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Cost to Paint a Ceiling

How Much is too Much?

Eric Barstow
Published Date: 09/11/2021

If you’re here looking for the labor cost to paint a ceiling in 2019, the industry reported averages are $195 including labor and 1 gallon of ceiling paint.

If you’re interested in a full breakdown of that number, along with how it can vary, keep reading or find out more about interior painting costs.

What’s in This Article

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Do You Need to Paint Your Ceiling?

The ceiling is the fifth wall of a room. Ceilings don’t suffer as much wear and tear as the other four walls. Walls and trim tend to get beat up and dirty from moving, knicks and dents, dust, and dirty little hand prints from the kiddos. This is not the issue with your ceiling. Painting the ceiling is mostly a preference and keeps up the appearance of a room.

Cost to Paint a Ceiling 2019

What’s the Total Cost to Paint a Ceiling?

For painting contractors, the total cost might be referred to as the cost of labor and the cost of materials and supplies. In this article, we’ll be referring to the total cost for a homeowner. This is the price a painting contractor should be charging to paint a ceiling and the total price a homeowner should expect to pay.

Keep in mind, interior painting is typically more expensive than exterior painting. There are a lot more surfaces to paint and more detail work than you’ll find on an exterior paint job.

The base price for painting a ceiling is about $1.50 per square foot. A 10×12 ceiling, for example, will be around $180.

In the next two sections, we’ll review some of the other factors that change the price up or down from this base price.

How Does Ceiling Height Change the Cost?

Higher ceilings can be more difficult to reach or get to. Lower ceilings are easier to reach and get to. A painter can paint much faster when they are on a low ladder, or don’t need a ladder at all.

Cost to Paint a Ceiling 2019

Additional Considerations & Costs

  • Cathedral or “vaulted” ceilings can increase cost to paint a ceiling significantly. We typically need to charge an extra $500-$600 for a vaulted ceiling because of the need for scaffolding. Scaffolding costs money to rent and a lot of time to set up and take down.
  • Popcorn ceilings are very expensive. It takes a lot of work to remove popcorn ceilings. Often times, once the popcorn is removed, there is even more work and problems underneath. Hire someone who has a lot of experience with popcorn ceilings and a proven track record. If you are not experienced at doing popcorn ceilings, you should stay away from them as a painting contractor.
  • Paint the ceiling before you paint walls in a full-room repaint. It’s easier to cut the line on the wall when the ceiling is already done than doing the wall first and will lead to less touch ups and cleaner lines.

What’s the Best Paint for Ceilings?

There are ceiling-specific paints. These only need to be used in certain situations. If the ceiling has been stained with excessive smoke (a big factor for kitchens) or the ceiling has experienced water damage, it will require a different approach.

These two environmental factors can cause deep, pronounced, staining that could detract from freshly repainted walls. Or even worse, become difficult to cover up with low viscosity latex paint.

For most ceilings, the same paint used on the trim and walls can be used on the ceiling. Ceilings should always be painted with a flat sheen finish so imperfections and flaws are minimized. A flat sheen will also minimize light reflections throughout the room.

PBP Painting Ceilings

Ceiling-specific paints, generally, tout more dissolved solids, and are therefore better at covering up old stains. They also boast the flattest finishes.

Another option is to use a stain blocking primer on those stained areas of the ceiling prior to applying the finish coat (the same paint used on the walls and trim).

What Prep Work is Required for Painting Ceilings?

Nothing too surprising as far as prep work goes.

The ceilings should be clean and dry. If there is a persistent issue causing staining in the ceiling (e.g. pesky water leaks), those problems need to be corrected PRIOR to painting. Otherwise, a fresh repaint won’t remain in good condition for very long.

Insufficient room ventilation can, and will, cause similar paint adherence issues as a persistent leak.

Be sure to place drop cloths down over any surface you don’t want paint on (all of them). Remove/cover any furniture from the room. Ceiling paint (if you are using it) is notoriously drip-free, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What’s the Painting Process and What to Expect?

As any good painter knows, not all naps are created equal. If your ceiling repaint is on smooth ceilings, a standard nap roller will do the trick. However, if textured, switch to a roller with a longer nap of ½ to ¾ of an inch.

First, prep the room. Mask and cover all furniture. Remove any light fixtures or fans if that’s necessary. Lay down drop cloths. Ensure you have protection against all possible drips and preventing all cleanup.

Cut the edges and lines first. If you aren’t an expert at cutting lines, use tape to mask. If you are painting the walls, you don’t need to worry as much about this. But if you are not painting the walls, you need to be very cautious with cutting the edges or taping the edges.

Any paint that drips from the ceiling onto the wall is going to be impossible to touch up. Even if you can touch it up (on the wall), you’ll see the touch ups. This also takes a lot more time.

Start in the corner of the room, and roll on the paint with overlapping strokes. Touch-up, where necessary with a brush (corners & edges).

After applying paint to the entire ceiling, take a clean roller and smooth out the painted surface. Make sure to check for imperfections or missed spots once you’re done smoothing out the entire ceiling.

If you’re making a color switch from dark to light, follow standard procedures, and allow sufficient drying time between successive coats. It’s often difficult to tell if the paint has completely covered until it’s dried.

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