Get inspired

Painting the ceiling white to bring in the light

Top-rated ZM host Clint Roberts lives with wife Lucy and two young daughters, Maggie and Tui, in an architecturally-designed 1970s pole house in Auckland’s Titirangi. 

While the family love the great bones, ample space and stunning surrounds of their new home, it’s in need of a refresh, so Clint is working with MasterStroke by Resene to modernise it. 

“We want to update our house room by room. We’re not in a position to undertake a major reno all at once, so our plan is to use paint and wallpaper to transform how our spaces feel.” Clint says. 

Fresh off the back of his very successful guest bathroom transformation, Clint was ready to reach greater heights and tackle the wood-panelled ceiling – and it was all about bringing in the light.   

“While we’re lucky to be surrounded by native trees and birds, which can make for limited light in some areas of our house,” he explains. “The kitchen and dining room are in the centre of the house and there’s only one window letting in light. While the wood colour was nice, it was overwhelming and made the space seem dark and small. We were told that painting the ceiling white would be like turning on a light, and it was.”

Sticking point  

However, this process wasn’t without its challenges. The first and most daunting was figuring out how to seal the wood correctly so the colour of the timber wouldn’t show through. 

“We spoke with Resene Paint Expert Jay Sharples, who came to the house to inspect the ceiling,” says Clint. “He suggested trying four different sealers and undercoats – one waterborne and three oil-based. They needed to stick and give good coverage.” 

It’s all to do with figuring out what was previously applied to the timber, Jay explains. “This can be tricky because penetrating stains and oils all look very similar. Also, sometimes a clear coat has been applied. Depending on the current coatings and the condition of those coatings, this will determine the best primer to use.”

Resene Paint Expert Jay Sharples visited Clint to talk through options for priming and painting the ceiling, including answering the all-important question of what it was originally coated with.
The four primers they applied were Resene Quick Dry, Resene Waterborne Sureseal, Resene Sureseal and Resene Enamel Undercoat.

If the ceiling timber had been coated with mineral oil, painting would be completely out of the question. “Mineral oils aren’t compatible with any other type of coatings except other mineral oils,” Jay says. “They remain active in the timber so other coatings can’t penetrate or dry and adhere properly. Once you use a mineral oil, you need to stick with that system for the life of the substrate.” 

The four primers they tried on the ceiling were Resene Quick Dry waterborne primer undercoat, Resene Waterborne Sureseal pigmented sealer, Resene Sureseal pigmented sealer and Resene Enamel Undercoat. After 48 hours, all of the products had adhered and dried – which meant painting got the green light.  

“Out of the four, Clint used Resene Enamel Undercoat. This was due to the topcoat colour selection (Resene Quarter Rice Cake) – Resene Enamel Undercoat was the whitest starting point in comparison to the other sealers and undercoats,” says Jay. 

Let there be light

Then it was time to paint. Because he took his time and spoke to the Resene experts to formulate a detailed plan of attack before starting, Clint found the painting process enjoyable. 

“It was a lot of work – multiple coats on a large area and tricky surface – but I really had fun with it!” Clint says. “I could see the transformation happening as I went and it was really rewarding. Did I break a few rollers? Yes. Did I have a very stiff neck from looking up all week? Also yes. Is that a big deal in the grand scheme? No!”

Another of Clint’s challenges was getting into all the grooves, gaps and holes of the wood panels, so time had to be taken to paint them all with a brush. Clint is using Resene Ceiling Paint in Resene Quarter Rice Cake.
Once all the grooves and joins were painted, Clint made fast work of the rest of the ceiling by switching to a roller. Clint is using Resene Ceiling Paint waterborne flat in Resene Quarter Rice Cake.

Clint was very much in two minds about painting out so much wood detail, but he’s absolutely thrilled at the result. “The thing I’m happiest about is that I kept a border of unpainted wood around the edges of the ceiling as a nod to the mid-century vibe of the house. It ties in with the window and door frames and is just the right amount of wood in that space.” 

Choosing the right Resene colour was also a game changer. “We did Resene Quarter Rice Cake so it’s not white-white, but it is bright and light, which was the goal all along,” he says.  “It has completely transformed our kitchen and dining space. I’ve gained huge amounts of confidence about the painting process and I can’t wait to attack my next project. I feel like if I can nail a tricky job like that, I can do anything!” 

The original wood panelled ceiling was dark and heavy and with little light coming in, needed some brightening to illuminate the space. The painted ceiling has completely transformed the kitchen and dining space, making it light and bright. Clint cleverly left a border of unpainted wood around the edges of the ceiling as a nod to the mid-century vibe of the house. Ceiling in Resene Quarter Rice Cake.

Jay’s top tips for painting ceilings successfully:

  • To avoid brown dots (fly poo) bleeding through into your freshly painted ceiling, be sure to clean the ceiling prior to painting. 
  • Pay particular attention to the corners and areas around light fittings. 
  • Invest in a good extension pole so you can reach the ceiling while standing on the floor.
  • Use a flat finish as this will helpto reduce reflection.
  • Cut in and roll as you go – bigger ceilings may require two or more people to paint. 
  • You want to maintain a wet edge so that the brushing and rolling blends together to help achieve a uniform finish (using Resene Hot Weather Additive can help).
  • If possible, try and work away from the light source (windows and/or doors) and always lay off the paint in one direction.
  • If you like to clean your ceiling, use Resene SpaceCote Flat waterborne enamel. This is much easier to wipe clean than a normal acrylic ceiling paint and you won’t end up with any shiny patches.

About MasterStroke by Resene
MasterStroke by Resene is here to help you master your paint and decorating DIY projects. Brush up on your skills with advice, tips and ideas from our trusted experts.

Check out the latest how-to videos on our YouTube channel.