Easy DIY tips for painting a ceiling

Fixing up and painting a ceiling is normally last on the to-do list but it should be at the top of the list. Any painting project should start at the ceiling and work down to the floor, so let’s take a look at fixing up and painting a ceiling.




Ceiling board

The most common type of ceiling in a home is ceiling board, or gypsum board. Nailed onto timber battens in the ceiling, over time you may find that the nails holding the board in place start to work their way loose, or that cornice around the edges shows gaps. Both of these problems are easily remedied.

- Loose ceiling board
Where nails are starting to pop out of a ceiling board use a hammer and nail punch to tap the loose nails back in place, or pull out any loose nails and re-position new nails adjacent to the old nails. Touch up any holes with interior crack filler and sand smooth with 180-grit sandpaper before priming and painting.



- Gaps around cornice
Use a caulking gun and acrylic sealer to apply a thin bead of sealer to gaps between cornice and ceilings. With a fingertip, wipe to smooth and clean away any excess sealer. Acrylic sealer can be painted over with all types of interior paint.



- Cracks along steel support strips
In an older home, steel brandering strips are used to support the ceiling boards. These are not permanently fixed in place, and any movement within the structure or ceiling can cause the painted finish to flake off. To remedy this, sand down the strips and any flaking or peeling paint with 120-grit sandpaper. Apply multi-surface primer before painting.

- Stains on ceiling
Stains can occur as a result of leaks in the ceiling space or excess humidity in a kitchen or bathroom. Before doing any repairs to the ceiling, find the source of the problem and take action to remedy this. Where there is excess humidity or moisture in a bathroom, consider the installation of an extraction fan to control and remove.
Treat mould by adding a cup of household bleach to a 5 litre bucket of water. Use a soft scrubbing brush to gently remove the mould. Have a hairdryer handy to quickly dry the surface after cleaning.



  • Wear a dust mask and safety goggles where there is severe infestation of mould, and ensure adequate ventilation while working.
  • Before painting, treat any dark stains with a coat of primer. Choose a primer that is compatible with the paint you are using, for example: An oil-based primer if using oil-based paint.

- Flaking or peeling paint
Use a paint scraper to remove as much flaking or peeling paint as possible. Painting over this is a waste of time, as eventually the old paint will continue to flake or peel off and will bring the new paint with it. After scraping, sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper.

- Painting over oil-based enamel paints
Unless you are applying oil-based paint over the top of a ceiling previously painted with oil-based paint, apply a multi-surface primer suitable for bonding oil-based and water-based paints, or sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper.



Plastered concrete slab
In a double-storey home where a concrete slab has been installed, a plastered ceiling is the norm. A plastered ceiling applied to a concrete slab can either be smooth or textured and you will find painting tips below.

Before painting, take the time to fill in any cracks or repair damage to the ceiling. On a textured ceiling, apply acrylic sealer to cracks. This is easier to work with than interior crack filler. Use interior crack filler on a smooth ceiling – applying with a palette knife or paint scraper and pushing down to fill the crack; once dry, sand smooth with 180-grit sandpaper.

If you have a smooth plastered ceiling, painting this is done in the same way that you would paint walls. For a textured ceiling you will need to use a paint roller that is recommended for rough walls. This will allow the fibres to get into the textured areas without too much difficulty.

Paint any hard to reach areas with a paintbrush, as well as around the edges of the ceiling, before going over this with a paint roller.


• It is always better to start at the top when painting any room. If you leave the ceiling until last you risk the possibility of paint spatters on newly painted walls and trim.
• Lay down drop cloths over flooring, furniture and fittings to prevent damage from paint spatters.
• Apply masking tape around the edge of the ceiling if the wall is not being painted the same colour.
• Use newspaper and masking tape to cover light fittings.
• Using a paintbrush, start where the ceiling meets the wall or cornice, cutting in to create a neat finish.
• When working on a stepladder, move the ladder around the room as you work to avoid over-reaching.


Wear a headscarf or cap to cover your hair. Painting a ceiling can be a messy business and getting paint out of your hair is a nightmare!


Find more easy DIY tips and tricks in the latest issue of EasyDIY magazine on sale around the country. Or click here to subscribe.

Janice Anderssen


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