Painting Tips and Tricks 2, Paint the Ceiling First

Paint the ceiling first is the second in what will be a number of hubs under the heading Painting Tips and Tricks. In the first Hub we prepared a living room for decoration; so now where going to look at how we paint a ceiling. In any decorating job always, always start at the top and work down.

Just before I continue a few words about buying paint.
When I started decorating as a 15 year old there was three types of paint, oil based undercoat, oil based gloss and emulsion and that was it. We now have all different types, one coat paint, paint for walls, paint for ceilings, water based paint for bathrooms, and satin, to name but a few. I do think that some of the names they come up with are just for marketing purpose most of them do what it says on the tin but there are one or two that are just taking the mick i.e.

  • There is no difference between ceiling paint and wall paint, except the price.
  • If you want a thick, glossy, rich looking finish don't use 'One Coat' paint; it doesn't work.
  • If you see tins of size (size is put on new walls or plaster repairs to stop paint being absorbed into the wall) on the store shelf leave it there; a packet of wallpaper paste watered down a little more than what it says on the packet; does the same job at an 1/8th of the price.
  • Primer, a primer coat of paint in the uk is the first coat you put on new wood. Again you see this in your local DIY shop and people think they have to have it. Just take some oil based undercoat and add some white spirits to it, say 4 to 1, does the same job.

Now I've got that of my chest; one good thing that's on the market are 'Sample Pots' for trying out colours; remember if you have a dark colour paint on your ceiling it will bring it down, if you have a light colour it's the opposite effect.

The only thing you have to watch is don't try them out in the middle of a large wall, all paint as a thickness when it dries and you will be able to see it through the finished coat on a flat wall. Try it in a shaded area or somewhere out of the way; ideally paint it on a peace of cardboard and hold it to the wall.

Most rooms you decorate will use water based emulsions and oil based undercoats, glosses and satins. Unless specified emulsions usually go on walls and oil based products go on wood and steel.

Water cleans emulsions and white spirits or turpentine cleans oil based paints.

You can't really go wrong with rollers as long as the sleeves are not to fine or to rough; the roller and extension pole must be one of the biggest advances in decorating when you have to paint a ceiling. I highly recommend palm sanders; pointed ones are the best for getting in all the nooks and cranny's. Dust sheets are really handy and not just for painting, plus they'll last for years.

Why we Ran Out of Paint for the Ceiling

The day I arrived at my first job at the age 15, I was given an A to Z and a handcart with a three tier 40 foot ladder on it, two pair of steps, a plank, numerous tins of paint and dust sheets. I was told to make my way to the address where we would be working.

“Just turn left over the road there and follow the map”

I'd never pushed a handcart in my life; it took me ages just to get going. I managed to cross the road with it and turn left.
The hill in front of me was high and long, not just a bump, I stopped in my tracts, he must be joking I thought. It suddenly hit me it was a trial, if I could do this I could do anything they throw at me; that's what their thinking.

So I started up the hill, I was nearly on my knees trying to get my weight behind it and worse of all this 15 year old Mod of the sixty's was pushing this cart over this hill with the local girls school on the same road, there was hundreds of them giggling and pointing. I managed to get to the top, what a relief; then it started going down the other side. Coming up was tough but going down was frightening I was just sliding behind it, I'd a felt a lot better if there was a defibrillator on the cart.
If them traffic lights at the bottom of the hill were on red when I got there, and the lolly pop lady as no chance. Adrenalin kick in and I managed to guide the wheel into the curbside to slow it down; it was the middle of winter but I was sweating profusely


I arrived at the address in the middle of a tea break; there was a plumber, a joiner and electrician in the garage; best foot forward I was the only painter on the job.

“Hello” I said, “I'm the painter where shall I put my gear”

They all looked at each other and said over there mate.

My new boss told me to put the handcart in the drive and unload it, and put the two sets of steps and the plank in the living room ready to paint the ceiling. Between me and the drive was a small kerb/sidewalk, I knew if I just tried to turn it into the drive I would get stuck in the gutter; it was only a small road so I pulled the cart into the centre of the road thinking I'd take a run at it to get over kerb/side walk. I set off, with the three men in the garage looking on; I managed to get up some speed with the camber of the road; then I hit the kerb/side walk the wheels stopped dead the ladder went up in the air and the largest tin of paint that was in the runs of the ladder was catapulted down the new tarmac drive that was now white. The three men just burst out laughing,

“What shall I do”

“The plumber said “Your the painter”
"Unload it first, that's always' a good idea"

One of the others said throw the sheets on it and soak it up; so I did. It was three hours before my first boss turned up, need I say he wasn't to pleased; spent the rest of the day on may hands and knees scrubbing the drive with a wire brush; no body spoke to me for three days. When I found out it was only emulsion and a couple of buckets of water would have washed it away that made it even worse.

