The ceiling is often a forgotten part of a decorating project, but a well decorated ceiling can enhance the overall style of a room. If you neglect this area, your ceiling will look drab or stained in comparison. Learn about the different finishes for your ceiling and build this into your decorating vision.
Tools & materials required
How to paper your ceiling
As with walls, it's very important that you get your first length of paper absolutely straight. As ceiling/wall junctions aren't usually straight enough to use as a guide, it's best to mark a chalk line and then position the first length along that. Don't worry about a having a guideline for lining paper - just line the paper up with the wall where you start and join the edges (making sure they don't overlap).
You should start papering along a wall that's at right-angles to the window wall. That way, the joins won't cast shadows if they overlap slightly. If the room has windows on two walls you might not be able to avoid some shadows - so hang the paper across the narrowest part of the ceiling, as this'll be easier.
Top tip - Papering around a light fitting
When you reach a pendant light, turn off the power at the mains (switching it off at the wall isn't enough). Unscrew the cover and paper up to and over the base. With scissors, puncture the paper at the centre of the fitting and make a series of snips outwards, being careful not to cut beyond the fitting. Then trim away the flaps of paper, cutting just inside the rim of the base, and wipe away any paste. When the paper is completely dry, replace the cover and then turn the power back on.
First, decide where you want to hang the first length of paper. Then, at either end of the ceiling; measure out from the side wall a distance exactly 25mm less than the width of the paper. Hammer a small nail a little way into the ceiling at each point. If your ceiling is obviously uneven, measure its width at each end of the room, work out the difference, and at the narrower end move the nail towards the wall junction by half that amount. This will stop your final strip of wallpaper appearing skewed.
Attach a chalk line between the two nails. From the centre of the trestle platform, pull and release the line to snap onto the ceiling. Remove the line and nails, then measure, cut and paste your paper.
Position the edge of your first length of paper against the chalk line. Then smooth the other edge into the ceiling/wall junction to give a 25mm overlap onto the wall. If the junction isn't straight, the overlap will be uneven rather than the paper on the ceiling.
Brush out any air bubbles with a paper-hanging brush, then run wallpaper scissors along the ceiling/wall junction to make a sharp crease. Gently pull back the paper and cut along this crease. Brush the trimmed edge back into place - adding extra paste at the edges if you need to. Fit the next length of paper against the first, and run a seam roller lightly along the joins.
How to paint your ceiling
You can paint a ceiling with a roller or a broad emulsion brush. To avoid having to stretch up continually, you can either make a platform so you can walk along the length of the room, or buy an extension pole to fit on to the end of your roller handle (some of these can extend to over three metres). If you're redecorating your room, it's a good idea to paint the ceiling first.
Painting a ceiling doesn't have to be a particularly messy job, but if you're using a roller you do tend to get speckled with paint. Wear old clothes or protective clothing (including a hat) and clear-vision safety glasses or goggles to keep the paint out of your eyes.
Top tip - Painting with a brush
If you're using a brush instead of a roller, pour the paint into a paint kettle so it's about a third full. Dip your brush into the paint so it covers about a third of the bristle depth. Then apply the paint with short, overlapping strokes in different directions. After that, use a fairly dry brush to lightly draw the bristles across the painted surface, again in a criss-cross pattern. This will remove any visible brush marks and achieve an even surface.
Before or after you paint the bulk of your ceiling with a roller, you'll need to paint into the edges of your room with a brush. If you're going to paint the walls after the ceiling, use a 25mm-50mm brush to put a strip of paint on to the walls, which you can later paint over. If you're not going on to paint the walls, bead the edges or use a paint shield (or 'George').
Painting with a roller
Dip the roller sleeve into the paint and roll it firmly up and down the ribbed incline of the tray to spread the paint evenly. Then apply it to the ceiling at an angle of about 45 degrees. It's wise to experiment with the amount of paint on the roller. Too much and you'll spray paint everywhere, too little and you'll take forever.
Move the roller over the wall surface, using random strokes and a light, even pressure. Each time you dip the roller in the paint, move it to an adjacent unpainted area and work back to the painted area in overlapping strokes to blend in the wet edges.
How to fix a plaster ceiling rose
When you've finished painting your ceiling, why not create an interesting focal point by adding a plaster ceiling rose? Although you can fix a lightweight rose with adhesive alone, you may need to drive screws into the joists as well if you want a larger one. In this case, you should drill pilot holes for the screws through the rose into the joists above, then screw the rose into place with brass screws.
