Q: You Know What Sucks? A: Painting A Ceiling

The sheer equation of gravity + paint = nightmare. But add abnormally absorbent ceiling tiles that are bumpy and uneven to the mix. Sounds like something you’d like to do on a Friday night, right? Well for some deluded reason, it’s exactly how we spent our Friday evening. We’d been meaning to attack the dingy, half-painted ceiling tiles in our den for a while, and we finally got around to it this weekend. We even knew to use white primer instead of white paint for extra coverage (a tip passed along by one of our old contractors) so we thought it wouldn’t be that bad. It was.

The whole process involved two gallons of primer, three trips to Lowe’s (one when it was closed- d’oh!), primer in places we never expected (up my nose, in John’s eye), waking up sore, and clearing and setting up the room twice (since we thought we were done but then noticed in the morning that the whole thing needed another coat). But the glorious thing is that it’s done. Another thing off of our list. And we lived to tell the tale.

Here’s the grody before:

Ceiling Before

And a much more presentable after:

After Ceiling

Here are one of my many wacky home improvement inventions: Sock-shoes. I had to wear socks over my shoes to protect them from paint since shoes are a necessity when spending hours climbing up and down a ladder:

Sock Shoes

But even though we could complain about how hard it was for a couple more paragraphs, we’re so proud to be finished. Even during the most rigorous projects we’re just happy to be together getting something checked off of our internal home improvement list as a team. Corny, I know, but true. Just sitting down on the couch afterwards and looking up is all it takes to make us smile. Here’s the new view:

Den Ceiling After


  1. Dad/Tom says

    What really sucks is being certain of the spelling of a word and then being absolutly WRONG, in this case “grody,” which I was certain to be spelled “groaty” but it isn’t. “Grody” is on the mark correct! Dang.

    And I can never remember the appropriate “its” or” it’s,” how to spell “consensus” (got it right that time!) or, as mentioned once before, the exact meaning of “bienniel” (aach, “every 2 years”! Dang again); “biannual is “twice a year,” which is about how often I have to look it up.

    Anyway, great blog entry and the ceiling looks mighty fine. Maybe if John wore a hat.

  2. YoungHouseLove says

    Whew! Glad you guys think it looks good. We know the real way to remedy the bad ceiling tiles would be to remove them and re-sheetrock the ceiling, but with those pretty beams we just think it might be ultra-complicated. So we’re glad our mini-paint-makeover did the trick.


  3. KK says

    I painted the ceiling in our bedroom a very light sky blue (which I love, by the way) and I agree: painting a ceiling BLOWS. My neck hurt for days.

    Another sock trick is to cover your ladder legs with tube socks so you can scoot it around without scratching your floors.

  4. Brandi says

    We’ve been contemplating painting our 25 year old cedar beams in our family room since we moved in almost 3 years ago. We’ve also considered staining them darker and clearcoating them like they do in some of the more tuscan style houses, but I think I want to brighten up the room.

    What process should I use when painting the beams to get them white and glossy and fabulous??


    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Brandi,

      One coat of oil-based primer followed by two coats of latex semi-gloss paint should do the trick!


  5. Liz says

    In high school I moved my bedroom to the lower floor of my parents house. The ceilings were horrible! They were those push tiles. The tiles were a weird yellowish brown, and the metal running between them was a brownish black. Well my mom and I spent a whole weekend removing each tile and rolling them with a fresh coat of paint. Then I used a small foam paint brush and stood on a chair painfully painting all the metal running through the ceiling. Not fun but a great looking result in the end!

  6. Brittany says

    First, I read your blog regularly and really love all your great tips! I’ve learned a lot from you, which is much appreciated. So today (it’s a Friday, and I was bored at work :) I dove a bit into your archives. Can I just say that I much prefer the writing style of this? It’s way more real, even a little humorous at times. I know your blog is different now that you make a living off of it, and you can’t offend people, and you’ve got to churn them out quickly (which is why much of the phrasing/vocab nowadays turns out to be the same across the board), BUT I thought it’d be nice for a little variety of writing style… maybe “whip up” a little “punch” as you would say. :) I mean, you’d never use “sucks” in any of your entry titles now, or talk about how something is a nightmare.

    Anyway, I’m a writer/English major, so of course I harp on this kind of stuff.

    Thanks again for all your hard work!

    • says

      Duly noted! We definitely try to keep it real and inject as much personality as we can in each post. But now we’re inspired to try even harder – and work “sucks” in there when we can!


  7. Sarah says

    Hi Sherry & John,
    Quick question. I’m painting our nursery, and you’ve mentioned that Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White is a good color for trim. Does that mean I should use that as the white for the ceiling too? Do you normally use flat for a white ceiling? OR eggshell or satin?

  8. Ashley says

    Hi John and Sherry,
    We currently have some ceiling tiles very similar to this in our home. As much as I would love to remove them, I don’t think that is an option for us right now. They are already painted white, but I would to try painting them again to hopefully give them a little more coverage. So my question is: did you guys really only use primer on these ceilings? No paint whatsoever? If so, this held up over time and you never noticed any issues? Thanks for all the great tips! I loooove your blog!

  9. Jess says

    Ugh, thought I was the only unlucky person to have tiles like that in my house. Thought about replacing them with drywall, but at almost 900 sqft it would be too expensive right now. So I also just painted them white, first with 2 coats of Olympic masonry primer and a long nap roller. Just bought actual flat paint to go over that to match the trim color, hopefully it works out!

  10. megan e. says

    I think sanding ceilings trumps painting them in terms of whining potential! More stuff falling in your face/hair, and it coats any safety glasses so you can’t see. Plus after sanding you still need to texture, prime, and paint! Ugh, the pain of holding an electric sander over your head while standing on the toliet to tame the 6 layers of pealing paint on my bathroom ceiling is an experience I will happily never have to do again.

  11. says

    How many coats of paint/primer did you end up doing? (if you remember)

    My entire house has those wretched tiles. I detest them and want them gone…but that would be a nightmare.

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