Should You Paint The Ceiling or Walls First?

Painting the interior of any given building can be one of the most taxing and time consuming undertakings in any aspect of interior design.

If you do not do this properly, you will stare down the barrel of more money spent on more paint and brushes, and more time spent on redoing everything that has been done incorrectly.

One of the most common debates when it comes to the process of painting is whether it is better to paint the ceiling or walls of a building first.

A question like this needs to be approached from an objective standpoint while exploring the effects of painting the walls first as well as the effects of painting the ceiling first.

In order to approach this debate properly, both of these situations must be considered. If they are not, you will not have reliable information and you will not be guided towards any sensible solution.

Approaching the question “should you paint the ceiling or walls first” entails knowing exactly what happens when the ceiling gets painted, what happens when the walls get painted, when it is ideal for ceilings to be painted first, and when it is ideal for the wall to be painted first.

Painting the ceiling and wall at the same time is a literal impossibility

Before exploring this debate, you need to know that painting the ceiling and wall at the same time is not possible unless you have a near infinite amount of paint on hand, have dozens of crew members on hand that are trained to time all of the painting of the walls and ceilings perfectly, and have a budget that is large enough to pay all of these crew members.

This is true for small buildings just like it is true for large buildings. There is no way that both the ceiling and the wall can be painted at the same time without arranging something completely out of the ordinary.

Therefore, one portion of the building will be painted first, with the other one being ignored for a season while the paint of the first portion dries.

The choice is completely binary: Either the wall or the ceiling must be painted first.

Most who paint homes and buildings know this, and this is why this is such a relevant debate in the field of interior design and home improvement.

The second thing that needs to be addressed when approaching the question “should you paint the ceiling or walls first” is to know exactly what happens when the wall gets painted first and what happens when the ceiling gets painted first.

Knowing the results of which area of your building gets painted first relative to the size of the building is also very useful as well as necessary, or else you will go into this venture blind.

What happens when the ceiling gets painted first?

The ceiling is one part of your home or building that often requires more paint and definitively more care to paint perfectly.

This is because painting a ceiling involves using a ladder and painting certain areas at a time, which can be very time consuming.

If you use too much paint on the ceiling, you will also risk said paint falling down to the floor after you have painted the ceiling. This can be troublesome for anybody who is either new to painting or anyone with a lot of things in their home or building.

Another thing that you need to watch for when you paint the ceiling first is that you will need to avoid anything that hangs from the ceiling: Lights, air conditioning vents, smoke alarms, and other things. This can prolong your process when you paint the ceiling, and this is especially true if your home of building is very large.

Painting a ceiling is much more complicated than painting a wall. Because of this, you need to expect to invest a lot of time and materials into painting a ceiling no matter how big the building or home is.

What happens when your wall is painted first?

Different than painting a ceiling, painting a wall is a much simpler task.

While you will need a ladder to reach very high places in your wall, the lower half of your wall can be easily painted and you will not need to use as many rolls to paint your wall as you would a ceiling.

Why is this? There are two reasons why.

First, painting on a wall is done in front of you. This utilizes more of the paint roll than painting on a ceiling, which is done above you.

Also, painting a wall involves less overall finesse than painting a ceiling. It is not as time consuming because it is easier to do. Thus, more paint is saved.

Just like painting the ceiling, paint will fall to the floor when the wall is painted. However, it will not fall to the floor at the same rate as painting a ceiling.

All of these observations about painting the wall reveals that it takes much less time and effort to paint a wall than it does a ceiling. 

This is the major difference between painting a wall and painting a ceiling. But still, the question needs to be asked: When is it better to paint the wall first and when is it better to paint the ceiling first?

This burning question will now be answered.

Situations where it would be better to paint the wall first

Recall that painting the wall takes a much shorter time than it does to paint a ceiling.

Because of this, you’ll want to paint the wall first if you are beginning your project with fresh materials and equipment: Fresh paint rolls, new buckets of paint, paint thinner that has not been used, and other such painting materials and equipment that will encounter wear and tear or run out.

The reason you should begin with the wall with equipment and materials that haven’t been used yet is because once you are finished with the wall, you will be able to judge for yourself how much more materials, equipment, and crew if necessary.

This is effective in small places where you can be confident about finishing your walls in one painting project. You can then determine what will be needed for the ceiling.

Painting the wall first is ideal for small places where you are confident that you can finish painting the walls and then look for how much more equipment, materials, and crew are necessary for the ceiling.

However, if the place you are painting contains a large area, you may want to do the opposite and paint the ceiling first.

Painting the wall first is also ideal if you are familiar with the area that you are painting. If you know exactly what it takes to paint the wall, you can do it really quickly and use your surplus materials and supplies to begin painting the ceiling.

Situations where it is best to paint the ceiling first

Believe it or not, there do exist situations where it would be best to paint the ceiling first and then the wall.

Although nobody would think that there would be situations where it is better to paint the ceiling first because of how much time and materials it takes to successfully paint a ceiling.

If you know for sure that you will be painting a big location, you will want to paint the ceiling first, but only if you are willing to overprepare for your painting project.

And when it comes to painting bigger locations in general, you will want to err on preparing too much than too little or just enough. 

This is especially true if they place you are painting is not familiar to you. If you know you will be painting a large building or home, you will want to gather more materials than you think you need, finish painting the ceiling, and then begin painting the wall with the materials and supplies that you have left over.

Conclusion

The debate of whether you should paint the ceiling or walls first is one that is surprisingly simple to settle.

It all depends on how well you know the place you need to paint and the size of the place you need to paint.

If you are very familiar with the place you need to paint, begin with the walls. You will be able to use whatever materials are left over to begin painting the ceiling.

If you are not familiar with the place that you need to paint, do all you can to prepare much more than you think is necessary and begin with the ceiling. If you err on the side of preparing too much, you’ll have materials and supplies left over to work on the wall.

Making careful considerations regarding how familiar the area that you need to paint in is practically all you need to settle the debate of painting the ceiling or the walls first.

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