The Complete Costs to Paint Ceilings: DIY vs Professional Service

Last updated: April 22, 2020

Closeup of a white ceiling with hanging lights

Ceilings can make or break the look of a room. A fresh coat (or two) of paint can really freshen it up, and help the rooms in your house look sleek and modern. However, a lot of decisions you make can affect the amount of cash that comes out of your wallet.

Before you head down to the hardware store, you’ll need to understand exactly what you’re paying for and how choosing to do it yourself or hiring a professional painter will affect the final cost. When painting your interior (, it’s a great idea to paint your ceilings as well. This article will help you make these important decisions by addressing the following topics:

Before we dive into the big differences in costs, let’s look at how exactly the cost of painting a ceiling is determined.

Determining the total cost to paint a ceiling

With any interior paint project, it’s important to understand the potential costs you could rack up before you begin. Ceilings are no exception to this as there are several standard factors that will impact the final price. Here are some things to consider when figuring out how much you could end up paying for a freshly painted ceiling.

  • Square footage – Painters usually quote projects by job rather than by square foot. However, one of the key inputs to the job cost calculation is the size of surfaces to be painted, which is commonly assessed by square footage.
  • Quality of paint – There are many different types and brands of paint. Better quality paints will result in a higher cost.
  • Ceiling height – You won’t have to worry about standard ceilings too much, but having a room with a high ceiling might cost you more due to the added difficulties.
  • Number of ceilings – A lot of professional painters will give you a discount if you have more ceilings painted at once.
  • Supplies – If you go the D.I.Y. route, you’ll have to also pay for your own brushes, trays, tape, and more.
  • Labour – If you go the professional painters route, you’ll likely have to pay them on an hourly basis, on top of additional costs.
A room with a white ceiling and blue walls

Ceiling paint vs. wall paint

This might come as a surprise to some, but there is actually a difference between the paint you should use on your walls and the paint you should use on your ceiling. Both types of paint have their own characteristics and function in different ways. Let’s compare the main differences between the two.

Ceiling Paint

Wall Paint

  • Thicker; will easily cover imperfections
  • Viscous design prevents dripping
  • Matte appearance
  • Limited colour options
  • Thinner; walls will require at least two coats
  • More durable
  • Glistens in light
  • Many colour options

Cost per square foot to paint interior ceiling

To properly determine how much you need to spend on paint, you’ll have to know the square footage of your ceiling. Obtaining accurate measurements is actually a fairly easy process. Here are the steps for measuring your ceiling to determine the paint cost.

  1. Determine if you need to use a ladder to reach the ceiling (it’s recommended that you have someone assist you or invest in safety equipment to avoid falling and hurting yourself).
  2. Measure the length of the ceiling (top corner to bottom corner) with your preferred measuring tool. Record the number.
  3. Measure the width of the ceiling (left corner to right corner) with your preferred measuring tool. Record the number.
  4. Multiply the two numbers together to get the total square footage. This is the number you’ll need for the quote (make sure to note if you have/want a textured ceiling, as this could add to the cost). Note: while you might be tempted to calculate your ceiling painting cost by square metre, using square footage will make things easier.
  5. If you have a cathedral ceiling (ceiling that forms an upside down V), make sure to do two separate sets of measurements for each side.
  6. To calculate the amount of paint needed, divide the total number of square footage by 400 (the amount of square feet a one gallon can of paint can cover). The answer is the amount of paint cans you’ll need to purchase.
  7. Multiply the number of cans needed by the cost of your selected paint.
  8. Repeat steps for all ceilings you wish to have painted.

Pro Tip

Is your ceiling the same shape as your floor? If yes, save yourself time and stay safe by measuring the floor instead.

If you want to make the calculations easier on yourself, try using an online calculator to make sure your final numbers are accurate.

