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How to Texture a Ceiling :: One Example, an Essay


Sooooooo the time in the program came when we had to figure out how to texture a ceilingour office‘s ceiling. The ceiling as it was had been finished with a fibrous wall board, a panelized product made of compressed fibers. My only hope was that this product was picked to provide added insulation and, well, that it did not contain asbestos. It had been installed many years ago.

As always, I explored some options – some with my wife – but in the end decided that I would simply skim coat the 7×12 area, and we then would finish it with a textured paint. The skim coating went as well as planned. As we had done this in other locations in this house, I hit it with two coats of lightweight compound, the second drastically thinned.

Monday morning, President’s Day, and as my wife is my painter, we decided that she would work on the ceiling. It just made sense; my upcoming goals include finishing the office flooring.

We were not that familiar with textured surfaces. There was a heavy textured swirl on the some the ceilings of our last house; in our current house, we had a stipple in a few rooms. So from those angles, it worked. I had a good bit of experience with knock-down spray texture (thanks to the builders of the early ’90s) but otherwise, we had only ever done one other textured surface, again a ceiling. But that time, it was a sanded effect. With that, you add the product to some paint and just roll it on.

I bought the right product, briefly skimmed the instructions, and mixed up a test batch. And it was time for my wife and me to convene. The girls, with Mom and Dad home and no school this day were beginning to act up, but nonetheless we held our planning meeting.

Note: I wrote pretty extensively about Texture Types and Techniques in this guide for The Home Depot’s Pro Referral Network >> How to Texture a Ceiling.

Life of Weekend Warriors

I can’t say that I know everything. I can’t say when it comes to home improvement that I can do everything. And I admit, as much as it makes me want to grind my teeth, I may be nothing more than a weekend warrior.

You have heard a little bit about the daughters, Evyn and Eva, five and three, and the wife, who while she is an active and sometimes busy real estate agent, does a pretty good job of holding down a full time job as Mommy. I have a full time job too.

We bought this house, as we seem to buy all our houses, on a whim. And it has been quite overwhelming at times. It is a project, and while many of my peers seem to buy houses that don’t quite require as much maintenance, we welcomed the challenge. Sometimes we embrace it; other times, and let me be frank, it feels like it has ruined our lives.

While other folks spend weekends picking up, you know doing normal household upkeep stuff; it seems that we instead are doing home improvement. We get great satisfaction out of it most of the time. Sometimes, though, typically after an unnecessary meltdown, we do have to step back together, and realize that what we are doing, what we have done, only helps to build a strong family. I mean, after about 10 years, we actually have some net worth. At 38. Good, right?

And while we still do plenty of things with the girls, including involving them to some degree in our home projects; I think in the end they know why we do what we do. Even though, we do have to put them off sometimes.

Test Texture Patterns on a Scrap Piece of Drywall

The office ceiling: you may have noticed this highlighted in the side bar for the last couple weeks. It was one of those things. It was one task that I wanted to take the short way towards. Come on, why does anyone put texture on a ceiling other than to take the short route with drywall finishing and/or to hide something?

I set my wife up with the test mix, grabbed her a couple of pieces of scrap drywall, and we met so she could practice. I told her what I envisioned. She proceeded to lay the drywall out on the floor and began going to town. Starting with a three inch brush, he covered the entire surface, and then she began to play.

She started with zig zags, first, short stroked then longer. That looked awesome. But we discussed it, it would be difficult to keep that pattern uniform across the entire length of the ceiling, even with working lines. So we scrapped it. Next she tried swirls, I liked it. After a little more discussion, we decided that that was the ticket.

Remodeling with Kids

Okay, Babe. Have at it, I am going to take the girls out to the playground, I said.

She replies, But wait. You’re not going anywhere. I know how you are, and here it comes, You’re not even happy with your own work; you are not leaving me here to do something I have never tried. I don’t care if they are in there killing each other. . .you are staying right here until I at least get some of this ceiling done.

