Painting a ceiling is no small feat. The height, awkward positioning and the balancing act required to successfully paint a ceiling can be exhausting. The last thing you want to see is a patchy looking paint job after all of that hard work.

So, if after all of that work you see a patchy uneven ceiling your first question is, “What went wrong?” There can be a few reasons why a ceiling paint job turns out less than perfect. Let’s look at the most common reason first.

A patchy paint job is often the result of a thin or inadequate layer of paint. This can often result if you chose the wrong type of paint for a ceiling, you purchased a very cheap brand of paint or if you are using an old can of paint.

If you feel pretty certain that you used the proper type of paint, there are a few other reasons that could contribute to a patchy paint job.


The worst mistake you can make during a paint job is to get into a hurry. A great paint job takes time. Go ahead and dedicate the necessary time to the task so that you can be proud of the result. The only thing you get from a rushed paint job is frustration and more work.

If you rush through your paint job, the first thing you will see is that you missed a lot. This will immediately result in more work. In some cases a room or ceiling must be completely repainted in order to correct the mistakes caused by rushing through the job.

If you want to get done quickly, the best way is to take your time. This will ensure that you are not going back later spending more time on the project fixing things you missed the first round.

Skipping the Primer

If you are rushing through your paint job, you might be tempted to skip steps. The painting process can be tedious and there is often a temptation to skip a few steps in order to save some time or money. Priming your surface is one such step that people often want to skip.

Priming your surface is a crucial part of the painting process. If you do not properly prime your surface you can have several different problems pop up once you think you are done. The number one problem is that previous colors or stains will bleed through. Always prime your surface or buy a premium brand of paint with a primer made into it.

Dirty Surface

Another contributing factor to a patchy paint job can be a dirty surface. Once again, this goes back to skipping steps in a hope to get the job done faster. Skipping steps during a paint job never pays off. If you want the paint job to look great for years to come, then you will need to invest the necessary time into the project.

Although ceilings are never touched and obviously nothing can get spilled on them, they can still get very dirty over the years. Dust and grime will often rise with heated air and create a thin coating on your ceilings. If you are painting a ceiling in a kitchen, this layer of grime can also carry with it grease residue from cooking.

Ceilings can also develop stains from moisture that has collected in odd spots over the years. If there are smokers in the house, nicotine can also cling to the ceiling. The point is ceilings get dirty too, and in order to achieve the best paint job, the ceiling needs to be thoroughly cleaned before painting.

Bad Equipment

Good quality paint is obviously one of the most important aspects of a quality paint job, but coming in at a close second is good quality equipment. This is where some people hope to skimp to save a few dollars.

It only takes a quick stroll down the paint aisle to see that painting equipment can come in a range of prices. Why the difference? The difference in prices often indicates the difference in quality. Some paint jobs do not need top of the line, premium equipment.

For instance, if you are painting a dog house, you will not be as concerned with the finished product as you would painting your living room or dining room.

Good quality equipment will make a ceiling paint job go much more smoothly and it will give you a better result in the end.

Considering the elevated height you will be working at as well as the sometimes awkward positioning you must get into in order to complete a ceiling paint job, it is best to go ahead and invest the type of equipment that will make the job easier and give you the best result.

Uneven Application

If you feel that you covered all of your bases and still wound up with a patchy paint job then the culprit could be uneven application. Uneven application is often a problem people run into when doing their first few paint jobs.

Professional painters understand that you can have all the right equipment and the best brand of paint, but if you do not put it on properly, you will not get the result you want.

Application is tricky because it is one of those things that you learn with experience. One of the best ways to make sure your application is on point is to make sure you have a sufficient ladder. Getting yourself into a secured, comfortable position near the ceiling will increase your chances of a good application.

You should be using a 9 inch roller, and you will need to situate yourself in such a way as to be able to have a paint tray with you near the ceiling.

Once you are all setup, take your time. This has been mentioned a few times now. You cannot rush a paint job and expect a great result. Take your time. Roll slowly, with appropriate pressure on your roller. Always begin your next roll on the wet edge of the previous roll. This will allow you to better see your progress.

Painting a ceiling can be challenging. If you discover that your ceiling paint job looks patchy, one of these reasons could be to blame. If you are reading this before you begin your paint job, hopefully these tips and warnings will help you avoid a patchy paint job.

Is it okay to use paint with primer built in? Many brands of premium paint will have a primer built in. Trusting the built in primer is a personal choice and often learning which brands you can trust is a matter of experience.


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