A Hawk is great for filling the smaller the better, you could customise your own with a piece of plywood and the end of a pole. Next, the main tool a decorator uses the 3" scraper, it should be flexible for fillings but strong at the same time for scraping off wallpaper. The Heavy Duty Scraper is something you have in your tool bag in case anything gives you any trouble, I mostly use it for removing vinal wallpaper.

Give Your Ceiling a Coat of Looking At, Before you Paint

So we have are room all covered with dust sheets; although it doesn't look it, your walls and ceiling will be dirty, greasy if it's close to the kitchen or open plan. Set up your steps and plank and get your self some hot water and a good degreaser, 'Sugar Soap' does a great job; your not going to start scrubbing just lightly spray on the degreaser and give it a good wipe; if you don't you'll have a layer of dust and grease between the the paint and the ceiling; and a couple of months down the line paint may start flaking off the ceiling. So wipe down the ceiling, walls, a damp pillowcase over a brush head will do the trick, and also give the paint work a wipe.

Ok how dose your ceiling look, if it's nice and smooth it's time to start painting; however 9 times out of 10 there's cracks, lumps, bumps and maybe the odd hole here and there. Mix up some filler to a soft ice cream consistency, scrape out all the lose plaster in cracks and holes and fill with the filler after about 10 minutes wet your 6” paste brush and lightly brush over the filler to smooth it off; have a large cup of coffee to give it time to set then sand down the whole ceiling with the roughest grade of sandpaper and coat were you filled with a little watered down paste to stop any absorption or very lightly go over it with a little undercoat diluted with white spirits to seal it.

If after that you still think its looking a little rough, all is not lost. Buy the heaviest gauge lining paper and line the whole ceiling, that should do the job. We'll look at papering a ceiling at a later date.

Ordinary sandpaper comes in three grades fine, medium and rough.



The wire brush is purely there for cleaning brushes but is dose come in handy now and again for cleaning rust of iron railing and the like. The long small roller is for getting into odd places like behind radiators. The Hex Rod chalk gun holds silecone sealant and filler.

Cordless drills/screwdrivers must be the mobile phones of the building trade you've got to have one and sorry there's no substitute.

Now Your Ready to Paint the Ceiling

Now! Your ready to paint; Open the tin (have your paint brush handy) with your screwdriver give it a good stir and pour about 200ml in one of your containers, wipe the drip off the tin with your brush.

I've seen a number of videos on decorating and in the U.S. they put green or blue masking tape all around the edges so they don't get paint on doors, windows and opposite walls; I'm sticking my neck out here if you feel you must do this that's fine what ever's good for you; however a professional decorator would not use it and I hope to give you the confidence to do the same; it takes time and costs money.

Take your 2“ brush and paint right round the ceiling getting right up to wall so you have say a 1” band going right round the room on the wall and coming about 4”away from the wall on the ceiling; don't bother about getting paint on the walls even if it's a different colour your going to paint the walls.

What you're doing is putting a margin round the celling, do the same round any light fittings in the ceiling.

Paint Without Masking Tape
The term is 'Cutting In'.

Load your brush; (this go's for all types of painting) dip your brush into the paint till it comes about a 1/3 of the way up the bristles. Tap it on one side of your container and then on the other, this forces the paint into the brush, place the brush about 2” away from your light fitting; holding your brush at about 45 degrees press the brush towards the ceiling and the fitting, the brush will fan out, now carefully go round your fitting.
Use masking tape if you feel you must; but it's like everything else the more you do it the better you'll get.

Now for the easy bit; place the roller tray in a central position of the area of ceiling your painting, pour in your paint. You should start from where ever the window is in the room, working away from the light so you can see where you finish each section. Painting 3 feet squire at a time, flowing into each new area you start and finishing off each area with light strokes to remove any roller tracts.

All done!

You can start to paint walls as your waiting for the ceiling to dry; once it's dry (4 hours) you just do the same thing all over again; always put at least 2 coats on. Make sure you leave it to dry at least 4 hours, otherwise you may fine your taking the first coat off, as your trying to put the second coat on.



What's the Best Tool in this Hub

With out a dought, hands down, no two ways about it, one of the tools that as revolutionized the painting and decorating trade is the palm sander and to take it a step further the pointed one's are the best (the one's shaped like an iron) it's taken the hard work out of sanding down.

What's your Top Decorating Tip 2 comments

rachel madere 3 years ago

i painted in eggshell too much shine how do i make the other cans of eggshell not so shiny


2Tony profile image

2Tony 3 years ago from Manchester U.K. Author

hhhhmmmm

Eggshell really is the the flattest of all the oil based paints.

If you've only just done it give it a few day's to dry out completely then see what you think.

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