Texturing is an easy, inexpensive way to add interest, variety, and style to a room. Let us show you how!

January 26, 2019

Texture adds interest, variety, and style to walls and ceilings. A soft spray-on texture that's used exclusively on ceilings is sometimes called "popcorn" or "cottage cheese." Contractors love it because it's faster (and therefore less expensive) than a ceiling that's carefully sanded. Although you can skip the sanding, don't get careless about filling seams and covering the fastener heads. Such defects will show through the texture, especially under critical lighting situations.

To shoot on popcorn texture, you'll need a compressor and must buy or rent a hopper. Bags of texture are available in several sizes of granules. As a rule of thumb, avoid bulky textures in a small room; the texture can become too dominant, making the room seem even smaller.

You can also spray thinned joint compound through an airless spray rig to create a range of textures on walls and ceilings. Not all applications require fancy equipment. Brooms, sponges, toothed trowels, flat trowels, and other tools yield an unlimited variety of textures. Experiment on scrap pieces of drywall or on closet ceilings to perfect your technique.

To see all of this at play and to better understand how to do this technique yourself, check out our instructions below. This is a great option for homeowers wanting a unique look while staying under budget.

Protect Fixtures and Wiring

Before applying texture, stuff fiberglass insulation or a wad of newspaper into ceiling canisters. Otherwise, the sprayed material can foul the socket and also make trim rings difficult to install. Use the same materials to protect wiring in ceiling boxes; it's a challenge to wire circuits when all of the wires have been sprayed white. For safety, make sure there's no power to electrical boxes in the spray's path.

Caution: Drywall May Sag

The moisture plus the added weight of the texture can sometimes cause panels to sag noticeably. Before you apply texture on a ceiling, verify the thickness of the drywall, the joist spacing, and the application direction of the panels to avoid potential problems.

What You Need

  • Compressor with a  hopper
  • Texture material
  • drinking-grade water
  • 1/2-inch drill with mixer

Spraying Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Step 1: Protect Walls

Buy a roll of painter's plastic — a thin, economical translucent sheet — and use masking tape to secure it within 2 inches of the ceiling. Top the plastic with 6-inch-wide masking paper taped along the ceiling/wall joint. A handheld masking machine dispenses half of the tape's width onto the paper. For best results, paint the ceiling with a primer before applying the texture.

Tip: Dress the Part

Safety glasses are an absolute must when you spray a ceiling, and an inexpensive painter's cap is an excellent idea. Long sleeves and full-length pants make personal cleanup easy. Tossing your clothes into the washer is much easier than scraping texture from your skin.

Step 2: Mix Texture

Mix the powdered texture with water according to the manufacturer's directions. Pour a small amount into the hopper, and experiment with different spray tips or pressure settings until you get the desired results. Fill the hopper to a comfortable level (half or less until you get the hang of it), and you're ready to start.

Step 3: Spray Evenly

Maintain a consistent distance from the ceiling — between 2 and 4 feet works for most professionals. Walk sideways to spray the first stripe of texture, then slightly overlap it with the second stripe. Continue until you reach the end of the room. Apply the second coat at right angles to the first.

Applying Knockdown Texture

Step 1: Prime and Spray

Prime the ceiling to prevent uneven drying of the texture (either water- or solvent-base primer is fine). Thin all-purpose joint compound with water until it's about the consistency of latex paint. Experiment with an airless paint sprayer on scrap drywall, varying the distance and speed of application until you get the result you want. Spray the ceiling with two coats applied at right angles to each other.

Step 2: Wipe with Blade

Wait until the ceiling has lost the sheen of moisture — about 10 minutes under average conditions. Hold a wide wipe-down blade nearly parallel to the ceiling, and very lightly drag it to flatten the tips of the sprayed texture. Vary the direction of the blade on each pass so you don't create a pattern. If you don't have a 24-inch wipe-down blade as shown in the photo, use your widest drywall knife.


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