Cost to repair or repaint a ceiling

Chances are if you’re wanting to freshen up an older ceiling, you will also want to repair the ceiling so that it looks brand new. Older ceilings can develop cracks over time that can easily be patched up with the average cost of painting your ceiling by square foot between $50 and $75.

Prettying up your ceiling will be fairly inexpensive. However, if there’s water damage or mold on your ceiling, be prepared to spend more on professional labour. Getting your ceiling repaired can cost anywhere between $320 and $1,300, but it’s an important step in making sure your paint job will last (and that your home remains safe).

Painting more complicated ceilings: popcorn, basements, crown molding, and more

A bedroom with a slanted ceiling and complications

Painting your ceiling might seem simple enough, especially when it’s a flat surface. What happens when your ceilings are a little more complex? Let’s look at the considerations and costs for more complicated ceilings that you might have in your home.

Cost to paint popcorn ceiling

A closeup of a popcorn ceiling with a light shining in a dim room

Popcorn ceilings add an aesthetically pleasing texture to your room. They’ve become a fairly popular option in most households, but they do present some additional challenges when looking to repaint the ceiling. Here are some things to consider when painting a popcorn ceiling.

  • Texture on the ceiling means more surface area to cover, which means you’ll need your estimates for how much paint you need to be higher.
  • More labour will be required for a popcorn ceiling, since the painting process is more complex.
  • Pay attention to any stains or possible repairs, as this might result in additional costs and work.
  • If you’re taking the D.I.Y. route, make sure to invest in the proper tools, especially if you’re removing or adding texture.

The biggest difference between painting a flat ceiling and a popcorn ceiling is the cost. Painting a popcorn ceiling is estimated to cost 85% more with the average amount of money spent being above the $1 to $3 per square foot typically spent on other ceilings.

Cost to paint ceiling grid or drop tiles

A meeting room with drop tiles

Some homes might also have a drop tile ceiling that could really use an update. If that’s the case for you, there are aspects of painting a drop ceiling that make it either easier or more complex than a normal ceiling. Here are the things you should consider before getting started.

  • Drop tiles are much safer to paint since each individual tile can be removed and put back in place once dry.
  • It’s wise to check with a contractor before you begin painting. Changes to your drop tiles can have an effect on any outstanding warranties or even result in your home no longer meeting fire code.
  • Drop tile ceilings are easily stained and damaged from water and mold. If there’s a significant number of repairs needed, you might want to consider a brand new ceiling altogether.

Costs to paint a drop tile ceiling are similar to a flat ceiling with the average cost being $1 to $3 per square foot. Where the costs start to increase is when you need to consider ceiling replacements. The cost to install a new ceiling grid can be anywhere between $1,000 to $2,300.

Cost to paint crown molding

A closeup of white crown molding running along the ceiling

While painting your ceiling, there’s a chance you might have some crown molding that you’d like to freshen up, too. Crown molding is a specific type of trim that runs along your ceiling. Since it’s right next to your ceiling, you’ll want to make sure it looks just as good. Nothing will ruin the look more than to have stained and discoloured crown molding next to a fresh and bright ceiling.

Painting just the crown molding will cost you an additional $1 to $3.50 per linear foot. However, if you’re using the same paint as your ceiling, you’ll only be looking at an additional $0.50 to $1.50 to cover the whole surface.

Cost to paint basement ceiling

A basement bedroom with a low, white ceiling

The starting costs for painting your basement ceiling are no different from what you’d pay for any regular ceiling, with a total cost being between $500 to $4,500 on average. Where the costs begin to increase is when you’re dealing with all the different elements in the basement. It’s likely that you might encounter issues with exposed beams, duct work, or electrical work while attempting to revamp your basement ceiling. It’s difficult to pinpoint an average cost that you could end up spending, as each case is very different, so it’s highly recommended that you speak to a contractor to get a better idea for your specific basement ceiling.

Many basements also have exposed ceilings, which make a lot of these things visible. Painting these along with the ceiling is a great way to allow everything to blend in and keep your basement looking complete. Expect to pay the same average price ($1 to $3 per square foot), but remember to also account for any prep work or supplies that will be needed.

