Painting Acoustic Ceilings - Use an Airless Sprayer, Not a Paint Roller

Spray painting acoustic ceilings is typically not recommended. However, there are situations when spraying a light coat of latex paint on your popcorn ceiling is preferable to applying new acoustic on top of the preexisting acoustic texture finish.

Of course the best method of dealing with these ceilings is to complete remove the acoustic and apply wall texture as outlined in our Acoustic Ceiling Removal Do-It-Yourself Guide but we do understand that some people like the look of the popcorn texture and removal is not always feasible because of time constraints or other reasons.

When To Paint Your Acoustic Ceilings

One of these circumstances when painting of the existing acoustic may be recommended is when the popcorn finish has been applied in an older home that has lath and plaster construction, and not drywall or the less common button board. Certain mixes of plaster used in days gone by produced a slick finish and the acoustic mixture did not achieve a tight bond.

Another case is when the plaster has begun to lose its integrity either because it was not mixed in correct proportions or simply due to age. The top layer of the plaster will develop a consistency similar to that of sand and brushing your had across this surface will cause bits of the plaster to release. Generally this is hidden by layers of paint that has been built up over the years and does not present a problem for home owners.

Additionally older oil based paints will break down into a powder like substance that allows the acoustic to release especially when a heavy, wet new layer of acoustic is applied.


When acoustic is applied under one of the above circumstances the moisture, which is much greater than that of a light layer of paint sprayed onto the ceiling, will cause the ceiling to release from the original surface. If this does happen the end result will be somewhere between a ceiling with bubbles, areas that have released from the plaster above, to entire sheets of ceiling falling free to the floor below.

The only reliable method of updating the ceiling in one of the aforementioned cases is the removal of the entire acoustic-popcorn ceiling finish.

It is not always apparent from looking at a ceiling which course of action should be taken and making the decision to re-spray with a new layer of acoustic or applying a very thin coat of paint is often a judgment call.


Tips for Reapplying or Painting Acoustic Ceilings


If you should decide to reapply acoustic be sure to leave the room masked until the new coating has completely dried, often several days. Drying time is largely dependent upon temperature and air flow in the home. Turning on fans and opening windows can make the difference between walking into a room with a fresh new acoustic ceiling the next morning and a ceiling that has fallen onto your floor and requiring complete removal.

If painting is the option you choose, apply several very light coats of paint to the acoustic with an airless sprayer and allow ample drying time between coats.

Never attempt to paint an acoustic ceiling with a so called acoustic paint roller. Completely avoid the specialty roller covers that are allegedly designed for this purpose – they do not work. Do not saturate the ceiling with paint and follow the advice above regarding ventilation to decrease drying time.

You can successfully paint an acoustic ceiling following these guidelines.