Read our guide on how to texture a ceiling quickly and easily to create a brand new look for your room.
Depending on who you talk to, a textured ceiling adds a great look to your room. Initially, these treatments gained popularity because applying them is simple and eliminates the need to finish the surface correctly. Minor imperfections get covered up or camouflaged. Also, adding a sprayed-on texture saves money and made the contractor’s job easier as well.
Many homeowners fell out of love with the classic popcorn ceiling texture in the late 1990s. They opted for a smooth finish or changed to some orange-peel or stucco finish. The reasons included several things like ease of cleaning or cosmetic appeal. Opinions vary on why the popcorn texture lost favor, but it's probably due to something simple like a swing in trends.
Before you jump feet first into applying a texture to your ceiling or changing the current ceiling treatment, you need to understand what you’re getting into from a cost and labor standpoint. If you plan to apply the texture yourself, the process is not simple and requires some equipment beyond a primary painter’s kit. Let’s look at the pros and cons before moving on to the how-to section.
Pros and Cons of Textured Ceilings and Applying Them
We'll begin with the advantages to soften the blow for the cons. If you’ve ever finished a drywall ceiling, you know getting the joints perfect is not an easy task. Over time, a smooth ceiling may crack along joints. Repairing these small cracks is simple, but the texture may cover them for much longer. Possibly the most significant advantage of adding texture is covering up imperfections on the ceiling.
Since the ceiling texture may cover imperfections, they reduce the time involved in prepping the ceiling. Less time translates into less cost (usually). If you live in a house with multiple floors or own a rental property with apartments above other units, textured ceilings offer an acoustic advantage as well. The texture may reduce the amount of sound passed between rooms through the ceiling.
Now for the cons, but don't let them discourage you. Many of the drawbacks we talk about either take a long time to become an issue, or they may get corrected during the application process. For instance, using a popcorn texture may hide imperfections in the ceiling, but only if the popcorn pieces you use are large, or it's sprayed on in thick coats.
The next problem is the equipment you need to apply a texture. Most ceiling textures make their way onto the ceiling via a spray gun or some air-powered device. If you don’t own the gear already, you may need to buy or rent some equipment. However, this con may be offset by using a contractor since they already have the gear.
Repairing a textured ceiling is not an easy task. If you’ve spent any time in home supply stores, you’ve probably seen popcorn texture repair kits that come in spray cans or some other quick fix method that claims to make ceiling repair easy. No textured ceiling repair is easy. The popcorn may be the wrong size, or the edges won't blend properly.
In many cases, the best approach to repairing a textured ceiling may be scraping it all off and starting over. This type of repair is not ideal, and you may never need to fix your ceiling. However, a high wind may remove a shingle or two from your roof and cause a roof leak, which eventually damages your ceiling. In short, any repair of a textured ceiling may get tedious or costly.
How to Texture a Ceiling
Applying texture treatments to a ceiling may seem difficult after reading our pros and cons sections above, but the job itself may end up easier than you’re imagining. With a little planning and some prep work, the entire project may take less than a morning to complete. The secret to any home improvement or repair is always in the prep work. Great prep jobs lead to great finished projects.
Prepping Your Ceiling and the Room for Work
For furniture, the best strategy is removing the furniture from the room. If you plan to leave them in the area, be sure to cover each piece entirely and tape the covering to the floor too. Spraying the texture creates small particles that dry rapidly in the air and become fine dust particles. Those dust particles get everywhere and invade every crack they find. Merely covering things won't stop the dust.
Cover the floors after you move the furniture and tape down the edges of whatever you material you use so that you know they won’t slip while you move around on them. Use something like this canvas drop cloth or plastic sheeting. Measure the room to determine how much material you’ll need or how much plastic to buy.
We understand you want this project to remain under budget, which is probably why you chose to do it yourself, but don't cheat yourself by buying the cheapest tools you find. Go ahead and purchase heavy drop cloths like we linked to above or get heavy three mils plastic sheeting.
