Should You Paint Your Wood Ceiling?

Updated on November 9, 2016
Collisa profile image

Columba Smith is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, non-profits, and resumes. Her first novel is in the works.

Summary

  1. Painting a wooden ceiling takes several days. Plan accordingly.
  2. Only oil-based primer will work over stained wood. Be sure to ventilate your workspace. Dispose of primer responsibly.
  3. Cover everything with plastic.
  4. Two thick coats of primer are best, although I got away with only one. Dip the brush only slightly into the primer to avoid drips.
  5. Let dry between coats.
  6. To create the illusion of a higher ceiling, use a lighter color on the ceiling and a darker color on the walls and/or any raking.
  7. Never give up!

Our dark, evil ceiling
Our dark, evil ceiling

When my kids and I moved into our home in the forest, I thought the wooden ceiling was quite appropriate for our new habitat. It had a lovely honey-colored stain, with charming, low-hung beams traversing the planks. I thought we could live with it.

After the first several months, I knew I was wrong. The ceiling was dark and oppressive. It swallowed light like a black hole. It was evil.

I scoured the web for information on how to paint wooden ceilings. Surprisingly, I found little help. One afternoon, I’d had enough. I pulled out a gallon of primer and slapped a couple of bright, white layers onto a small patch of ceiling. I figured once I got started, I’d get it done soon enough. I lay back on the couch and smiled smugly at my patch.

It gloated back at me for the next 14 months.

It did worse than dare me to haul out the ladder and expand its boundaries during time I didn’t have. It turned yellow. A sage young man at the hardware store enlightened me.

“You can’t use water-based primer over stained wood,” he explained, kindly. “No matter how many layers you use, the stain will bleed through.”

Now the battle had escalated to chemical warfare. I faced a gallon of deadly, oil-based primer and some noxious paint thinner to clean it up. I opened all doors and windows and banished the kids from the house. I got to work, breathing lightly.

It is not a good idea to lug the full gallon of deadly, oil-based primer (DOP) around with you. You may spill some. Take it from me. Instead, I learned to use a nifty, plastic bucket. I’d pour a little DOP in and set it on the ladder.

I covered every square millimeter of flooring with plastic drop clothes from the hardware store. Drops of DOP have sensors that guide them to the exact location of any uncovered floor space. I covered my furniture, too.

The narrow strip of primer at the end of the bristles is about right.Obviously, I had dipped too deeply previously, hence the coated bristles.
The narrow strip of primer at the end of the bristles is about right.Obviously, I had dipped too deeply previously, hence the coated bristles.

I learned to dip the brush only slightly into the DOP. If the DOP traveled too far up the bristles, drips of it squeezed out the sides and onto those uncovered square millimeters of flooring. This was especially true if I had any residual paint thinner in the brush.

Note the gloves.
Note the gloves.

My brushstrokes soon rivaled those of Rembrandt. I learned to angle the brush at about 45 degrees and sweep it back slowly, laying the DOP on as thickly as I dared. Do not be thrifty when applying DOP. You want a good, thick layer.

I learned never to try cleaning up my brush and DOP in the laundry sink. Instead, I poured a little paint thinner into a glass jar and jabbed the paintbrush up and down, clearing out the DOP. The lid could be replaced and the thinner reused the next day.  When the war was over, the whole fuming mess could go to those poor Hazardous Materials guys at the dump, and simply fade out of my blissful existence.

The key to finishing the primer layer is patience.

Patience...
Patience...
Patience...
Patience...
All primed!
All primed!

I had won! (My lungs have yet to verify that.) My ceiling was now primed and ready to paint. What a feeling!

Applying the paint was much easier. I used water-based paint, so the toxic demons were driven out. My only setback at this stage was painting an entire section of ceiling the wrong color. I find paint color to be very deceptive. Once I had the shade right, I finished up quite quickly. I brought the wall color up the raking, creating an illusion of a higher ceiling. The color difference is subtle, but enough to work.

And here it is! My painted wood ceiling! (The door shown in earlier pictures was removed when I put in a staircase.)
And here it is! My painted wood ceiling! (The door shown in earlier pictures was removed when I put in a staircase.)

