How to paint old ceiling tiles

Written by mark morris
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How to paint old ceiling tiles
Use spray paint to repaint the grid. (spray image by Dragana Petrovic from

Drop ceilings are an easy solution to ugly pipes, wiring and other ceiling issues, but ageing ceiling tiles can become discoloured and stained. What was once a cover-up for ugliness becomes an eyesore in its own right. However, replacing a roomful of ceiling tiles can be quite an investment. Painting your old ceiling tiles is an affordable and quick option that can brighten up your space. Proper prep work is the key to a quality paint job.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dust sheet
  • Whisk broom
  • Painter's tape
  • Spray paint
  • Roller with extension handle
  • Oil based primer
  • Latex paint

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  1. 1

    Remove your tiles from the ceiling grid by lifting them up and turning them on edge, then sliding them down and out of the grid. Clean the ceiling tile grid with a sponge and a solution of warm water and dish detergent. If the grid has any chips or discolouration, apply a coat of spray paint in the colour of your choice.

  2. 2

    Run a strip of 2-inch painter's tape around the wall up against the bottom of the grid. Use a piece of cardboard to shield the rest of the wall as you spray. Hold the can 8 to 10 inches from the grid, moving the can in short bursts. Avoid over-saturation, which can lead to puddling, runs and drips in the finish.

  3. 3

    Spread a group of ceiling tiles on a plastic dust sheet. Clean the dust and debris from the surface of the tiles with a whisk broom. Roll a coat of oil based primer onto the tiles with a medium nap roller. Cover the entire surface of each tile. Allow the tiles to dry for the time the primer label recommends before stacking the tiles and spreading out another group. Repeat the process until all of your tiles are primed.

  4. 4

    Choose a colour for your tiles. Paint them in the same colour as your grid for a subtle, unobtrusive look, or choose a complementary or contrasting colour for a more dramatic effect. Lighter colours reflect light to open up your space. Darker colours will create a more intimate atmosphere. Roll two coats of semigloss latex paint in your chosen colour onto the face of each tile.

  5. 5

    Use a medium nap roller and long extension handle to apply the paint. Allow adequate drying time between coats. Re-coating too soon will cause the first coat to lift, damaging the tiles. Allow the tiles to dry overnight before reinstalling them in the grid.

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