Texturing Ceiling Patches: An Epic Failure

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that it’s all “oh, look, I’ve never roofed a donkey barn before but I gave it a shot and it was a cake-walk” around here. I mean, that stuff does happen but the flip side of the coin is that sometimes I’m sweating my ass off standing on a 2×10 over a stairwell covered in drywall mud with a constant stream of profanity coming out of my mouth because shit is not going well.

And by “sometimes”, I mean “last night.”

It was bad enough that I had to wait 24 hours for my temper to cool down before I could write about it. Well, that and I was too busy stripping down in my back yard at midnight and using the garden hose to shower all the mud off. Yes, it was that bad.

So, in the spirit of telling an authentic story, let’s talk about how I thought this would go. Getting to the texturing part was actually pretty smooth sailing.


I attached some nailers around the old skylight holes, using a scrap piece of drywall to set the depth. (There are rafters on either side of the drywall there, so I was nailing into something solid.)


I shoved some insulation in the whole and used my whack-a-stapler to keep it in place.


Then the wallboard went up.


And then I did it all again, while standing here…


You can also see why it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to get from the first to second floor these days, right?

Up until this point things were going pretty well. I taped and mudded the seams, then sanded, then mudded more, then sanded again, then mudded more. It was freaking awesome. Particularly this part on the curve.


But I feel like I did a decent job on it all considering. Or at least I thought I did.

The “texturing” part is one of those projects I’d been avoiding, probably because deep down inside I knew how this was going to go, but finally last night I had to sit myself down and have a little “strap your big-girl toolbelt on because no one is here to do it for you” discussion before I finally decided to go for it.

My awesome drywall mentor from back on Memorial actually showed me how to do this oldschool “roll and smack” method of texturing ceilings, so I’ve seen it done in person, and then I watched a couple of YouTube videos to brush up on the basics. Here’s how it’s supposed to go down…

Take some joint compound…


Mix it with water until it’s about the consistency of pancake batter…


Use a roller to roll it on the ceiling…


And then use the brush to “smack” the wet compound, creating the texture.


Where things started to go downhill was when I was rolling the first coat of compound on to the ceiling and the roller literally snapped off the handle and hit me in the face.

As you can imagine, this is somewhat time sensitive work, and is also slightly harder to accomplish with joint compound in your eye. So. Here I am running around the house with one functioning eyeball trying to find my spare paint roller– which, as it turns out, was inexplicably located under a pile of clean socks in the laundry room– and by the time I get back to rolling the rest of the area of the ceiling, I’m a little frazzled. Then, I start using the brush to smack the texture into the wet compound, and I can tell right away that it’s not going to match the current texture.

I had a guy price out patching these holes and a few miscellaneous ones in the Parlor ceiling and he basically warned me this would happen. Depending on how “broken in” the brush was when the original texture was done, you’ll get a certain look to the texture that it’s hard to replicate without the exact same brush. So, on one hand I’m slightly mollified that this isn’t strictly a newbie mistake and I’m also glad I didn’t pay someone $1500 for something I can screw up perfectly well on my own, thanks. On the other hand, not thrilled with how it turned out.

I tried wetting the brush down (bad idea) and I tried giving the wall another layer of compound and retexturing (waste of time) and definitely still wasn’t getting anywhere.

So finally I just moved on to the second patch, swore a lot, likely traumatized the flock of wild turkeys that live in the field by running around naked in my back yard and swearing even more, and then decided to call it a night.


This morning I gave the ceiling the stink-eye when I walked out of my bedroom, and even though it looks slightly better dried…


From a certain angle the mismatched texture is brutally apparent. Plus I’m not thrilled with the tape job, now that I see it in context.



That shit sucked.

I’m still going to paint the ceiling and then avert my eyes from it for the next six weeks or so, but hey, Meryl and Chris from Picardy Project are going to be visiting to help out for a day in the not-to-distant future, and I’m kind of thinking two more sets of hands will be useful for covering up this disaster with some white wood planks on the ceiling, right?

