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Common Ceiling Textures and Finishes

There are several styles of ceiling finishes to choose from. Check out the five most popular and the pros and cons of each.

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Four different kinds of ceiling textures | Construction Pro Tips

How to choose a ceiling finish

A lot of time is spent picking out tile, flooring, and paint colors, but ceiling finishes rarely get the consideration they deserve. After all, the ceiling is one of the largest continuous surfaces in a home.

There are several styles of ceiling finishes to choose from, and presented with all of them, a homeowner can get overwhelmed trying to decide. One way to make choosing a finish easier is to build mock-ups, so there is a clear understanding of what the final finish is going to look like.  Try to view the mock-ups under natural lighting and different temperatures of white and yellow lighting.  Keep reading to learn about the five most popular ceiling finishes.

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A ceiling that has been skip troweled | Construction Pro TipsFamily Handyman

Skip troweling

A coat of all purpose joint compound is applied with a trowel to the surface and smoothed out by dragging the trowel lightly. On the last pass, uneven pressure is applied with the trowel relatively flat to the surface. In effect, the trowel “skips” across the ceiling. look. After the ceiling has dried, it is then primed and painted.


  • Hides imperfections very well
  • Less skill required
  • Usually don’t need to hang plastic
  • Easy tool cleanup


  • Overhead toweling
  • Needs to be painted
  • Takes longer
  • More skill required
  • Harder to blend and patch for repairs or during remodels

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A popcorn ceiling | Construction Pro Tips

Popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are not as popular as they were back in the late 1900’s, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t being installed. Popcorn ceiling texture is a mixture of compound and Styrofoam balls. It is applied with a hopper and gun and then left alone, no tooling necessary. After application it can either be painted or left as is.


  • Easy and fast
  • Less skill required
  • Does not require paint
  • Reduces echo’s because the Styrofoam balls absorb sound
  • Easier to blend and patch for repairs or during remodels
  • Least expensive


  • Outdated look
  • Need to hang plastic to contain the mess
  • Gun and hopper cleanup

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A knockdown ceiling | Construction Pro Tips


Knockdown ceiling spray texture is applied with a gun and hopper. After the ceiling compound has skinned over (not tacky to the touch), it is “knocked down,” which means flattening it with a specialty squeegee that looks like a large (two feet or more) taping knife. After the texture has dried it is primed and painted.


  • Looks great
  • Hides imperfections well
  • Less skill required


  • Need to hang plastic to contain the mess
  • Needs to be painted
  • Two-step process: spray then knock down
  • Not easy to blend for repairs or during remodel
  • Gun and hopper cleanup
  • More expensive

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A ceiling with a smooth finish | Construction Pro Tips

Smooth finish

Even though this is one of the most time consuming and most expensive finishes, it is still becoming one of the most popular. Smooth ceilings are just that: smooth. They are finished just like the walls, with several coats of mud that get sanded and then painted. Framing imperfections and natural daylight shining across the surface makes accomplishing a smooth ceiling a challenge.


  • Only need to prime and paint
  • Gets finished with the walls, no extra steps
  • Looks great when finished


  • Ceiling needs to be perfect
  • Requires skilled drywall installer and taper
  • Light shines across and will show any little imperfection
  • Paint can look uneven at intersection of walls and ceiling
  • Not easy to blend for repairs or during remodel
  • No sound reduction qualities
  • Most expensive

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An orange peel textured ceiling | Construction Pro Tips

Orange peel

This texture is consistent with the look of the inside of an actual “orange peel”, hence the name. Orange peel texture is achieved by spraying a ceiling spray texture with a hopper and gun, and that’s it. It does not need to be flattened like knockdown. Once it’s dry, it gets primed and painted.


  • Hides imperfections well
  • Easier to blend and patch for repairs or during remodels
  • Less expensive


  • Need to hang plastic to contain the mess
  • Needs to be painted
  • Gun and hopper cleanup

Check out this story for more drywall finishing tips.