How to repair cracks in the ceiling

Here’s our step-by-step guide for how to repair ceiling cracks in plaster and paint with ease.

Updated

Paint brush leaning on a tin of white paint for repairing cracks in the ceiling

Key steps

  • Cover the floor and furniture first.
  • Scrape away loose material.
  • Apply mesh drywall tape to the entire crack.
  • Mix up 5-minute mud according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Apply the mud to the ceiling. Sand in between each later.
  • Once you’ve sanded the final layer, paint the repair to match the ceiling.

Repairing even little hairline cracks in ceiling plaster and paint can make a real difference to how comfortable your home feels. Once you've checked that the crack is not a sign of more serious structural damage, this article will give step-by-step tips on how to repair ceiling cracks in plaster and paint and make your ceiling look good as new!

Do not just apply spackling or joint compound over cracks in the ceiling. After a couple months you will find the crack re-emerges, likely bigger than before.

What do you need to repair cracks in ceiling plaster and paint?

Before you get started there are a few supplies you will need to gather:

  • Old sheets or tarpaulin
  • A ladder (or step ladder depending on the height of your ceiling)
  • Drywall knife
  • Mesh drywall tape
  • 5-minute mud
  • Putty knife
  • Access to water

How to repair cracks in the ceiling

Whether you’re dealing with hairline cracks in the ceiling or something a lot larger, the most important step is to check it is not part of more serious structural damage. If you are sure that it’s just cracked ceiling paint or plaster with no deeper origins, here’s how to repair ceiling cracks:

  1. Cover the floor beneath the crack with an old sheet or plastic tarpaulin. This will protect the floor as you loosen debris and apply paint and mud while you’re repairing your ceiling.
  2. Don’t forget to cover any furniture too. Move ornaments, photo frames or artwork to another room and cover bigger items, such as sofas, with sheets or tarpaulin.
  3. Prop up an A-frame ladder. This provides greater stability as you need to stand on it. Ensure it is flat and stable.
  4. Using a drywall knife, scrape away any loose material. Slice any torn or loose pieces off. Take care not to cause any more damage to the drywall itself.
  5. Apply drywall tape over the crack. Mesh drywall tape has a sticky adhesive, allowing it to attach to your ceiling. Using long strips, cover the whole thing.
  6. Prepare your 5-minute mud with water. Mix according to manufacturer’s instructions using a putty knife. Avoid making it too watery or it will simply fall off your ceiling.
  7. If you don’t have 5-minute mud, you can also use joint compound. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Be aware that 5-minute mud not only sets more firmly but can also strengthen the structural integrity of your ceiling.
  8. Spray the ceiling with water. This will help the mud stick more firmly to the plaster.
  9. Apply a layer of the mud to your ceiling crack. Apply a single, smooth layer using the broad edge of the putty knife; completely covering the mesh drywall tape. Use a dampened sponge or cloth to smooth out the layer before it sets.
  10. Let the mud dry. Although the mud will dry quickly (hence the name 5-minute mud!) leave around 30 minutes for it to fully dry.
  11. Give the first layer a sanding after it has finished drying. This will help you to have a smoother and more professional final look.
  12. Prepare some more 5-minute mud. This will need to be slightly more watery than the first batch, as it has to adhere to the first layer.
  13. Apply another layer of the mud. This should cover the first and ensure no mesh pattern is visible.
  14. Once the mud is dry, sand the area. This will smooth the repair in line with the rest of the ceiling.
  15. Paint the ceiling area you’ve sanded to match the rest. If you don’t have your ceiling paint in storage, you can take a coin-sized paint chip to a specialist to colour match the rest of the ceiling. Now all you need to do it paint over it!

With our top tips and tricks for repairing cracked ceiling paint and plaster, you will be able to quickly and easily fix it up to look good as new in no time.

As you’ll be working above your head from a ladder, always wear protective eye goggles and a surgery mask or bandana over your mouth to protect yourself from any dust.

Originally published