Before you tackle the stain, identify and repair the cause. A water problem will keep coming back until you fix the moisture problem. This could be a roof leak or a build-up of condensation. To determine the type of water stain you’re dealing with, see our section called “Identifying a Roof Leak.”
Lighter stains can sometimes be removed with undiluted laundry bleach. Before you begin, be sure to place protective coverings over your carpet, drapes and furnishings. Wear rubber gloves to protect your skin and safety glasses to protect your eyes. Using a rag or sponge, dab the area with bleach until the stain is gone.
Severely discolored areas and grease stains will require sealing and painting. Ceiling panels damaged by fire must also be sealed.
A tip for small stains
Try covering with white shoe polish or chalk. For nicks or dents in a textured ceiling, apply white tub caulk. Contour the caulk to match the texture.
Materials you’ll need:
Masking tape, latex primer, pigmented shellac sealer (Kilz, Bins or XTM), latex paint, brushes, roller or paint pad.
Painting Ceiling Tiles
STEP 1: Before You Begin
To protect moldings, cover with masking tape. Also cover the battens between panels if they are decorative or wood grain. Test first to be sure the tape won’t pull off the finish. If there is a ceiling light or fan, turn off power to the work area and remove the ceiling fixture.
STEP 2: Apply Sealer Over Stain
Brush on sealer to cover stain. For uniform color, you might want to seal the entire ceiling. Let dry. For severe stains, add a second coat.
STEP 3: Apply Primer
With a brush, roller or paint pad, cover the ceiling panels with primer. These panels are very porous, so a primer coat will make the paint go on quicker and easier. Let dry. Some primers are also available in spray cans. If you have a small stain, you can easily cover it with sprayed-on primer.
STEP 4: Apply Paint
Brush or roll paint over the ceiling. Remove masking tape. Let dry. Put back ceiling fixture.