The moral of the story is some projects don’t go as planned and you occasionally find yourself in the middle of a frustrating, sweaty, tool-throwing disaster. But, part of what makes us “do it yourselfers” is that we stand up and say, “This could be an effing disaster, but I’m going to give it a try anyway, and if nothing else at least I’ll learn something new.”

This one was an effing disaster, but hey, sometimes that’s DIY.

26 Responses

  1. Yeah – We certainly all have those days when we just have to say – “This isn’t going to work so what’s my Plan B?”

  2. Our family room ceiling texture job was horrible in the first place then we tore out the fireplace and had to patch the ceiling, I knew we would never be able to match the texture and really didn’t want to so we spent the last weekend installing White primed MDF tongue and groove…it’s still not totally done, but it looks so much better.

  3. This post almost brought tears to my eyes! Being on that board is bad enough but having to tape, mud and texture overhead defines ‘not easy’ and I would categorize this waaay more difficult than the roofing…been here done this, (though not on a board that high up!). Not that this will work for you but we ended up spreading the mud and texturing with a homemade tool; a med-lg round plastic food container lid in which I cut X’s. A plastic bag was poked through the holes to leave small pieces sticking out. the rest of the bag below the lid became the handle and while one of us spread the mud the other stepped up onto a large block (it was a low ceiling – really got tired of moving that block and my neck didn’t work well for weeks!) and daubbed away at the mud. It wasn’t perfect, but didn’t need to be. It was an upstairs office and we only wanted to cover the seams that were badly done to start with. It worked well enough that one’s eye didn’t go immediately to the ceiling and we have friends that were polite enough not to comment or ask “What the xxx happened to the ceiling?!” ;0) The walls in that room were sooo bad that we covered the top half with burlap and the bottom with paneling and a chair rail…don’t you just love a ‘fixer’? You are the DIY Queen!

  4. I’m going to try the opposite – turning textured ceilings into flat. After living in old houses with actual plastered ceilings, a modern textured ceiling always makes me think – the plasterer was not up to putting in a flat surface.

    Aren’t there paints designed to cover up minor imperfections? Perhaps that kind of paint would help.

  5. Oh man, I’m sorry 🙁 Feeling defeated by a house project is just one of the absolute worst feelings, but I promise it is way not as bad as you think. In the photos I can’t see the tape at all. I totally understand your sentiment though re matching the texture: Chris and I are crazy enough the we always just skim coat the entire room and apply new texture everywhere so that it matches. Of course, that doesn’t involve a tightrope walk for us…On the plus side I think a wood plank ceiling would be awesome! 🙂

  6. Good to know that it’s not all roses & rainbows for you too! Texturing sucks sideways on a good day – sound like shit got real nasty on ya, real fast.

    I think the planked ceiling sounds awesome, and would be totally in keeping with the syle of the house. And it’s a good reason to look at the ceiling…

  7. Things I actually said outloud while reading this post:

    * Holy Sh*t!

    * OMG! HOLY Fing SH*T!

    * HAHAHAHAHA! Poor Kit.

    * That brush won’t work (i only knew this because i have done. the. same. thing.)

    You’re a braver woman than me, girl. My planking days are over.

  8. I always wondered why the prior owner/builder of our house had hand-applied troweled on plaster on the walls and ceilings. Dude was an electrician and was always messing around with fixtures and what not – looks like the plaster was his solution to mismatched texture.

    I think the plank ceiling would be AWESOME!

  9. The planks on the ceiling will be awesome–and in keeping with the setting of your house. Feel free to take down your scaffolding in the meantime! Rather than trying to replicate the texture on our basement ceiling my solution was to scrape off the stipple so my patches and the old ceiling blend in one beautiful smooth surface–provided I do a good enough job on the taping!

