How Long Does It Take To Paint A Ceiling?

Inevitably, the time will come when the ceiling needs a new paint job. Before starting any project, it's helpful to know all the ins and outs, including how long to allot this potential project. So how long does it take to paint a ceiling? We've done some looking and have the best information for you!

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it will take approximately 30 minutes to paint the ceiling for an average size room. It's best to wait, at least two hours in-between coats of paint or primer, or until the paint is touch dry. To make sure the job is done properly, a coat of primer and at least one coat of paint is necessary.

Now that we've answered how long it takes to paint a ceiling, let's discuss the steps in a little more detail. We'll talk about prep time, paint time, and drying time to give an overall impression of how long the entire job will take, as well as answer some additional questions you might have. Continue reading!

A worker using paint roller on the ceiling, How Long Does It Take To Paint A Ceiling?

Preparing To Paint The Ceiling

The preparation stage of painting the ceiling will take longer than painting the actual ceiling! Before you begin, you'll want to obtain all the necessary tools and paint to make the process as smooth as possible. 

You will need the following:

  • Interior paint
  • Interior primer
  • Drop cloth(s)
  • Painter's tape
  • Step ladder
  • Paint roller with extension roller
  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper towels for errant messes
  • Dish soap for the cleanup

Preparing the room

Painter pulls of blue painter's tape from the wall to reveal a clean edge of the ceiling

To prepare the room with the ceiling in question, remove as much of the furniture as possible. Doing this will allow you ample room to move around without worrying about tripping over anything while painting. If there's anything too large or difficult to move, it's okay to leave it; just remember to cover it with a drop cloth. Once you've moved as much furniture as you can, cover any exposed floor with drop cloths as well. This will protect the flooring as your begin to paint. 

View this drop cloth on Amazon.

Place painter's tape over any crown molding or at the tops of the walls where they meet the ceiling. If you're planning on painting the walls after the ceiling, there is no need to cover the juncture where the wall meets the ceiling unless you do have some sort of molding. 

View this painter's tape on Amazon.

Fill your paint tray with primer, but not so full that it will saturate your roller. Gliding the roller over the paint or primer will be enough paint to get the job done without excess.

View this paint tray on Amazon.


View this primer on Amazon.

Want to know if your ceiling height is around the average? Read our post, "What's the Standard Ceiling Height?"

Prime And Paint The Ceiling

Using the paint roller, apply a coat of primer all over the ceiling. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying time before continuing on to the painting portion. This is generally around two hours, but the best course of action is to always go by the manufacturer's timeframe.

View this paint roller on Amazon.

Next, switch to the paint. Begin by painting around the edges of the room where the ceiling meets the wall. Paint inward, about two to three inches, using the paintbrush and step ladder. This might seem time-consuming but will ensure the edges of the room are thoroughly coated. It is quite difficult to get the edges and corners with a roller.


View this paint on Amazon.


View these paintbrushes on Amazon.


View this step ladder on Amazon.

Once the edges and corners are completed, move straight into using the paint roller to cover the rest of the ceiling. Pay close attention to where the rolls of the paint roller meet the brush strokes. By handling these areas while the edges are still wet, it reduces the risk of having any visible brush strokes. 

If using primer and then painting carefully, another coat of paint will not be needed. Feel free to allow the ceiling to dry and put another coat if desired, however.

Drying time

As mentioned briefly above, the ceiling must be allowed to dry fully between coats. Although the actual time to paint the ceiling is minimal, the drying time between coats needs to be at least two hours or whatever amount of time the primer or paint manufacturer dictates. 


Use mild dish soap to clean out your paintbrush, tray, and roller. This is best done in a large sink or bathtub in warm, soapy water. Doing the washing immediately is the best way to ensure no paint remains, as once the paint has dried in your tools, it is exceedingly difficult to remove. Squeeze and ring the roller until the water runs clear.

Do you paint the ceiling first or last?

If you're painting the walls of your room as well as the ceiling, it's best to paint the ceiling first. This way, if there are any errant drops on the walls, you can easily cover them when painting the walls. It also helps you skip the painter's tape, unless, of course, you have crown molding. 

How many coats of paint does a ceiling need?

Painter's hand painting the ceiling

Overall, it's generally recommended to apply two coats of paint to the ceiling. Of course, this number changes if you use primer and depends on the paint's quality. Lower quality, thin paint might require more coats. Allowing the ceiling to dry completely between coats allows you to assess adequately if another coat is necessary.

The texture of your ceiling will also dictate the number of coats needed. For example, if your ceiling is textured, it will require more paint to ensure adequate coverage along the texturized portions.

Is it hard to paint a ceiling? 

Young woman painting interior of apartment

Painting a ceiling can, at times, be difficult. It can be fatiguing on the arms and neck, and some ceilings with a lot of texture can make the job more challenging. Additionally, painting and prepping the edges and corners of the room can be tiring. Painting the ceiling is a different animal than painting the walls.

To circumvent the difficulty, don't skip the primer. This establishes a smooth surface and generally takes away the necessity for multiple coats of paint. Being probably prepped can make all the difference. Spend most of your time on the actual prep work, which could take one to two hours from furniture removal to the primer stage.

When doing the actual painting, use a fully extended, paint-filled roller. Do a zigzag pattern just a few inches square, and then go over the same area to even out the paint. Don't leave globs or paint or lines as they will dry and leave unsightly streaks on the ceiling. Work out those spots while still wet. Focus on small sections and try your best not to leave any obvious lines between these sections. This is the best way to avoid doing multiple coats.

Want some more info on how to paint a ceiling without roller marks? Read our post about that. 

How much does it cost to hire a painter to paint a ceiling?

To hire a contractor to paint your ceiling, expect to pay anywhere from $.50 to $3.00 per square foot. However, some factors will affect this number, such as a textured ceiling or a smaller room. If you contract someone just to paint one small room, the price per square foot will cost more, so the contractor can circumvent the price of fuel and supplies. If you have a popcorn ceiling, expect to pay at least $1.00 per square foot at the low end and $3.00 to $4.00 on the high end. 

If the room in which you need the ceiling painted is 12 by 12 feet, expect to pay a total of  $72.00 to $432.00 plus the cost of paint to have someone else paint it for you.

In Closing

Painting a ceiling can be time-consuming, but most of that time comes from proper prep work. Although painting the ceiling will be more difficult than painting the walls, this is a project that can be tackled and completed on a weekend afternoon. Get those arms and shoulders ready and paint that ceiling!

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