How to strip paint from an original plaster ceiling rose


Restoring a decorative plaster ceiling rose

Have you ever looked up at that beautiful decorative plaster ceiling rose in you house and wondered what amazing period details may lie beneath those many layers of paint that have been added over the years?

Stripping paint form an original plaster ceiling rose is a rewarding project. You can either get a professional in to do the job, or do it your self. If you take on the project yourself be prepared for some patient restoration. If you hire someone in, the cost may seem quite a lot because of the time and labour involved. Either way, we believe its worth the effort, as you can end up uncovering some real gems, which may not have seen the light of day since a georgian decorator installed and coated it in its first layer of white wash hundreds of years ago.

Distemper was the original paint used in Georgian and Victorian times but you will find many layers of paint after this. Precaution should be taken as Victorian painters may have used lead paint, which is toxic, on their ceiling roses. The amount of layers of paint on an original rose based on the average decorating time a ceiling gets painted (every five or so years) will be up to 50 layers if georgian! These many layers of paint can completely mask any fine detail that lies beneath. The original detail can be very fine once uncovered and this often comes as a delight to the owner.

“Once in a while you will locate a hollow which when delicately cracked may remove a large chunk of paint and give a tantalising glimpse of the detail below.”

How to strip paint from an original plaster ceiling rose:

Before starting its best to remove any lights from the rose to ensure any dust and gunk doesn’t get stuck in your lovely chandelier, dusting the many crystal lobes of a chandelier can be a challenging task in itself, so best to remove them if possible. Also make sure that any electrical cables are out of the way, you definitely do not want to forget about any bare live electrical wires whilst working on your original plaster ceiling rose only to find your self brushing your hand on the open wires and getting a rude awakening!

Begin by removing what comes away quite easily with a very gentle prod of a wooden tool such as the blunt end of a paint brush. Do not use a metal object as this can easily damage the plaster. A gentle tap and a rub on the surface will remove the very loose paint. Once in a while you will locate a hollow which when delicately cracked may remove a large chunk of paint and give a tantalising glimpse of some detail below.

When you have removed most of the loose paint the next thing to do is use an excellent paint removal product called peel away. There are many products on the market, but this seems to be the only formulation that really works. Use the manufacturers guidelines to apply the formula. this stuff is a fairly thick paste that is left on the surface for a period of time which works into paint and breaks it down so you can then scrape it off. After this process there will still be some stubborn paint left. The final stage involves taking  smaller objects, such as wooden tooth picks,  to get into the small crevices of the rose. Stubborn surface layers can also gently be sanded away with a fine grade sand paper of perhaps 240 grit.

Final touches 

You can sharpen up the edge of the original plaster rose that meets the ceiling by either taking some fine grade sandpaper and sanding down where it meets. Roses often have a an edge that meets the wall at 90 degrees and it finishes the job nicely if this edge can be defined, this especially true when the ceiling is a different colour from the rose. That said, I do not believe that perfection should be sought. When ornate period features such as ceiling roses and cornices have too perfect a line, it can look out of place and out of sync with rest of the property. In most period property’s, walls have sunk and dipped in places due to the movement of the property over hundreds of years, the period features should also be allowed to show some of the charming signs of age.



Posted in Ceiling Rose, Georgian, Restoration, Victorian

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