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Columba Smith

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        20 months ago from California

        Sorry, Jane, I don't remember. I think semi-gloss? With ceilings, you don't have to worry about the paint getting marked up or smudged. So flat works, too. But eggshell or semi-gloss reflects light, which is nice.

      • profile image

        Jane 

        24 months ago

        Did you use flat, eggshell, or semi-gloss?

      • profile image

        Lenka 

        2 years ago

        It looks incredible! I have the same problem with my wooden ceilling. I was hesitant to paint it but after seeing you pictures I'm definitely gonna do it.

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        5 years ago from California

        Wow, thanks for the information, Jeff! I had never heard of that. It hasn't bled through, but I will remember this if I decide to tackle other parts of the house. Thanks for reading!

      • Jeff Gamble profile image

        Jeff Gamble 

        5 years ago from Denton, Texas

        Collisa - Looks like your ceiling came out great. If you ever have bleed through from the stain, and don't want to bring out the oil based paint again, use clear, natural shellac (usually available in small, easy to carry cans) to cover the stain, let it dry 24 hours and paint it with your topcoat. The shellac is a sealer that will lock in the stain (and whatever else) for good.

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        6 years ago from California

        Thanks, Gina!

      • Gina Coole profile image

        Gina Coole 

        6 years ago from London

        Great read - well done!

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        6 years ago from California

        Still white, Joe, after all these months! Thanks for the feedback. It's wonderful to know I have helped someone overcome evil in the form of a wood ceiling. : ) Blessings,

        Lisa

      • profile image

        Joe 

        6 years ago

        Hi Collisa

        Thank you ever so much for posting your experiences with your evil ceiling. I have just come in from painting our sitting room ceiling which, it turns out, is the evil twin of yours. I went into battle with it innocently enough weeks ago. Exactly like you found, the ceiling showed nothing but contempt and turned all my hard work yellow when I wasn’t looking. This afternoon it nearly broke me as an ominous yellow stain started to creep through my latest efforts. I had just shut the door on the room having decided to plasterboard over the whole thing instead when my wife told me that your blog via Google. You’ve given me the morale boost I need and you’ve armed me with essential knowledge, namely DOP. I’d been wondering about an apparent success I’d had using what I can now call DOG (dangerous oil-based gloss) that gives my wife a migraine and triggers her asthma (I reckon I could sell it to the military). Having been rendered almost completely insane by this ceiling I am now becoming paranoid and am waiting for the DOG to fail on me but your suggestion of oil-based paints has given me confidence in it. The best thing is that the door is still shut on our evil ceiling. It doesn’t know that I’ve come across your blog and now hold the secret to its imminent demise. I’m going to buy some DOP tomorrow and will attack all 60m2 of it. I’m even looking forward to it. Thank you so very much.

        All the best

        Joe

        P.S. Is your ceiling still white?

      • profile image

        Becky 

        7 years ago

        You put much more thought into this than most. Wow, the finished product is amazing. You are quite the talented painter. Thanks for visiting

        http://homesandbabies.blogspot.com

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        7 years ago from California

        Thanks! I'll check it out.

      • graceomalley profile image

        graceomalley 

        7 years ago

        Rachel Ashwell had a team of painters, maybe if she had to do it herself just a room or two would be white :)

        Here's a link to the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shabby-Chic-Home-Rachel-Ashw...

        The Santa Cruz Library System has the book, I've checked it out myself a few times.

      • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

        Columba Smith 

        7 years ago from California

        Thanks, graceomalley! I have not seen Rachel's book. I'd love to see the pictures! Painting an entire wood house sounds a little daunting. I think she has more energy than I do, lol! I love shabby chic. My house tends to be more shabby than chic, but that might change as the kids get older...

      • graceomalley profile image

        graceomalley 

        7 years ago

        Your ceiling looks gorgeous. Have you ever seen Rachel Ashwell's book about redecorating her house? (The Shabby Chic Home) She bought a house that was entirely natural wood on the inside, ceilings, walls, shelving, ect. It was so dark and gloomy her daughter was scared when they first visited. She painted the interior all white, and the house was transformed. (Then she hung a chandelier with pale blue crystals - it was amazing against all that white.)

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)