Ceilings, The High Challenge

Painting a ceiling is one of the more challenging paint jobs. Paint drips onto your face and onto the floor. The angle makes it more difficult to use a brush or even a roller on a pole. A ladder is often needed. Even the lighting is different. To top it off, ceilings are sometimes texture coated. How can you deal with all these difficulties to get a good final result?

The first step to overcoming those hurdles is proper paint selection and using the right tools with it.

Paints come in a variety of types. Oil and latex are only the two broadest categories. Finish is important, too. High gloss will create lots of light reflection, giving the room a very bright look as light from lamps bounces off it. Flat paint will give a much more subtle look.

But beyond these overall types, there are specialty paints used for certain ceilings, such as those with texture coating or acoustic tile. The latter is sometimes used in rooms or areas set aside for home entertainment.

If the ceiling is textured with stucco-like plaster, brushing and rolling are out. The texture will simply crumble off. Spraying becomes mandatory. That creates the need for good ventilation and some extra skill. Using a sprayer is more difficult than it looks. The paint has to be just the right consistency. Otherwise, the sprayer either gums up, or the paint sprays out like water.

Next, it's important to decide whether primer is needed. For most new surfaces, it's essential. Many more top coats would be needed without it. Also, ceilings are especially prone to water damage. So, a primer becomes a great tool to help hide discolorations that would show through the top coat without one. It also helps provide a good surface to keep paint adhering well. That will help reduce drips.

To reduce dripping in general, make sure to mix paint with the right consistency. You can test the result partially by painting part of a small vertical surface, such as the inside of a closet. Gravity is still working against you, so if the paint is too thin (or too thick), it will run down the wall. On a ceiling, that would be a drip.

Working at the right speed helps reduce dripping, as well as saves your neck and shoulders from excess strain. For most ceilings, a long extension pole will allow you to apply paint with minimal neck effort.

Keep the pole extended at a slight angle. That keeps your head at a more comfortable angle while keeping any drips or splatters from falling straight down on you. Just don't extend it too far out. A large angle makes the pole and roller feel much heavier.

Fortunately, most ceilings are smooth and undamaged and have few angles or fixtures. That makes preparation easier and painting quicker. A few dozen strokes with a roller on a pole will do most ceilings, making the hard part of an interior paint job brief.