Can You Use Semi-Gloss On A Ceiling? (Do’s & Don’ts)

gloss paint on ceiling

We recently started repainting the rooms in our house, and it comes with new territory of paint shops and choices that will have long-lasting effects. The most significant choice recently was what to paint on the ceilings. The options came down to matte latex paint, satin paint, and semi-gloss paint.

Semi-gloss paint is helpful for many surfaces, of which ceilings might not be one of them. It can, however, work well in a bathroom or kitchen where high volumes of moisture will be created, but there are other products to add to paint, such as mildew-resistant agents that work well too.

You might think that semi-gloss paint is perfect for ceilings as it is slightly glossy, which can give your ceiling an overall good finish. But unfortunately, the reality is that semi-gloss paint on ceilings can reflect the artificial light of your ceiling lamps and create an unattractive glare. 

When Should You Use Semi-Gloss On A Ceiling?

There are a few reasons why you are considering semi-gloss paint for your bathroom or kitchen ceiling. First, you might have heard that it is more challenging for mold to form over semi-gloss and more durable in the long term. 

These are both true. Semi-gloss paint contains more resin and binders than flat paints, making the paint have a tighter molecular structure than matte paints. 

Because bathrooms and kitchens will have constant moisture or grease drops on the ceiling. The tighter molecular structure of semi-gloss paint will ensure it does not get infiltrated with moisture as quickly as flat paints, which will help that fungal growth does occur easily.

Since these two rooms in a house have so much moisture, they are prone to regular cleaning. Unfortunately, flat paints are not durable enough for regular cleaning and will lose their finish. 

Because semi-gloss paint has a tighter molecular structure, semi-gloss is more durable than flat paints to clean. That means you can often clean your bathroom and kitchen ceiling without worrying that it would affect the finish.

This being said, if you clean your bathroom or kitchen ceiling more often, the chances of fungal growth would be even less than with flat paints making it an excellent choice for painting ceilings with semi-gloss in the bathroom and kitchen. 

Painting Semi-Gloss On Ceilings: What You Must Know

Although it is an excellent choice for painting ceilings in high moisture areas, semi-gloss does have its flaws. 

Because of the tighter molecular structure, semi-gloss paint does not do well in hiding defects on walls or ceiling surfaces. This makes it challenging to paint with, as we always count on the paint hiding a mistake or two made. 

For this reason, the surface where you will be painting semi-gloss should be perfect, blemish, and imperfection-free. Doing this will ensure that the visibility of these problems does not show.

How To Paint A Ceiling With Semi-Gloss 

paint ceiling

As with all paint jobs, fortune favors the prepared. Therefore, for great results, you should prep well. Otherwise, you will be disappointed with the results, and it might look like a paint job gone wrong. 

  1. Cleaning your ceiling is always the first step. I like to wash my ceiling with some TSP cleaner by mixing it with hot water until it is dissolved. Then I pour it into an old spray bottle and spray the ceiling 4-foot by 4-foot. Give it a few minutes to work and wipe with a grout sponge soaked in clean, warm water.
  2. Rough up the surface. Most of the time, when repainting a wall, we would sand it down to give the paint a surface to stick to. Your ceiling would be no different. So if you are repainting your semi-gloss ceiling, you need to rough up the semi-gloss paint for the new paint to stick. 
  3. Apply primer. Before painting semi-gloss on your ceiling, you will need to apply primer. Whether latex or oil paint, it is best to paint the primer recommended by the manufacturer. High-gloss and semi-gloss paints used oil-based paints, but modern times have changed that, and you get many semi-gloss paints that are latex-based. 
  4. Apply semi-gloss paint. Once the primer on the ceiling has entirely dried, you can now paint the ceiling – keeping in mind that semi-gloss paints are difficult to touch up, and if mistakes are made, you might need to repaint a whole new layer.

When Should You Not Use Semi-Gloss On A Ceiling?

paint ceiling beam

A ceiling, in general, is challenging to paint. So, using challenging paint to paint with is something you don’t need in your life. Don’t do it if there is no need to paint with semi-gloss paint. 

There would be no reason for you to paint a bedroom, living room, study, or any other recreational room with semi-gloss paint. These rooms are not high moisture areas, and standard latex ceiling paint would do. 

You can find latex ceiling paint in any paint shop you visit or at the paint section of your local hardware store. It is specially designed for painting a ceiling. 

You would find that its consistency is entirely different from semi-gloss paint. The viscosity of ceiling paint is more than other paints, which means that it paints with less paint mist and splatter and will give a ceiling a nice smooth and fresh look. 

It is not advisable to paint a bathroom or kitchen with plain latex paint as the durability of cleaning it is not guaranteed, and moisture might find a way into the molecular structure quicker than with semi-gloss paints.

Alternatives To Semi-Gloss Painting

ceiling paint

There are fantastic ceiling paint alternatives to semi-gloss that will give you a beautiful low glare finished look. And as mentioned above, although ceilings in bathrooms and kitchen can do with semi-gloss paint, it is unnecessary to use it in rooms with low moisture, such as bedrooms and living rooms. 

Ceiling paint by itself is an excellent alternative to painting with semi-gloss. It is ideal for ceilings with blemishes or old mold marks that will appear as stains on your ceiling. 

There are also alternatives more suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. These often-called smart paints have anti-fungal ingredients mixed in to help fungal growth not occur as quickly. However, this is not a ticket to not cleaning your bathroom or kitchen ceiling regularly. 

If you foresee that you might have a problematic ceiling, it would be best for you to discuss your ceiling paint needs with a professional. Luckily there are professionals in the field, and the best person to discuss this with is the paint mixer at your local paint shop.

Sometimes they can also mix in an anti-fungal product into your latex ceiling paint so that you get the best look and protection for your ceiling. 


There is a place for semi-gloss paint in every house. In ours, it’s definitely on furniture. It gives it a nice glossy look. Many people prefer semi-gloss paints for their bathroom and kitchen ceilings. The best person to determine where the place for semi-gloss is you. 

Choosing what look you want on your ceiling is a difficult choice. But a well-informed decision will give you a peaceful night’s rest and a ceiling finish that you will not regret.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.