  10. Thanks. That makes me feel better about the fact that earlier this week, determined to figure some home maintenance stuff out myself, I managed to fun the chalking gun presser-thing right through my tube of chalk. Yes, I did. I had no idea that there was a handy poker-thing attached to said gun to pierce the seal inside (hello – why am I cutting the end off it is it sealed AGAIN more inside the tube?).

    My husband was impressed that I managed to push that hard, so I guess all is not lost. I am currently licking my wounds before trying again (either tonight or tomorrow).

  11. Oh, I feel your pain… I hate drywall and hate taping and mudding even worse. You work and work, mudding and sanding, mudding and sanding. You think you have the joint as smooth as silk, you run your hand over the joints, it feels great. You prime and paint, put your furniture next to the wall, plug in the lamp, turn it on, and WHAT IS THAT?!??! YOU CAN SEE THE JOINT!?!?!! You swore that you had it perfect, you could not see that joint, and for sure could not feel… So, now what? What you do is move the lamp, and never put anything on that wall cast a shadow down that wall, thats what you do. LOL. I so am in awe of drywall finishers. I do not know how they can make the transition between a new and old wall or ceiling so that it does not show. I just do not know how they do it… And I will never do dry wall again.. I swear… You have my unending support Kit. and sympathy…

  12. I bet the best place in the whole world to live is next door to you. The stories your neighbors must have. Any change any of them have blogs of their own?

    Ceiling texturing is a pain. If matching texture is important then you should always practice on some sample pieces first.

    Thank you for keeping up a great blog. I love your stories.

  13. Sorry to hear about this frustrating situation!

    I have found that unpainted textured ceilings sand down really well, in case you were up to giving the patches a second try.

    If not, perhaps you could sand/smooth the whole of the angled ceiling part and texture it all at the same time – even if it doesn’t exactly match the top part of the ceiling, it will be continuous with itself.

    Not sure about the wood planks idea, not being able to get a sense of the whole area via photos. Just consider carefully, because everyone walking up the stairs will see that ceiling area every time. (In other words, a good solution will make you happy every day and a bad one will be annoying.) Good luck on Plan B, whatever it is.

  14. I feel your pain. Although, I think you have it much worse. The previous owner of our home decided to popcorn the ceilings in our home–which is just terrible, just terrible. I think scraping the ceilings was the second project we did after moving in. Although tediousness and super messy, at least it was a project that was hard not to do right. The planked ceiling will be gorgeous, and you will be so happy with it when you are done. I am thinking about doing this in my guest bedroom (which still has the popcorn ceiling)with some old pallets that I have left to age outside all summer–maybe with a white wash? Can’t wait to see what you do and how it turns out. This will be a cake for you with PPs help.

  15. I feel your pain. My husband and I once removed a soffit from our kitchen (it was used to hang shelves and divide the kitchen from the great room). We wanted the rooms to be open. It ended up being a 4×8 patch of drywall on a slanted ceiling — similar to your situation. We had popcorn ceilings and tried our best to match the rest of the room. After we put the popcorn up, we spent an entire night listening to the “drip, drip, drip” as the half of the popcorn fell off the ceiling. It was like being in a cave and listening to the drops of water. We had to repeat the process several times and feather it out into the room to try to get some kind of consistency so that it looked like it wasn’t some glaringly obvious patch job. Definitely the WORST PROJECT EVER.

  16. I am so glad i found that blog.

    We had a leak in a bathroom and had to replace piece of ceiling in the kitchen – textured!
    I used all purpose joint compound with green lid (dries longer, so more time to play with it). As well the roller for texturing (like a sponge but much harder).
    First applied compound to the ceiling and spread rather evenly and than with not too much pressure rolled the roller. No mess and had to try only twice to match. For me the the detail is a thickness of the compound. The more on the ceiling the longer pattern. Did not add water to the compound.

  17. Right now I am in the midst of making a pig mess on my tv room ceiling. It is horrible. There were some cracks and they are still showing through the joint compound. It is disgusting looking! Even the dog barked as she watched me. This is awful. I think I’d rather have rags stapled on the ceiling rather than this.

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