Did you know you *should paint your ceilings about every 10 years?  Neither did I, but the yellowing, stains and damage necessitated that I call in help.  Today I’m sharing tips from the professionals on how to paint your ceilings.

I recently hired some painters to come and paint all of the ceilings in my house.

Why you ask?  Let me show you:

Remember when I learned to patch drywall?  Yes, I did the best I could and it looked better than having a ceiling full of vent covers to cover all of the holes – but it certainly wasn’t near professional.  You don’t need to “Where’s Waldo” to see at least 5 drywall patches in my daughter’s bedroom ceiling.

painting ceilings - before

This same daughter painted her room a couple of years ago (by herself) and then attached those LED light strings everywhere.  That did more than a little damage to both walls and ceilings.

led light damage to walls and ceiling

My dining room ceiling had water marks from a poorly installed bathtub.  This stain has been on the ceiling since 2006, but with it being an orange peel finish, I was too nervous to attempt painting over it.

watermarks on ceiling

These, yellowed ceiling speakers, and just an overall yellowing from time and UV rays had my home looking a bit dingy.  I decided to bite the bullet and get all of the ceilings in the house painted for a fresh, clean start (start over).

I know that I profess to be a DIYer – and I try to do as many projects myself as I possibly can – but I also know my limitations.  Painting every ceiling in the house was definitely something beyond my capabilities and fitness level (I’m 50 you know!) so hiring it out was the responsible choice.

While the guys were here working hard, I pestered them with questions so that I could share professional tips with you!

How often should you paint your ceilings?

This is going to depend on pollution in your area, whether you smoke, how much UV is getting into your home – but the average answer was that you should paint your ceilings about every 10 years.  It’s best to paint your ceilings when you are painting the walls, but if you are a frequent colour changer – like me – then painting your ceilings every 2-3 years might be a bit overkill.  My ceilings haven’t been painted since the day we built in 2005 – so it’s been 18 years.  I’m well-past due.

What is the best method for painting ceilings?

Start by using a brush to cut in, then follow with a roller to fill in the middle and go over (hide) brush strokes.  For a flat ceiling, Strictly Residential Painters recommended using a 10mm nap roller.  For orange peel ceilings, they recommend using a thicker nap roller – about 19mm to get into all the nooks and crannies.

Do not paint over popcorn ceilings!  This was echoed by all of the team working here.  Popcorn ceilings need to be primed with an oil primer first, or you’ll just paint the texture right off altogether.

Paint with the light. You shouldn’t have tiny ridges in your paint job if you use quality tools and paint, but if you do find small differences in overlapping paint, they will be much more noticeable if your paint strokes are running perpendicular to the light coming into the room.  The sunlight/daylight will bounce off of those tiny ridges and they will catch your eye.  Painting with the light of the room will make those ridges almost invisible.

Paint in roughly 9′ – 12′ sections at a time.  You want long, even strokes with the roller – so if that means painting 2′ wide sections by 6′ long then that is better than painting in 3’x3′ squares.  The goal is smooth strokes with very little overlap.  

Do you need PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for painting ceilings?

Protective eyewear is always advised in almost any project, but particularly when the overspatter from a paint roller is inevitably going to hit your face.  And it is inevitable.  Even professionals get paint spattered when painting ceilings.

If your paint is low VOC you might be able to get away without a face mask during painting, but for safety’s sake a mask is recommended.  At the very least keep your mouth closed while painting (paint does not taste particularly good).

What tools are best for painting ceilings?

Cheaping out on tools for the job will just leave you disappointed and applying a second coat of paint afterwards.  If you use a quality ceiling paint, you can often get away with a single coat.  Cheap paints will cause streaking.  If you find that your ceiling paint is patchy – it is likely because someone used a cheap paint and then didn’t apply a second coat to compensate.

The guys at Strictly Residential Professional Painting Services use Wooster 2 ½” angled sash brushes. (Amazon affiliate link.  For full affiliate disclosure, please see bottom of the page) Cheap paintbrush bristles spread over time.  On a quality paintbrush the bristles won’t spread and will last you for years.

Wooster Sherlock extension poles are the go-to for professionals because they can extend, handle the extra pressure needed for painting ceilings and they won’t break.

Should you spray paint ceilings?

The professionals I worked with said no.  It will take a LOT of time to cover and prep the room before spraying, there will be a very fine aerosol mist in the air that can get into everything, including your lungs, and spraying is sort of a top coating;  It doesn’t work the paint into the ceiling as well as a roller does.  This is particularly true of textured ceilings.

There are no shortcuts to painting ceilings.

DON’T use an edger – the small tool that claims to paint straight lines.  Edgers generally cause a small ridge in the paint finish from the edge of the paint pad.  On your ceiling these ridges are even more noticeable because the light reflects off.

DON’T use painter’s tape.  Not all ceilings have been primed before a finish was applied (as we found in my home). Applying painter’s tape to protect edges will inevitably lead to paint bleeding under the tape and/or the tape removing the ceiling finish altogether.  I saw this happen in my dining room.  Instead of taping, wrap a damp rag around a putty knife and run the knife along the corner seam to remove any ceiling paint that may have gotten onto the walls.

Can you repair textured ceilings?

Not easily.  You’ve seen my handiwork above and it wasn’t pretty.  In my defence, the pros at Strictly Residential told me that repairing a textured ceiling without parging is next-to-impossible. 

Parging ceilings is the process of mixing a joint compound with water (and sometimes paint) and then using a hopper (large dispenser capable of holding thick material) to spray the compound onto the ceiling.

The shit-show in my daughter’s bedroom had to be completely parged over – again, a project I know nothing about and couldn’t do myself because I don’t have the education, experience or equipment.

parged ceiling

You can see above that Strictly Residential did a spectacular job of parging over the old orange peel ceiling and my crappy patches.  You can’t tell where the two large cutouts were!

While this isn’t a sponsored post, and I do have permission from Strictly Residential to share these painting tips, they did ask that I communicate to my readers that “every house is different and every job is different – so these tips are for an ‘average’ job”.

I know the before and afters won’t be as dramatic as with painted or refinished furniture – but I’m showing them off anyways:

Dining room ceiling before:

watermarks on ceiling




Patched ceiling before:


parged ceiling

It’s more of a fresh, crisp and clean feeling than a dramatic makeover – but something that you will want to consider if you are thinking of moving.  Buyers WILL notice damaged and watermarked ceilings, and yellowing is very obvious in light-coloured rooms.

Thanks for all your hard work Strictly Residential Professional Painting Services – you did a spectacular job and I am thrilled with how it turned out!

Pin it for later:

Professional tips for painting ceilings

Have a great one!