Otherwise, you’ll waste time trying to keep everything in place and replacing the plastic sheeting while you always rip holes in the thin synthetic sheeting you bought because it was cheap.
Whether you choose a sprayer or a roller application method, we’ll explain those below, cover the walls as well. Splatter may seem like an easy cleanup in theory, but it’s never easy -- never. Use a quality painter’s tape and tape plastic or paper sheeting to the walls to protect them from overspray or splatter. When you get done, peel away the protective covering and enjoy your new ceiling treatment.
If your ceiling already has a textured treatment on it, scrape it off before you add a new texture. You may find guides that say this isn’t necessary, but the texture is barely hanging on to the ceiling as it is, and adding more weight creates problems. Popcorn type textures tend to fall off the ceiling if they get too heavy. Avoiding the mess, this may create is worth the extra time required to scrape the ceiling.
Patch any holes or fix any cracks that may cause bubbles or dips in the texture. That means repair every blemish using the minimum repair standard. Lightly sand the repairs but don’t worry about getting the finish perfect. You only want it smooth, so it doesn’t appear as a lump under the texture, but you don’t need to apply layer after layer of repairs to get it paint-ready. Just get it close, and let it go.
Never apply a texture to unfinished drywall or other materials. Paint at least one coat of primer over the ceiling and try to use a primer color that matches your final ceiling color. It doesn’t need to match perfectly, just get it close. Finally, remove any wall plates and tape over the electrical outlets or switches to prevent them from getting covered up with texture. Now you’re ready to texture the ceiling.
Applying the Texture to Your Ceiling
The easiest way to apply a texture to a ceiling, especially if this is your first time, is to roll it on using a paint roller. You may choose to spray the texture on, but each sprayer is different, so you need to consult the instructions that came with it before you start spraying. Mixing the paint or texture is only slightly different based on your application method. Sprayers usually need a thinner mixture.
Add an extra layer of plastic or another drop cloth to the center of the room and use that area to mix your paint and texture. Trust us. The extra $20 is worth it because replacing or cleaning flooring after a mistake probably costs more than the money. Consult the instructions for your texture before mixing it, but the usual method is roughly two cups of texture mix to one gallon of paint.
If you plan to use premixed texture, follow the instructions that come with the texture. The manufacturer usually includes instructions for rolling or spraying the texture on walls and ceilings. The rest of this tutorial assumes you plan to roll the texture onto the ceiling rather than spray it since these methods depend mainly on the device you use and the texture type.
Roll the texture onto the ceiling is sections using different strokes. Do not roll from one side of the ceiling to the next, then repeat the process. This is a lousy way to paint or apply texture. No matter how hard to try, you may create lines and poorly blended areas. Roll along the edge first then roll a two- or three-square foot area by applying the texture in multiple directions. Let it dry thoroughly.
Types of Textured Ceilings
The first step to create a popcorn ceiling is to make sure the ceiling is clean and ready to work on. Then, coat the ceiling with a stain-blocking primer to help the texture stick.
After that, mix two gallons of water with a bag of popcorn ceiling spray. This will usually come in a 13-pound bag. The mixture should be somewhat liquidy, but still lumpy, similar to cottage cheese.
Finally, use a texture gun to spray the mixture onto the ceiling.
Mud and Tape Ceiling
This process uses tape to create a textured ceiling. This method is costly and takes up a lot of time, so you definitely need to consider the pros and cons.
Stamped Texture Ceiling
With this method, you can choose an object to use as a stamp after you apply the drywall. Examples of objects to use are a sponge, broom bristles, tiles, or a brick.
Remember: the object that you use will create a mirrored image when you stamp it. So, if you choose something with words, it will be backward.
Some Final Notes
Rolling texture onto the ceiling is the safest approach for beginners. It’s the easiest way to control the texture and the thickness if you don’t have much experience with sprayers. Our guide explains the most common way to texture your ceiling, but you may find more methods if you feel adventurous. We encourage you to do some research before you commit to one process.