How to Restore a Canvas Ceiling

Canvas ceilings are constructed from a stretched canvas material that is attached directly to the ceiling and whitewashed with calcimine paint. Calcimine paint is constructed from zinc-oxide, water and glue and was used widely to cover walls and canvas ceilings throughout the 19th and 20th century. The most effective way to restore your canvas ceiling is to clean and remove the loose and peeling calcimine before trying to prime and repaint the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 tablespoon mild dish soap
  • 1/4 gallon warm water
  • Kitchen sponges
  • Wire brush
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint roller or brush
  • Latex indoor paint


    • 1

      Create a mixture to clean the ceiling with 1 tablespoon mild dish soap and one-quarter gallon warm water. Dampen a kitchen sponge with the mixture and wipe down the canvas ceiling. Over time, the calcimine paint begins to degrade, causing a chalky residue that must be removed before continuing.

    • 2

      Dampen a separate kitchen sponge with plain water and wipe down the canvas ceiling to remove the soapy residue. Allow the ceiling to dry completely before continuing.

    • 3

      Remove any areas of peeling or chipped calcimine paint with a wire brush. Wipe down the repaired areas with a tack cloth to remove any dust.

    • 4

      Cover the canvas ceiling with a thin layer of primer designed to adhere to chalky surfaces, such as those covered with calcimine paint or masonry surfaces, with a paint roller or brush. Allow the primer to dry for at least eight hours, or overnight, before continuing.

    • 5

      Apply a thin layer of latex indoor paint to the ceiling with a paint roller or brush. Allow the first coat to dry to the touch, or at least three to four hours, before applying a second, and if necessary third, coat of the paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Open a window and run a box fan to ventilate the space and speed up drying time.
  • Wear a respirator and safety goggles while removing the calcimine paint to avoid inhaling the chalky substance.
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