Cut In Stain at the Ceiling
Stain and finish the trim first, and then paint the ceiling.
Try as I might, I can’t get a nice, crisp line where stain-grade crown meets the ceiling. Is there a special order of work or technique for this?
Ed Bryant, via email, None
Tim Leahy, author of “ Finishing Secrets for Furniture-Grade Trim ” (FHB #201), replies: Cutting in trim to the ceiling is challenging, whether it’s stain grade or paint grade. The easiest approach I’ve found is to lap the stain and clear-coat finishes onto the ceiling, then to cut the ceiling paint into the trim.
First, I prime the ceiling, then stain and finish the trim. After I’m finished with all the clear coats, I sand the perimeter of the ceiling with 220-grit sandpaper. Then I paint the ceiling with two coats of ceiling paint. I like to thin the first coat with water (by about 10%) to make it easier to control near the crown. Once the first coat is cut in and rolled, I allow it to dry; then I apply a second, undiluted coat of paint.
Allow the edge of the brush to touch the ceiling when applying the stain. This ensures full coverage of the crown. In the end, it’s better to leave the stain and clear coats long than to have the ceiling’s white paint touch the face of the crown. People rarely look straight up at the crown/ceiling intersection. They usually look at the crown/ceiling intersection from across the room, where the face of the crown is more noticeable.
Cut in the ceiling. Once the final coat of clear finish is dry, sand the perimeter of the ceiling with 220-grit sandpaper. Then, using a 2-in. tapered sash brush, cut the ceiling paint into the crown. Thin the first coat of paint with about 10% water, then apply a second coat at full strength.
Photos by Chris Ermides