Ceiling upkeep: Five ways of reaching those heights
Ceilings are awkward to work on and, although not as noticeable as walls, they can easily crack, stain and look tatty. Here's how to fix them up.
1. Ceilings get stained by things like water leaks, candles, light bulbs, and smoke from real wood fires. Scrubbing the stain and repainting sometimes works, but you often need to use an oil-based stain-block or damp-seal paint first (try Ronseal Damp Seal, from £7 for 400ml, B&Q), to prevent the stain coming through again. Decorating ceilings should be done before decorating the rest of a room because of splatters and drips, so if it's just the ceiling that needs attention, you'll have to paint with great care.
2. When using oil-based paint on a ceiling, it's essential to wear safety goggles in case the paint gets in your eyes. In fact, wearing goggles and a shower cap is always a good idea when painting a ceiling, so your face and hair don't get covered. Attaching your paint roller to an extension pole, so you paint standing on the floor, rather than at the top of a ladder, will help, too. This is easier, but does make it harder to get a good finish, as you can't see roller lines, bits you've missed and debris in the paint so well from the floor compared to up a ladder.
3. The easiest paints to use on ceilings, especially if you're not decorating the rest of the room, are semi-solid ones, such as Dulux's Pure Brilliant White Solid (£16.97 for 2.5ltr, B&Q). These splatter and drip less because they're not runny, but come in a very limited range of colours. If the ceiling's less than perfect, use a matt emulsion - one with a sheen will highlight imperfections.
4. Ceilings are prone to hairline cracks, especially if there are rooms above, and these are hard to eradicate permanently. Your best bet is to open up the crack slightly using the blade of a utility knife, paint PVA into it to help filler adhere and, after a few minutes, apply the filler. Try Toupret Fibacryl (£6.50 for 310ml, www.protoolsdirect.co.uk) - unlike most fillers, this seems to keep cracks closed long term. Another good solution is to paper the ceiling with lining paper, or have the ceiling replastered. The plasterer should tape over the cracks to prevent them from coming through the new plaster, but if they miss any, the cracks will reappear. Lath and plaster ceilings are particularly prone to hairline cracks and to truly get rid of them, you'll have to pull down the ceiling (a very messy job), and start again with plasterboard.
5. In the past, it was common to put textured wallpaper, Artex or polystyrene tiles (which can be a fire hazard) on ceilings. Replastering the ceiling is usually the easiest and best solution, but you will have to remove the wallpaper and tiles first, which can be hard work.
Product of the week
Mini rollers are useful for all sorts of painting tasks, and at Screwfix, they're good value, too. The No Nonsense High Density 4" Foam Mini Rollers with Frame (£3.99 for 10 rollers and a frame, Screwfix) are ideal for applying wood and metal paints.
For emulsions, there are the No Nonsense High Density 4" Acrylic Mini Rollers with Frame (right, £3.99 for 10 acrylic rollers and a frame, Screwfix), and a set of assorted rollers is also available.
These mini rollers are straightforward to use and produce a good finish. They're also brilliant if you have several different paints on the go, because you can just change the sleeve and use the same frame. If you're using oil-based paints, you probably won't be able to clean off the rollers afterwards, but at this fantastic price, it doesn't matter if you have to bin some of them.
Stains that appear on walls and ceilings for no apparent reason, yellow patches in woodwork that only appear as you paint it, and patches in new plaster that show through emulsion, are all common decorating problems.
In each case, if the stain reappears through the emulsion or wood paint, use a stain-block paint before continuing. Polycell One Coat Stain Stop aerosol (£5 for 250ml, www.tesco.com) is brilliant, because it covers the stain and dries quickly, unlike most stain blocks, so you don't waste much time. Like any spray paint, it's best applied thinly, or it may run.
For really stubborn stains, or if you have a lot to cover, use Polycell One Coat Stain Stop in a tin (£19.99 for 1L, Homebase).
This is a thick paint that takes longer to dry - the trick to getting a good finish is to apply it with a brush to get enough on and then go over it with a mini foam roller to smooth it out.