How to Paint Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles

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Don't use a nylon brush, as this will leave flaws in the finish.
Don't use a nylon brush, as this will leave flaws in the finish. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you would like to paint Styrofoam ceiling tiles, consider a couple of critical points before you get started. Certain types of paint will melt Styrofoam surfaces. Select the appropriate base and finish coat, or you may permanently damage the ceiling. Many times, Styrofoam ceilings tiles are hung within a metal frame. Unfortunately, metallic surfaces require a special acidic base coat before they will accept a painted finish. Prepare each surface in the appropriate manner, or your final finish may flake and fall to the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Metal self-etching primer
  • 1-gallon painter's pot
  • 2- to 3-inch polyester paintbrush
  • Latex primer
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Wooden stir stick
  • Roller frame
  • Roller extension pole
  • 3/4-inch nap roller cover
  • Stepladder
  • Goggles

Clear all items from the room.

Dust the Styrofoam ceiling tiles with a broom.

Line the tops of walls adjacent to the Styrofoam ceiling tiles with professional painter's tape. Cover the floor with fabric drop cloths.

Fill a 1-gallon painter's pot to one-quarter capacity with metal self-etching primer. Use a polyester paintbrush to apply etching primer to the exposed metal frame between each tile. Wait three hours for the frame to dry. Skip this step if there is no frame. Wash the brush with water.

Pour 2 gallons of latex primer into an empty, plastic 5-gallon bucket. Apply primer to the Styrofoam ceiling tiles and primed frame, using a roller, fitted with a 3/4-inch nap cover and extension pole. Use the polyester brush to smooth drips and coat area that are inaccessible to the roller. Wait two hours for the primer to dry. Wash the brush and roller with water.

Paint the Styrofoam ceiling tiles and frame just as you primed it. Apply a flat latex paint. Wait two hours for the ceiling to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a stepladder to access the Styrofoam ceiling tiles if you cannot reach them from the floor.
  • Study the safety guide on the stepladder before use.
  • Don't use plastic drop cloths, or primer and paint drips will pool.
  • Don't use a solvent-based primer or paint, as these will melt the Styrofoam.

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