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How to paint walls and ceilings


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

How to paint walls and ceilings
To avoid spoiling newly painted surfaces with drips and spatters, paint the ceiling first, then the walls and finally the woodwork.

How to paint ceilings 

  1. To avoid spoiling newly painted surfaces with drips and splatters…Paint ceilings before the walls and any woodwork. It’s also a good idea to paint the ceiling before stripping wall coverings
  2. Make sure that you can safely and comfortably reach the area you are decoratingUse a scaffold board supported by trestles or stepladders, if necessary. Your head should be about 75mm from the ceiling. You can use an extension handle (or broomstick) fitted to the hollow handle of a roller or pad, for most of the painting. But you will need to stand on steps or a board to cut-in where the walls and ceiling meet and around the tops of doors and windows.
  3. Paint the ceiling in strips starting near the windowIf there is more than one window in the room, begin nearest the one where most light comes in. Cut in the edges as you work.
  4. Paint coving and ceiling roses last to avoid getting splashes on the new paintworkIf coving is to be the same colour as the ceiling, it’s easier to paint it before you paint the walls.
  5. Ceiling tilesPaint polystyrene tiles with emulsion, as long as they’re clean. Use a roller, and a small brush for the joins between the tiles. Never use gloss paint—it creates a fire hazard when put on expanded polystyrene. If you plan to stick polystyrene tiles on the ceiling, it is much easier to paint them before you put them up, especially if they have chamfered edges.

How to paint a wall

  1. When using a roller, paint horizontal bands about 500mm wide across the wall
  2. Work from the top to the bottom. With a brush, paint blocks about 500mm square. Start in the top right corner (or the top left if you are left-handed) 
  3. Paint the blocks from the top of the wall down and then across.

Painting different surfaces

Bare plaster

  • Dilute emulsion to 1 part water and 4 parts paint and use it as a priming and sealing coat
  • Follow this with at least 2 coats of full strength emulsion
  • Use a foam or mohair roller or a paintbrush or pad as large as you can comfortably work with
  • Do any touching up with a small paintbrush while paint is still wet.


  • Lining paper is the ideal surface for painting, as it hides small cracks and blemishes. Apply at least 2 coats of paint, using whichever tool you prefer. Do not worry if small bubbles appear on the paper. They disappear as the paint dries
  • Paint high-relief papers such as Anaglypta with a shaggy pile roller
  • Old wallpaper can be painted but does not give great results. Test an area first to see that the paper does not bubble or come away from the wall. If it does, you must strip the wall, but if not, apply full-strength emulsion as the first coat
  • Do not paint over wallpapers that contain a metallic pattern—the pattern tends to show through the paint

Painted surface 

New emulsion paint can be applied straight onto old provided the surface has been washed down. If there is a drastic colour change, 2 or 3 coats will be needed. Never paint over distemper (paint with a glue or size base, rather than oil)—it must be removed.
As a general rule, do not paint walls or ceilings with gloss; it enhances blemishes in the surface and is prone to condensation. If you want to paint an old gloss surface, first rub it down with a flexible sanding pad or fine wet-and-dry abrasive paper, dampened with clean water. This destroys the glaze on the paint and helps the new paint film to grip the old. Wipe away dust before painting.

Textured coatings

Use a brush or shaggy pile roller to put on the paint; you will find that emulsion gives the best result. Textured coatings are sometimes abrasive so they may rip foam rollers and can be difficult to coat thoroughly.
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