Yeah, I don’t know. Her words caused me, right at that moment in time, to snap. I mean, I have no idea what I said, and that probably doesn’t really matter, but it was how I said it. And it wasn’t nice.

I just wanted her to make something happen without me just once. Don’t get me wrong, she does a lot, but as the construction manager on this job, I usually have to at least help her get set up, e.g., tell her where primer, drop clothes, etc. are. I said, Can’t you just make it good. And get it done?

So a fair share words were exchanged, and there we were. I mixed up a full batch, Polly Pockets spread over every inch of the living room in the mean time, and she did a trial for me. Using a thick napped roller, she applied my special textured blend to the ceiling. And then, she swirled.

Working with Your Partner :: Trust is Key

Let me step back. I had all but removed myself this Monday; the wife was gonna paint and I was going to keep the girls out of her hair. That said, while I thought about sanding off the ceiling that I had skim coated, I decided against it. We were already using this room as an office/computer room, and hey, we were going to apply a textured finish – it would hide any imperfections, right? We discussed it and we didn’t even prime (Not the point of the article, but we probably should have).

As her sample coat went on, and with the texture still sitting near the top of the mix, it went on fairly heavy. And swirls were working out well. But it, the technique, as it was, wasn’t really hiding the imperfections enough. We discussed some more, this time a little more nicely, and we decided that she did need to sand off the rest of ceiling a little.

And I was cleared to take the girls. So I did, as her test strip, ending abruptly about 3 feet from the laundry room wall, sat there drying.

When you Texture that is Room for Error

There I was on my way, with the girls, heading out. We eventually ended up at McD’s on this glorious day. In their Fun Land, it was fun. They had a marvelous time, and I read the paper. I have to admit though, I lingered a little on my house, all the work I need to do, and the interaction that went on just less than an hour ago. I’m a freak, I thought. Am I really that hard to please?

I believe especially when it comes to houses that it’s always the whole over the part, if you know what I mean. No one is looking at the perfection of texturing technique; they are looking to see rather that you have a home office. And we do. So I let go a little, but still reflect. Do I really project like she says? I have tile floor, and please remind me to tell you about it one day, that I am not super happy about, but generally – I think in this case I would have been pretty happy with anything.

*Then I Called Home

Me: So I get the call. How’d it turn out? I ask.

Mrs. Moxie: Pretty good, except for one thing. . . .Do you want me to tell you? I said, No.

We closed down Fun Land that afternoon, and as I made my way home, I remained pensive. What awaited me?

Inspecting the Texture on the Office Ceiling

So I walked into the office, and looked up. Wow, it looks fantastic; I can’t really see any of the imperfections in my drywall. Do you see it? she asked.

And first I couldn’t. And then there it was, as pavers would call it, a cold joint. You see, when pavers are paving, if the asphalt isn’t delivered in enough time to do the pour in one shot, it creates a very noticeable, and undesirable, seam in the work. And that’s what it was. A seam right were she had stopped her test run to sand off the ceiling. Man, I really screwed her, I thought.

She set me straight real quick, though, and in her positive way, she says, Can’t you sand that off, and work to blend it in a little more? I said, Well, do you have more texture? She said, A ton. And I said, Sure.

The “cold joint” can be seen faintly at the bottom of the picture above.

Summing Up

I know that was a lot of words just to tell you about our 7×12 textured ceiling, and I really did milk this driving parallel, but I learned some lessons that day:

When using an admix texture product, make sure to keep the texture mixed with the paint throughout the process of applying it. Apply the paint evenly. (You can notice some pitting in the ceiling, spots where the maybe the coverage of the texture was not as good as it could have been.) And do it in one pass, regardless of what is going on around you.

Now, chances are most anyone that has found their way to this piece, was looking for just that information, right above. But hey, bigger lessons in here. . . .

As always, thanks for reading; I will keep you abreast
2.19 — Jenny, my wife, sanded off the “cold joint” yesterday; it took her about 15 minutes. She applied touch up to the ceiling and it looks perfect.

For more Essays from Building Moxie, please see our Category aptly called, well, Essays. ~jb

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