How to Re-paint a Calcimine Ceiling

I had never heard of calcimine paint. I didn’t think anything could be worse than removing wallpaper, but apparently removing and repainting calcimine paint is a hundred times more difficult.

Calcimine is a chalk-based paint. Way back when, people would re-paint their ceilings with inexpensive calcimine paint after each winter to cover the soot from the wood stove.

We noticed our ceiling was peeling paint, so we scraped it down a bit to get the paint even, then started to paint over it.

But with one swoop of the roller, the existing paint completely peeled off.

The culprit? CALCIMINE.

The solution? NOT EASY.

But with a little time and a lot of elbow grease, you can do it!

DISCLAIMER: While it’s only five steps, it is truthfully more difficult than it sounds. It took us about a week and a half to do our living room ceiling.

The hardest part, by far, is the scraping. Your neck and arms will kill. But it will be so worth it in the end to have a beautiful, even, non-peeling ceiling!

  1. SCRAPE: Scrape the ENTIRE ceiling down to the drywall. Use a paint scraper, putty knife – whatever it takes. Do not just scrape where its already peeling. You must get the entire ceiling down to the drywall or you will not be able to repaint – the paint will not stick.
  2. WASH: Wash the ceiling with Simple Green diluted in water. We used a large mop to do this. We would get it wet in a bucket, then drag it across the ceiling.
  3. RINSE: Make sure all the Simple Green or soap is off the ceiling by using a wet mop without any additives and swab the ceiling again.
  4. LET DRY: Make sure the ceiling dries completely – depending on temperature and humidity, this could take a few hours to a day.
  5. PAINT: You’re finally ready to re-paint! And keep in mind, you cannot use regular ceiling paint. The only stuff that will work is specially designed oil-based paint known as “calcimine recoater.” It is pricey, but its necessary if you want the paint to stick. We used Benjamin Moore’s Super Spec Alkyd Calcimine Recoater – about $50 a gallon.

We got lucky – the only room in the house with a ceiling in really rough shape was the living room. Unfortunately however, it was also the biggest room.

If you have calcimine paint in your home – be sure to follow the instructions above exactly. Don’t try to cut corners. It won’t work. The paint just won’t stick if there’s any calcimine!


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