How Much Does it Cost to Paint Ceilings?

Common Range: $1.15 – $2.50 / Square Foot

National Average: $1.65 / Square Foot

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Updated: November 2, 2022, by: Steve Hansen

Average Cost to Have Ceiling Painted

The average cost to hire a professional paint contractor to paint a ceiling, is around $1.60 per square foot based on a range of factors outlined below. The range is between $1.15 – $1.85. Expect to pay an average of $255 to $565 for 250 square feet of ceiling.

Average Costs

Average Do It Yourself Cost
$0.60 Cents / Square Foot
Average Painting Contractor Cost
$1.65 / Square Foot
Typical Cost Range
$1.15 – $2.50 / Sqft

painter using roller to paint a ceiling

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Overview of Ceiling Painting

You might be planning a ceiling painting project because you’ve had ceiling damage repaired or a new fixture like a ceiling fan installed or moved, or adding recessed lighting to a room. Other homeowners are tired of flat white and are joining the trend toward more colorful ceilings. There are various reasons for painting the ceiling only and not the walls too. In fact, repainting is listed as one of the 21 things to do before listing your house for sale, so having fresh paint is a big deal.

Ceiling painting costs are higher than those for painting walls because of the difficulty reaching the surface, the need to tape off or remove light fixtures, clear the room and cover the floor.

A sprayer is often used on ceilings in new homes and remodel situations when all the drywall is new. A little overspray onto the walls will be covered when they’re painted. Textured ceilings have to be sprayed too, but if you plan to remove the texture, click here for popcorn ceiling removal costs, which most often include repainting the ceiling after. A sprayer is sometimes used on the ceiling of a large, open area. The work goes much faster, so labor cost to paint a ceiling is lower.

Paint is usually rolled onto the ceilings of smaller rooms and in repainting situations when walls won’t be painted.

This page of Costimates gives cost factors used by contractors to determine ceiling paint cost per square foot. A list of products needed and their retail cost are included for DIY homeowners. We’ve gathered ceiling painting costs from other reliable estimating sites and received costs from homeowners who have recently completed this interior remodeling project.

Ceiling Painting Cost Factors

family room with fresh paint on vaulted ceiling
The cost to paint a ceiling is affected by these factors:

  • Ceiling Size and Amount of Paint for Ceiling – While more ceiling means higher total cost, ceiling paint cost per square foot drops as ceiling size goes up. Most paint contractors have a minimum fee of $200 – $300 for painting the ceiling of a small bathroom or bedroom.
  • Ceiling Height – Painting a 2-story ceiling, such as in an entryway, or a vaulted ceiling, will cost more than when the work can be done without the use of a ladder or scaffolding.
  • Textured, Popcorn or Smooth – If you have anything other than a smooth ceiling, expect the cost to paint a ceiling to be slightly more. If a sprayer can be used it may be less, but most often repainting a textured or popcorn ceiling cost slightly more due to the care needed for full paint coverage.
  • Ceiling Condition – Cost rises with the amount of patching, filling, sanding and similar surface prep before painting.
  • New Construction – New homes and additions can be painted quickly because the room is uncluttered, light fixtures and flooring haven’t been installed, so less care and prep are required.
  • Sprayed or Rolled – Painting with a sprayer, when conditions allow, goes much quicker than rolling it, so cost is lower.
  • Paint Quality and Type – Better quality paint costs more, though it might cover in one coat vs two. Tinted paint and paint with some sheen costs more than flat white ceiling paint.
  • Number of Primer & Paint Coats – A primer coat is required on bare drywall. Two coats are often required when cheap paint is used or when covering a very dark color. Multiple coats raise labor cost to paint a ceiling.
  • Obstacles – Ceiling painting estimates are higher when the ceiling has several fixtures, skylights, posts and other features that have to be taped off and cut in.
  • Who you Hire – Generally, a handyman charges less than a painting contractor. When you hire a general contractor or designer to oversee a larger project, and they sub-contract the painter, cost is highest.
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Cost of Ceiling Paint and Painting Supplies

Here are common costs for paint and supplies.

Money-saving Tip: When you need multiple gallons of primer and paint, consider buying it in a 5-gallon bucket. The cost per gallon will be $3-$8 lower, thus lowering the cost to paint a ceiling. And it always make sense to have extra for touch-ups. Just keep in mind that paint in a 5-gallon pail is harder to mix, so you might want to purchase a paint mixer drill attachment.

