Hitting the Ceiling

As promised, here’s our tutorial on how to hide an ugly ceiling with paintable wallpaper!

How to Hide an Ugly Ceiling from Little House Big Heart

The Little House was built in 1940, but we’re pretty sure (after more demo this weekend) that our office was once a screened in back porch that was enclosed  sometime in the 1960s. The thing about the 1960s is that they didn’t always use the most attractive building materials.

Take acoustic ceiling tiles, for example. They’re ugly. Really ugly. And after 50 years of hanging out on our ceiling, they were dated, yellowed, and all-around gross.

Acoustic Ceiling Before

So, while we wanted the tiles gone in the worst way, we didn’t want to tackle tearing the entire ceiling out (it’s not in our budget right now). Instead, we decided to cover them up. We originally thought to plank them a la The Lettered Cottage, but when my mom suggested paintable wainscot wallpaper we decided to give it a go.

We went with Roth + Allen Paintable Beadboard Wallpaper from Lowes. It was a little beefier than the other paintable wainscot they carried, albeit a little more expensive. We needed three rolls which set us back $60.

Allen + Roth Paintable Beadboard Wallpaper

The first step in wallpapering your ceiling is to make sure it’s debris free. We took a broom to ours to knock down any cobwebs or dust that might hanging out (not that we’d EVER let cobwebs or dust see the light of day in the Little House).

Next, measure and cut your wallpaper pieces. This requires a little planning ahead to minimize the waste on each roll. The office is 8’x16′, so we decided to go with roughly 8′ strips. You’ll want your strips to be slightly longer than your wall. Because the roll was 33′ long, we knew we could get four strips with a little extra on each and have basically no waste.

 Measure and Cut wallpaper

When you have your wallpaper cut, soak it according to package directions (if it’s prepasted). Ours required a thirty second soak in warm water, then a five minute rest to allow the adhesive to activate (ignore the tile… it’s next on the remodel list).

Soak Wallpaper

Rest Wallpaper

Once your wallpaper paste has has sufficient time to do its thing, you’re ready to hang. This really is a two person job, so make sure to have your best DIY buddy handy. Other things you’ll want to have: a sharp utility knife, a ladder, and an old, wet rag.

Start about one wallpaper’s width from the wall. If you don’t have a convenient ceiling tile grid to help you line up your first piece, you’ll want to mark a straight line using a chalk line.

Now comes the challenging part: hanging the wallpaper. It’s flimsy. It’s slimy. It’s awkward. You may think that there’s no way it’ll cling to your ceiling, but have faith. It will. It’s hard to explain how to do this, so the video below shows Kevin and I hanging our third piece of wallpaper.

Once you get the paper to stick to the ceiling along your straight line, you’ll want to remove the bubbles. You can use a plastic wallpaper bubble remover, but I prefer a damp rag. Just start in the middle of the paper and work your way towards the ends, smoothing any bubbles out towards the edges and wiping up any excess adhesive that might squooge out.

Smooth out Excess Adhesive and Bubbles

Once the bubbles are smoothed out, you can cut the excess off using a sharp utility knife. You can use a straightedge here, but I chose to freehand it (because I’m a daring rebel like that).

Repeat until you cover the entire ceiling. We even wallpapered right over our air vent and light fixture electrical box, then cut them out after.

The paper we used recommended 24 hours dry time before painting, so when you’re done give it a day or so before painting. You may wake up to find a few seams have opened up. These are easy to fix with a tube of wallpaper seam glue (our tube was $2).

Wallpaper Seam Glue RepairsAs for paint, we noticed that the glare from the window and door was making any underlying imperfections in the ceiling more visible. To cut down on glare, we went with a flat white ceiling paint.

Flat White Paint

We trimmed and rolled the paint on as we would normally paint a ceiling, opting to go for two coats for really good coverage.


And that’s it. All together, the ceiling took about 4 1/2 hours to complete) three to hang the wallpaper, 1 1/2 to glue the seams and paint) and cost less than $100 ($60 for the paper, $2 for the seam glue, and $23 for paint).

We’re in love with the results. They’re better than we’d even imagined at the start.

Paintable Wainscot Ceiling After

Let’s just see it one more time for comparison’s sake.

Before and After

Better, no? And all for $85.


  1. Emily says:

    That is awesome! Even watching you two it seemed like a challenge. If you ever do decide to replace the ceiling (such amazing results don’t warrant a change) it will be much easier than if you used wood bead board.

  2. Kelly says:

    Love this post! I was just discussing the possibilities of paintable wallpaper over some cracked plaster walls the other day, and this has me sold!

  3. mom says:

    Well…..I am still rolling in the floor over your video, (great wallpaper hat, Jess!!), but the ceiling looks as good as I thought it would…..I papered our living room ceiling by myself and was literally sick from it for several days after……I cannot say enough how important it is to have someone to help u and if u can do it safely, scaffolding of some sort, that you can walk along as you hang the paper, is very helpful……I wondered if drywall stilts would work…..You two could quit engineering and hang wallpaper for a living….just saying…..heeheehee…..Loves u both like grapes….!!!!

  4. Jenn says:

    Jess, this looks amazing! Great work! Now I’m trying to convince Mark to maybe do it in one of our rooms. Also, I just watched the video and our pups are losing their minds trying to find your dogs. Love it!

  5. Amanda says:

    That looks fantastic! We might need to do this in our basement! Was your ceiling tile textured? Also, I’m convinced we have the same bathroom with different colored tile.

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  7. Ellen says:

    This looks awesome! I have similar tiles throughout my cottage. I was wondering if the cracks in the old ceiling tiles affected the wallpaper? Did these cracks present a problem over time?

    Thanks for all the info!

  8. Jamie says:

    Hey, I’ve just found this (sorry, I realize it was posted a bit ago). We’re looking to do a similar project in our living room, definitely with textured wallpaper, not necessarily the beadboard texture. Did you have any problems with the paper sticking at all? Some places I’ve read about the tiles being too porous. And were your tiles ever painted?

    Thanks. Your After pictures look really great. We’d love to achieve something similar!

    • Jessica Beals says:

      Hi, Jamie!

      The only issues we had was with the edges of the paper after we painted. It was like the paint rewetted the glue and a few of the edges came unstuck. It wasn’t anything that some seam glue couldn’t handle, though! Oh, and our tiles were painted about a year ago.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. tina says:

    Great job it’s been a while since you’ve put up the wallpaper on the ceiling. How is it holding up. I’m seriously thinking about doing that soon

  10. SUSAN says:

    I have used wallpaper over many “panneled” surfaces in my time and have found the best results are had when using wallpaper liner first.
    It is a bit more work because you apply 2 layers, but the liner is HEAVY and shrinks taught when dry and you see NO RIDGES from the seams. Then apply ANY wallpaper and it is PERFECTLY SMOOTH. Professionals use it under ALL wallpaper.
    Oh, yes. I am a professional 🙂

  11. jean says:

    I have a whole house done in this horrible square tile even the kichen was a 2×4 hung ceiling
    always wondered if it could be covered with this paper..i thought the ceiling should be pasted before hanging..so happy to see it can be done. now to find a buddy to help.. thank you

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