First turn the electricity off at the mains, then disconnect and remove the light fitting. Then drill a hole for the cable into the decorative rose (making sure not to press down too hard or it might crack). Put adhesive all-round the edge on the back of the rose.
Next, pass the lighting cable through the drilled centre hole and position the rose on the ceiling - pressing it into place until the adhesive secures it.
Wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp sponge. When it's set completely you can refit the light fitting using screws long enough to pass right through the rose and into the joist above. Drill pilot holes first, then reconnect the wires and turn the power back on.
How to fix coving on your ceiling
Coving or cornice is a prefabricated decorative moulding that's fitted at the junction of the wall and ceiling all the way around a room. As well as creating an elegant look, it hides any cracks that can open up between walls and ceiling. Coving has traditionally been made from plaster, but there are now more lightweight alternatives that can be easier to apply. It comes in a range of sizes and styles, from contemporary simplicity to the intricate, highly decorative cornices of yesteryear.
You should fix your coving before you decorate a room. To mark out the area it'll cover, go around the room holding a piece of the coving in position, pencilling its upper and lower edge on the wall and ceiling. As you can only fix it to a sound, dry, clean surface, remove all traces of distemper, loose plaster, wallpaper or flaking paint from this area. Strip off any wall or ceiling paper by cutting through the paper 2mm inside the pencil guidelines with a sharp knife to give neat edges, and removing the paper between the marks with a scraper. Then key the area between the guidelines by scoring the plaster with criss-cross lines to give the coving adhesive a better grip. Brush away any loose particles.
Top tip - Cutting coving
You can buy pre-mitred internal and external corner packs which you can use as a template. Cutting coving can be a bit complicated, and these guides will help you visualise the joins before you make your cuts.
Using a scraper or trowel, spread coving adhesive all the way along the back edges of your length of coving. An easier way to do this is to buy coving adhesive ready-mixed in a tube and apply it with a cartridge gun. You won't need to use it on the central area, by the way, as this doesn't come into contact with the wall or ceiling.
Press the coving into place along the pencil guideline. Let any excess adhesive squeeze out - making sure there's firm contact along the entire length. Remove the excess with a filling knife or your finger, and use this to fill any gaps in the corners and joints between lengths. If any adhesive gets onto the coving, wall or ceiling, just wipe it away with a damp sponge.
Check there are no hidden pipes or cables, then tap in nails just below the bottom edge of the coving to support it as the adhesive dries. You can remove the nails later, but if you're fixing plaster coving to a very uneven surface, you may have to reinforce the adhesive with galvanised nails or countersunk screws. You should drive these into wall plugs. Carry on adding lengths, joining and gluing to the previous length.
When you've finished your room, fill in any gaps and joints with adhesive and wipe them with a damp sponge. Let the adhesive dry, then lightly sand the joints and corners with fine-grade abrasive paper.
Some manufacturers also make coving corner pieces, which are shaped differently to fit internal and external corners. These give an elegant finish to your coving, and can hide any less-than-perfect mitre joints. Just apply adhesive to the back, hold the corner piece in place until it's secure, and then wipe away any excess adhesive.
Watch our step-by-step film below showing how to put up coving, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.
How to cut corners on coving
Check you have the coving the right way up before starting to cut or fix it. The edges are generally clearly marked on the reverse side. Also, make sure you read the manufacturer's fixing instructions carefully before you start work. They can vary slightly, depending on the type of coving.
Measure the length of your first wall and mark the coving where you need to cut mitres for the corners.
Lay the coving on the mitre block with the wall edge of the coving upright against the side and the ceiling edge flat against the base. Then use a panel saw to cut the mitres for the corners. Lightly sand the cut edges.
How to decorate with coving
Coving can give a room more than just period elegance. By adding a lighter band at the highest point in your room, it can be a great way of making the ceiling look higher - especially if you want to decorate the walls and ceiling in strong or dark colours. Before you paint your coving, make sure you seal its porous surface with coving primer.
Top tip - Mixing adhesive
Coving adhesive can come ready-mixed, or in powder form that you mix with water. It sets very quickly, though. So if you're mixing it up yourself, check its setting time and only mix the amount you can use in that time.