the same thing, look great, and are very easy to put up…just click Next to see our instructions on how to install faux tin ceiling tiles.

Don’t want to go through the trouble of actually installing tiles?  See our post on how to wallpaper the ceiling.

The Inspiration

Ceiling tiles used in a traditional setting
Ceiling tiles used in a traditional setting


After seeing the architectural interest and beauty that real tin ceiling tiles added to Victorian homes, I wanted to try them myself but I didn’t want the hassle of actually using tin.  It is hard to cut, a little tricky to install and has sharp edges.  So…what kind of tiles to install?  Click Next to find out what I decided.

What Kind Of Tiles To Install?

Faux tin ceiling tiles easily cover a popcorn ceiling
Faux tin ceiling tiles easily cover a popcorn ceiling

Ceiling tiles today are not your 1970’s ceiling tiles!  They are available in a variety of patterns (from traditional to contemporary), and in a lot of different materials—tin, aluminum, plastic, and polystyrene to name a few.  They are also fire-rated (so not the same fire hazard as there used to be with the old-school tiles).

I chose to use the Styrofoam 20” square tiles.  They are economical, light weight, easy to cut (no tin snips required!) and only require some glue for installation. Since they are flexible, they also adhere easily to surfaces with irregularities, including popcorn ceilings (which I needed to cover the popcorn on the kitchen ceiling).   I recommend painting the popcorn first to make sure that there are no crumbling bits…the ceiling above had a popcorn ceiling that had previously been spray-painted, and the tiles stuck without any issues.

Don’t worry if your styrofoam tiles seem “flimsy” when you get them.  They are usually pretty thin, but that’s what makes them really easy to work with (and once they are installed, you really can’t tell).

We used a metallic paint on the tiles to make them look like tin, and you cannot tell from the ground that they are styrofoam!  The pattern of the tiles draws the eye upward in the room, and adds that architectural interest to the “fifth” wall that I was looking for.  And it completely covers the ugly popcorn ceiling!

Click Next to find what you will need to Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

What You Need To Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

Latex Paint (similar to this one from Lowes) Note: do not use spray paint on styrofoam. It will pit the surface.

How to Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

Silver glaze makes these styrofoam tiles look like tin.
Silver glaze makes these styrofoam tiles look like tin.

If you prefer to watch a video, there’s a good “how to install faux tin ceiling tiles” video on

1.  It is easier to paint the tiles before gluing them to the ceiling.  They will likely need two coats to cover the white of the styrofoam.  In the picture above, I first rolled on a latex lilac colored paint and after it dried, I applied a coat of silver metallic latex with a foam roller.  Learned from experience:  Do not use spray paint…it will “eat” the surface of the styrofoam and cause pits in the finish.

2.  Remove all ceiling fixtures and vent covers.

3.  Then, establish the center of the ceiling. This will make sure that the tiles are evenly spaced between the walls.*  To do this:

a.  measure the length of one of the walls at the ceiling and divide the number in half to determine where the half-way point is.

b.  Use a pencil to mark that center point on opposite sides of the ceiling.

c.  Use the chalk line to create a line joining those two points together.  It is easier to do this if you have a second person…each of you can hold an end of the chalk line at either end of the ceiling and snap it to create the line. However, to do it solo, you just need to tack the end of the chalk line at one end of the ceiling and pull it across to the other side.

d.  Repeat steps a to c to going in the other direction (create a line joining the other two walls at the center point).  You should end up with a cross that meets where the center of the ceiling is.

4.  Use the liquid nails in the caulk gun to put glue on the back of the first tile.  Don’t skimp on the glue. I put generous gobs on each corner, the middle and here and there with a flexible putty knife.

5.  The first tile is positioned in the right angle created where these two lines cross in the center of the room. After lining it up with the chalk lines, gently press the tile onto the ceiling.

6.  Continue gluing up tiles lining them up along the chalk lines and right next to each other (make sure the edges and corners line up or the lines will be crooked when you get finished.

Measure from the last tile to the wall to figure out how big the tile is supposed to be
Measure from the last tile to the wall to figure out how big the tile is supposed to be

7.  When you reach the walls, the tiles will need to be cut to size.  To do this:

a. Measure from the side of the last installed tile to the wall

b. Transfer these measurements to the new tile.

c. Place a straight edge at these marks, and holding it firmly in place, cut the tile cleanly with the utility knife.

d. Before putting any glue on, hold the tile up in its location to make sure it fits (and make any necessary adjustments)

8.  Then glue it in.

9.  Repeat steps 5 to 8 with the next row of tiles (again making sure the edges and corners line up).  Keep going until the entire ceiling is covered.

How To Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles |
Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles installed square with the wall

10.  Replace fixtures and you are done!

Installation rarely takes longer than a day (depending on the size of the room of course) and the only cleanup involves putting the tools away.

Installing the tiles on the diagonal adds some extra interest
Installing the tiles on the diagonal adds some extra interest

* You can also install the tiles diagonally (like the ceiling above) instead of straight on between the walls. It’s actually a little easier to find the center.  Just use the chalk line to make a line from one corner of the room to the opposite corner.  Then repeat between the other two corners.  You’ll end up with an X on the ceiling.   The rest of the installation follows the same steps as above, except that you will probably only be able to follow along one of the lines since the lines in the middle will not meet at a right angle (unless your room is perfectly square).

Have comments or question on How To Install Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles?  Tell us in the section below.

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10 Responses

  • Do you think after the tiles are painted I can stack and store them back in the box? I can’t do the project all in one day because I have bedroom furniture to move, walls to paint, and replace flooring. Thinking I need a week. I don’t want them to stick together.

    • Hello Linda: I have had no problems with stacking painted tiles once the paint on them is completely dry. Good luck with your extensive bedroom reno.

  • I wanted to do this for years. When I redid my kitchen these tiles were not available or at least I couldn’t find them. Do you glue them onto the popcorn ceiling or scratch it off first?

    • Hello Joyce, I used No More Nails to glue the Styrofoam tiles directly to the popcorn on the ceiling. I put blobs of the glue in several places on the back side of the tile before gently pushing it into place.

  • Hi, this is Joanne again. I am in the process of doing the faux ceiling with Styrofoam tiles. I am having trouble with the painting. Should I paint the tiles with a base coat before using the metallic paint? I put the metallic paint directly on the foam tile using a foam roller and it looks all streaky.

    • Hello, Joanne. I do not use a primer when I am painting Styrofoam tiles. Some brands of metallic paint go on smoother than others. I think if you give the tiles a second coat of paint the streaks will fade out. Good luck!

  • Hi, Thank you for all of this great detail!

    How have the tiles held up over time?
    Are the edges still looking aligned?

    Have you noticed any changes around the edges? I am considering faux ceiling tiles with a crown molding. Do you have any thoughts/suggestions there?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Nate…The tiles have held up really well. I was a little afraid having them in a bathroom and kitchen that they might not stand up to the heat and moisture, but they look just as good now as they did when they were installed. Everything is still lined up and nothing is coming off the ceiling. I put the ceiling tiles up in my den which has crown moldings and it looks great (you can see that project here). I used the exact same process to install them, but did all measurements to the edge of the molding instead of to the wall (I think you could also install the tiles first and then put the moldings up on top of them if you wanted to). Good luck with it!

    • Hi Joanne…I bought mine on If you do a search for “styrofoam ceiling tiles” on either or, you will get a bunch of different options…just make sure to get the glue-up kind if you want to do this type of installation. Thanks for visiting!

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