Cost to paint a room with high ceilings

A large staircase in a home with a high ceiling

When it comes to painting a high ceiling, the average cost to paint the ceiling will be roughly the same price as the other types of ceilings, as the cost will also be dependent on the amount of paint needed and any other important factors that you might encounter.

Where things differ is the fact that reaching the ceiling is more difficult. This creates more time and effort in order to be able to complete the project, in addition to the extra work needed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. If you’re hiring a professional painter, you might be charged more for labour due to the added difficulty of the project.

Should you D.I.Y. paint interior ceilings?

Many homeowners are tempted to take the D.I.Y. route when it comes to an interior paint project. Painting your ceiling on your own might seem like a fun way to save some cash, but it’s not without its cons. These are the challenges associated with painting your ceiling yourself.

  • Prep work – You might be tempted to slap on a coat of paint in a hurry, but it’s important that the proper preparations are done to your ceiling in order to achieve lasting results.
  • Skills and expertise – Do you know how to properly paint your ceiling? Those who lack painting experience might find the final results less than ideal.
  • Paint – Do you know what paint to use? Without proper research, you could end up with a poorly-painted ceiling.
  • Supplies – Doing everything yourself means you’ll need the proper tools. Expect to allot more cash toward brushes, trays, tape, etc.
  • Safety – Most ceiling paint jobs involve dealing with heights. It’s important to make sure you’re cautious and step away if you’re concerned.
  • Stress – All D.I.Y. projects create stress. Ask yourself what you’re able to deal with before getting started (i.e. family arguments, living with unfinished work, time until completion, etc.).
A woman yelling in frustration

Should you hire professionals to paint your ceilings?

If you’re feeling anxious about painting your ceiling yourself, you might want to consider having it professionally painted. The cost to paint a ceiling per square foot will vary depending on the type and quality of paint, but you should still calculate in this way.

While the additional cost to paint your ceiling with labour will be between $113 to $182, professional painters have the skills and expertise to get the job done as quickly as possible, while making sure the final result is one you’ll be happy with. Here are some benefits of hiring professionals.

  • They’ll give you quality results that look great
  • They are trained to spot structural defects before they begin painting (saving you from lots of grief later)
  • They are familiar with ceiling paint and can offer great advice on what brands to use
  • They’re trained in safety, reducing the risk of an accident in your home
  • They can conduct surface preparations before beginning to paint
  • They can complete the project in a timely manner
  • They will make sure their final results that are long lasting
  • There will be reduced stress on your part

Things to consider when choosing a professional paint for your ceilings

If you’re going to hire a professional to paint your ceiling for you, you’ll need to hunt for a reliable contractor. The cost to paint commercial ceilings will depend on the difficulty of the task, but as these jobs often have larger areas, they can cost less per square foot. Here are some things to consider when deciding who to hire.

  • They have a great portfolio
  • They offer a warranty on labour and materials
  • They are bonded and insured
  • They have excellent ratings on HomeGuide & Google
  • They don’t ask for a large down payment
  • They include setup and complete cleanup costs in the quote
  • They provide excellent communication from your first phone call or email

Good painters will also do most or all of the following:

  • Preparing ceilings before beginning to paint
  • Mix, match, and apply paints and finishes
  • Provide decorative and faux finishes
  • Planning and prep work
  • Move equipment and accessories as necessary
  • Calculate the amount of materials and time required
  • Remove fixtures
  • Taping off areas
  • Choose and purchase paint, brushes, and supplies
  • Quote and negotiate job prices
  • Clean up supplies and replace fixtures following completion
  • Communicate to keep you updated on the progress

Now that you have the facts, it’s time to decide how much you’re willing to spend on painting your ceiling. If you decide on the professional route, the City Painters is here for you. Contact us here or give us a call to get a quote for your project!