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A Brief History of Metal Ceilings

Metal ceilings add beauty and character to a room, and have been doing so since the 1800s. Though these ceiling plates look expensive and ornate, they actually originated as an alternative to plasterwork panels that were time-consuming and heavy. Here is a quick look at the history of metal ceilings:

Early European Use

Metal ceilings originated in early 19th century Europe. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, ceilings were constructed of elaborate plasterwork which was heavy, cumbersome, difficult to install, and typically only something the wealthy could afford. Things changed after the Industrial Revolution took over Europe. The Bessemer Method was invented, which made turning iron into steel possible, allowing manufacturers to create lightweight ceilings that were customizable and easy to install. Originally, they were called “steel ceilings” because they were large 2×4 panels of steel that were stamped with an embossing plate.

Tin Ceilings Move to America

The novelty of tin ceilings took off right around the 1880s, and manufacturers created ceilings in hundreds of different patterns and designs. They took a bit longer to catch on in America, but by the first few years of the 1900s there we 45 manufactures in the United States, mostly located in the country’s industrial hubs like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

The Benefits of Tin Ceilings

The allure of tin ceilings came not only from their beauty but for their cost effectiveness as well. The advent of metal ceilings and the way they could be imprinted with designs meant that consumers could have a customized ceiling at an affordable price. It was also soon discovered that metal ceilings offered more durability and even some fire protection. Fire protection was an important concern back then, as everything from lighting to heating involved an open flame. Eventually, manufacturers realized that “steel ceilings” could be plated with a layer of tin to help resist corrosion. This was where the term tin ceiling began.

Tin Ceilings Making a Comeback

The tin ceiling craze began to dwindle after the 1920s, so if you own a home with an original tin ceiling, you are very lucky. Metal ceilings have made a comeback as Americans are once again realizing they can have customized beauty and durability at an affordable price.

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