Types of Ceiling Texture

When renovating your house or building a new one, something you may not have considered is the ceiling texture. For most people, ceiling texture options don't even come to mind when thinking about home improvement. Ceilings tend to be left alone and considered only as a means for installing light fixtures. However, there are a number of options for ceiling texture, and they can enhance the look and feel of your home.

Worker Troweling Drywall Mud on a Ceiling for Knockdown Texture
credit: BanksPhotos/E+/GettyImages
Types of Ceiling Texture

What is a Finished Ceiling?

At first glance, the expression "finished ceiling" might appear to simply refer to a ceiling that's complete and fully covers the top of a room. However, a finished ceiling refers to more than that. When a building project is complete, painted drywall ceilings are typically what the room is left with. You can leave a painted drywall ceiling as it is or you can have it "finished."

There are over two dozen options for ceiling finishes, which are also called ceiling texture. A finished or textured ceiling is a ceiling that has had additional materials applied or affixed to it in order to enhance the appearance of the room. Often, the ceiling texture will mimic the texture of the walls in the same room, but other times it's just the ceiling that's textured.

A finished ceiling can mean beadboard and other moldings are applied and painted to enhance the look of a room and tie it together with the rest of the room's decor. Beyond beadboard and molding, however, there are a number of ceiling textures that use plaster, styrofoam, spackle and other materials to create a look with depth and style. Many of these need to be done by a professional, but a solid number of them are achievable with a DIY method.

What Ceiling Texture Options Are There?

One of the most popular ceiling texture types available is the Sheetrock ceiling. This texture technique used hand tools and plaster to achieve the look of Sheetrock on the ceiling. Narrow lines, like those of a small-fingered rake drug through the plaster, leave a pleasing texture that can add a calming sensibility to a room. Sheetrock texture is one of the oldest varieties of ceiling texture and is one of the easiest to achieve without the help of a professional.

Another popular, if dated, example of ceiling texture is popcorn ceilings. Made with a combination of plaster and styrofoam, popcorn ceilings have the look of little bumps of varying size that sit on the surface of the ceiling, creating a pebbled, bumpy look that was very popular in the 1970s.

Tree bark ceiling texture is an example of a ceiling texture that mimics an element in nature. It's a more natural look for your home and can be applied with a specific type of roller fairly easily, particularly if you are skilled at home improvements. Tree bark ceiling texture can be applied in a variety of colors and shades to match your existing decor.

What Other Ceiling Texture Styles Exist?

In the 1970s, a style known as hawk and trowel became popular. This is applied to the ceiling with a hawk and trowel tool and is fairly easy, even for beginners to home improvement work. This is generally a ceiling texture that's applied to drywall to give the somewhat boring drywall a warmer and more artistic look.

Fish scale ceilings are popular and have a decidedly elegant appearance. Fish scale stamping on the ceiling has the look of the scales of a fish and, depending on the color of the room and ceiling, can truly enhance the space and create remarkably beautiful patterns that will tie your whole room together.

Sculpted ceiling texture is what you'd see on the ceilings of a stately manor house or other Federalist or Mansard style of decoration. It has flowery plaster appliqués in the shape of elegant borders, fruits, flowers and other intricate details. This is a very complicated and costly style to produce and will almost certainly require the help or assistance of a professional who has the ability to apply such a delicate texture.

What Material Is Used on Ceilings?

In order to achieve various ceiling texture options and wall texture types, a number of different materials may be used. Plaster and paint are commonly used to introduce texture and depth to ceilings and walls. Spackle in certain styles is also employed to create depth, texture and variance in the ceiling or walls.

For other ceiling textures, different materials may be required. Mud is used in some ceiling textures, and it can be very messy and difficult to apply. Other ceiling texture types require the use of a joint compound, which is a medium commonly used in dwellings and other constructions.

Other tools are a skip trowel, paintbrush, textured paint and self-mixing paint. With certain kinds of ceiling texture options, such as a lace ceiling, you'll need to apply paint to the ceiling in two different shades. This can be a tremendously time-consuming process, especially for a beginner working alone, but the results can be spectacular.

What Are Knockdown Ceilings?

Despite the name, knockdown ceilings aren't ceilings that have been knocked in or have the appearance of being knocked down. Rather, the name refers to the use of a tool called a "knockdown tool" which is instrumental in creating the texture. They were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s and do sometimes see resurgence today.

Knockdown ceilings are almost the inverse of popcorn ceilings. The finish is a textured look that appears to have dimpling pressing into the surface of the ceiling or wall. Knockdown texture is a popular texture for walls as well as ceilings.

Knockdown texture is applied in a way similar to the way popcorn ceilings are applied. The texture is applied with a gun and a hopper. It's a muddy plaster material that's shot through the gun. The result is a thick layer of spray or plaster material that's tacky to the touch. Once it's somewhat dry, a knockdown tool similar to a squeegee is used to flatten and smooth the plaster so that it's uniform. Once it dries, it can be painted.

What Paint Should Be Used on Ceilings?

Once you've primed a drywall ceiling, you can use the exact same kind of paint that you used on your wall to paint your ceiling. Latex interior paint or any other sort of paint that you'd use on the interior of a room can be applied. If you have a textured ceiling, you'll want to take special care with the sheen of your paint.

For a textured ceiling, flat latex paint is generally the best choice. This will ensure that you don't get a shine on your ceiling, which can look odd with indoor light and sunlight. Glazes can be employed if you're interested in creating a reflective sheen on the ceiling, but generally speaking, that's probably not something you want.

If you have a ceiling made of drywall, stucco, plaster, masonry or wood, you'll want to make sure that your ceiling paint has strong adhesion qualities. These are critical, especially because a paint without good adhesion quality can peel or chip easily, causing your ceiling to look messy and incomplete.


Ashley Friedman

Ashley Friedman

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience working in the home, design and interiors space.