Painting a vaulted ceiling
No matter what the style, however, staining or painting a vaulted ceiling presents painters with some unique challenges, starting with access to the job. Often more than 20 feet high, the best approach is to use staging. Once up there, you may face another complication: vaulted ceilings are not always paint grade.
Vaulted ceiling with drywall
The easiest vaulted ceilings to finish are drywalled. The primer and ceiling paint can typically be airless sprayed and back rolled, using staging towers for access.
If spraying is not an option, cutting and rolling paint grade drywall is a pretty straightforward process, using a good 2-inch cutting brush and either a 9- or 18-inch roller setup. While setting up staging is time consuming, paint-grade drywall coffered ceilings require the least amount of labor to paint.
Vaulted ceiling with wood features
In a custom home, it is not unusual to find natural or stain-grade finishes on wood plank or even a coffered vaulted ceiling. These types of ceilings have interesting visual appeal because they feature the grain of the wood.
The setup is often the same as for a simple drywall vaulted ceiling in terms of the staging and planks needed, but the amount of time spent doing the job will likely be considerably more for a natural finish on wood.
The complicating factor here is that the prep is more complex. While on a drywall ceiling, a duster and pole sander handle the prep, wood ceilings often need to be hand sanded or power sanded. It is important to discuss customer expectations for the ceiling. Options range from a fresh coat of clear finish to a full conversion from clear to paint grade.
This type of vaulted ceiling can be brushed or sprayed, and the finish used will depend on the species of wood and the desired look. Popular choices are penetrating oils or satin polyurethane to encourage the tone of the wood to achieve a warm depth over time.
Hybrid vaulted ceiling
The highest degree of difficulty for finishers is when a vaulted ceiling features both painted and natural finishes, such as with a panelized timber structure. The ceiling panels can be either drywall or wood plank, surrounded by natural timbers.
This situation is more complex because it involves significantly more surface protection. The masking must be precise to protect the timber structure from the painting activities happening around it. Further, there is also a great deal of cutting in between the two types of finish to get all of the lines right – not an easy task when the planks are straight but the timber edges are hewn.
What makes this style particularly labor intensive is the fact that they generally require large amounts of brush work, as spraying can be impractical and rolling can leave undesirable stipple texture.
While staging is the ideal way to work safely at the heights involved in painting and finishing vaulted ceilings, it is not always practical to set up staging, particularly when the home is occupied. In that case, ladders are your next option.
A common method is to use an extension ladder to brush cut the ceiling perimeter, then roll the body of the ceiling from the floor with a telescoping roller extension poll. Eighteen-inch rollers are desirable for this type of rolling because they cover so much surface at one time, but they can be heavy, particularly when fully extended on a pole and loaded with paint.
When laddering onto walls in a vaulted ceiling, be sure to use rubber ladder mitts to cover the aluminum rails where the ladder rests on the wall. Also, it is best to have another person “foot” your ladder (stand on the bottom rung) while you are on the ladder. Interior floors can be slippery, so the weight of a person footing your ladder can help prevent the ladder from slipping.
If it is not possible to stage or use extension ladder to paint a vaulted ceiling, a telescoping roller extension pole is the best alternative.
Tools you’ll need
- 2-inch brush
- 9- or 18-inch rollers
- Masking tape
- Ladder mitts
–By Chris Haught
Chris Haught is the editor of Blogging Painters, a website she developed for painting contractors while working as a paint contractor in Southern Utah.