  • $12 – $20 per gallon | Primer – New drywall should be primed and sealed before painting. Primer is also useful as a cheap first coat when painting over darker colors. Coverage is about 300 square feet per gallon on new drywall and up to 450 square feet when covering existing paint.
  • $8 – $20 per gallon | Flat Ceiling Paint – Paint with a flat finish is the traditional choice for ceilings because it mutes imperfections – they are far less visible than when covered by eggshell or semi-gloss, for example. Additionally, it doesn’t reflect glare from lighting. Coverage is 300-350 square feet per gallon. Diamond Brite and other brands sell primer and flat paint in one. Most flat paint can be tinted.
  • $20 – $55 per gallon | Tinted Interior Paint in Matte, Eggshell or Semi-gloss – Average cost is about $35 per gallon, slightly less when bought in a 5-gallon pail. Most of it is marketed as “one coat” paint, and it should be unless the ceiling you’re covering is medium-dark or darker. Coverage is +/- 350 square feet per gallon. Pro Tip: The more sheen the paint has, the more glare you’ll get from lighting. Semi-gloss and gloss generally aren’t used on ceilings unless the lighting is recessed or the fixtures have opaque covers.
  • $24 – $36 per gallon | Stain Killing Paint – Kilz is one of several popular brands of paint that kill surface mold and effectively cover stains. Note that if the mold has penetrated into the drywall, the drywall should be replaced. Coverage is 250 to 400 square feet.

Painting Supplies Costs

  • $10 – $20 | Drill Attachment Paint Mixer – Even though the paint store will shake the paint, you’ll still want to give it a good shake or mix at home before applying it.
  • $30 – $125 | Homeowner-grade Powered Paint Sprayer or Roller – Sprayers start at about $30, but you’ll get significantly better quality for $50-$60. A decent electric powered roller kit like the Wagner Smart Side Kick cost about $90.
  • $12 – $40 | Paint Roller and Pads – Mechanical roller and pads are sold separately and in kits with 3 pads.
  • $5 – $60 | Extension Poll – A 3’ threaded wood pole is the cheapest way to go if it allows you to reach the ceiling from the floor. Metal poles, some that can be extended up to 20’, range from $15 to $30.
  • $3 – $25 | 2” Angular Trim Brush – You’ll get better results with a high-quality trim brush with nylon bristles. Average cost is $12-$15. Top brands are Purdy, Wooster and Stinger Brush.
  • $5 – $25 | Plastic Drop Cloth or Sheeting – A 9×12 drop cloth starts at about $5. A roll of plastic 10×25 sheeting costs $20 to $25.
  • $2 – $8 | Masking Tape – Based on width and roll length.

Permits, Inspection, Related Costs and Installation Time

Permits and/or Inspection Cost

  • $0 | No permit is required for ceiling painting.

Labor Costs and Installation Time

An experienced pro painter works at a pace of about 50 square feet per hour, though most of the time is in non-painting steps in the process.

The schedule might look like this when painting the ceiling of a 250 square foot room:

  • Up to 15 minutes | Tape off walls and fixtures, lay drop-cloth
  • 60-90 minutes | Patch or fill small imperfections with fast-drying spackle. Sand the spackle.
  • Up to 60 minutes per coat | Apply the first coat of paint or a primer coat and cut in the edges and around fixtures and vents. Wait for the paint or primer to dry, and apply the second coat, if needed.
  • Up to 15 minutes | Remove tape, pick up the drop cloth and clean up or pack up tools.
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Here are several other common projects related to having your ceiling painted.

Are You a Professional Home Painter?

If so, head over to our Costimates Pro’s page, and help us make this page better and more accurate for both our visitors and your future customers.

DIY or Hire a Pro?

If you want a “perfect” job or think your time is worth more than the $40 to $70 per hour a pro costs, then hire a painting contractor.

I’ve painted my share of ceilings and have gotten better with experience and by following best practices – which can be learned in instructional videos like this one.

Doing it yourself is certainly an option if you:

  • Are a stickler for details like carefully taping off walls and fixtures or removing the fixtures.
  • Know or are willing to learn basic techniques to ensure quality appearance with rich coverage but without roller marks.
  • Don’t mind a little neck and shoulder irritation that comes with looking up and holding a roller, brush or sprayer above your head for several hours.
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Common Questions and Answers

How Long Does it Take to Paint a Ceiling?

The time it takes to paint a ceiling depends on the size, condition and height of the ceiling. Prep work and cleanup take just as long as the ceiling painting itself.

Can You Paint a Textured or Popcorn Ceiling?

Yes. While it takes a bit longer due to having a non-smooth surface, textured and popcorn ceilings can be painted similar to smooth ceilings.

Does it Cost More to Paint Vaulted, or High Ceilings?

Yes. When scaffolding or tall ladders need to be used to paint a ceiling, the cost will rise due to added labor costs.

Should Walls or Ceilings be Painted First?

If you're painting the entire room, you want to paint the ceilings first. This is to avoid splatter and or spray from the roller or sprayer, getting on the walls.

Reviewed and Edited by Steve Hansen of Costimates

steve hansen of costimates-sm Steve Hansen is the Lead Editor of Costimates. (Learn more) An avid home improvement professional with more than 35 years experience in both DIY projects and working as a construction foreman in residential new home building, upfits, repairs and remodeling.

"Like most homeowners, I became frustrated with the lack of quality information available on specific home improvement repairs and renovations. In 2015, Costimates was formed to help homeowners learn as much as possible about various projects and their costs so they could make better financial decisions."