Most inexperienced painters think they know how to paint a ceiling; however, once they get started, they often face a host of problems they failed to anticipate. To generate an attractive, lasting finish, employ the proper technique based on the specific type of texture you're working with. Take the proper safety precautions, or you could end up suffering a painful injury or creating an unsightly mess.

Preparation tips

Before doing anything else, remove any items that might obstruct your ability to paint your ceiling. Cover the entire floor with thick, absorbent canvas drop cloths; avoid cheap plastic coverings, or drips will pool. Cover the tops of the walls, using a low-tack, blue painter's masking tape. Since ceilings generally rest out of the reach of the average person, you'll need to affix an extension pole to the roller frame to ease the application process.

Popcorn texture

Also known as acoustic, popcorn texture tends to shed heavily during the application process. When painting popcorn ceilings, use a thick, 1-inch nap roller cover. Although you can minimize drips and splatters by keeping the roller moving, there's really no way to prevent popcorn texture from shedding. Be sure to wear protective eyewear as you work, or you may end up with texture in your eyes.

Overhead tiles

Ceiling tiles usually sit loosely between metal frames. Paint won’t stick to these frames; so before doing anything else, prime the metal with a metal-etching primer. Once the metal is primed, apply the finish using a 1/2-inch roller cover. Apply gentle pressure while rolling and brushing, or you may push the tiles out of the frame. Use a 3-inch polyester-bristled paintbrush to touch-up skipped areas.

Heavy texture

If the overhead surface is heavily textured with orange peel or knockdown texture, you may have difficulty achieving an even, uniform finish. To combat this, move your roller in varying directions to ensure that every bit of texture gets adequate coverage. Despite your best efforts, you may need to apply a second coat; however, you may be able to get away with touching-up more densely textured areas using a paintbrush. If you choose to attempt the latter strategy, be sure to touch-up before the finish dries, or you may end up with uneven results due to inconsistent drying times.

High ceilings

If the overhead surface is very high or vaulted, you'll need a telescoping extension pole to reach it. Use a large stepladder or extension ladder for touch-ups. If you have to rest the extension ladder against the wall, be sure to tie rags around the ends to prevent unwanted damage. If the ceilings are very, very high, you may need to use scaffolding or even a cherry picker. If you're afraid of heights, consider hiring a contractor.

Best paint for ceilings

Though you can use low-sheen finishes, such as satin and eggshell, to paint a ceiling; flat finishes tend to yield the best results, because they reflect less light. Though flat finishes are prone to staining, they generally maintain their original color and remain stain=free when used on surfaces that are out of reach.


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