Asked on Jan 30, 2014

What to do with our livingroom ceiling?

Kathy Wilson
by Kathy Wilson
We took the old popcorn ceiling off in our livingroom and thought we could just paint it. We fixed some hairline cracks where the joint in the sheetrock are, primed and painted (2 coats), but now the cracks are back (on EVERY joining of sheetrock) and the ceiling looks terrible. It is such a large area and we need an inexpensive way to make it look better. We have spent so much money on the wood flooring, paint, new molding, etc., that hubby doesn't want to spend a lot more. There is cove lighting around the ceiling, but we haven't put the cover boards back up yet. White bead board under chair rail, too. Pardon the tools - still working on it... Any ideas?
  51 answers
  • Lori J Lori J on Jan 30, 2014
    What about a faux tin ceiling? I know Menard's sells panels that look like tin, but are paintable plastic (or something like it).
    • Merry Merry on May 31, 2023

      Latex paint, when applied, shrinks just a hair and in this case, it shrinks at the original cracks.

      To fix it will cost around $25 for XIM primer-sealer. Just apply to the cracks and repaint. This is such a great product, I painted 4 sides and the top of a mirrored display stand with it, painted it black, and finished it with a feather (white paint) to look like marble. It lasted for over 20 years until I put it on my porch.

      I worked for a paint company for 14 years and loved to solve many paint problems with it.

      I had a leftover can of it for about 15 years and it was still as good when I finally used the last of it.

      Another great use for it is to apply to lacquered surfaces like a shiny dresser that you wanted to change the color of. No more stripping prior to painting.

  • The reason why it was covered with popcorn in the first place is the contractor most likely cut corners when applying the ceiling. He or she did not properly nail the edges of the drywall, and most likely did not tape the seams. When doing this popcorn can hide any defects such as this. To fix you will need to tape all seams, ideally with a fiberglass tape, but this type of tape is thicker so you will need to spend more time floating out the taped joints to hide the thickness once applied. This is a very common issue. Popcorn became popular because it allowed the contractor who was poor at taping and mudding of walls and ceilings a way out of doing it properly. Hides many sins.
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    • @Kathy Wilson one method of repairing this ceiling is to use a material called sizing paper. Its a wallpaper material that you glue onto the ceiling or walls where ever there are cracks and or weak plaster. It will bridge gaps and if properly installed can be painted. The result is a ceiling or wall that looks perfect without any cracks or voids. The trick is to properly install the paper so it does not have spaces between the joints in the paper. However if you paper like I do, that will still happen. A simple coat of compound will fix that in short order. Its inexpensive to do and will make the ceilings look like new again.
  • Kathy Wilson Kathy Wilson on Jan 30, 2014
    Thanks for the answers, but I'm still hoping for more ideas.
  • Building Moxie Building Moxie on Jan 31, 2014
    This is the first I am hearing of sizing paper ... I like the sound of it, I think Robert is dead on with cause, and I trust @@Woodbridge Environmental for his advice. There is certainly many options including what your husband is suggesting - trimming out, faux beaming or box beaming. Planking is hot & tin is always sweet, but the later might overpower the room. In recent years, there have been many, many new ceiling tiles/finishing options introduced - take some time Googling. As Robert suggests, historically - plaster cracks were often addressed with wallpaper (and in some cases may still be appropriate). Sounds like you are working to secure what you have, which is good and I too would follow with a mesh tape and a re-mud ... 3foot wide crackstop mesh can also be found at the home center and can come in handy in cases. When I've dealt with this in my own homes through the years, among others - I have "planked" with a 1x6" Tongue and Groove beaded board and have even just retextured, which can be purchased as an additive to paint. With a little time and practice you come up with your own unique texture and in imo elegant ceiling... plenty of how tos available online for this. Not to be forward but I have written about these on our blog ... maybe it helps >> & ... good luck. ~jb
    • See 1 previous
    • Building Moxie Building Moxie on Jan 31, 2014
      @Woodbridge Environmental I have heard of, though it's been allusive - screening too, other old timers I hear using almost a type of cheese cloth. In a pinch I hear a fiberglas screen works, but I have had good success with what I'd generically call Crackstop a 3' roll of the exact same material as mesh tape. sticky back in a roll, "bedded" and finished. I used it in a plaster repair just recently. Cheers. Robert.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 31, 2014
    OH MY MY! You are right about the reason. Finishing out a ceiling smooth costs a lot more and builders started charging $500 per room for the average size room. I only had 1 ceiling in a texture, not popcorn (but it was done in 1970). I have experienced just about every problem but this one, but I can tell you that there is no cheap or easy way to fix this. Were it me I would make it a point to plan to save to have someone come in and tape and float this out. If they got the first coat on, you could probably put on the required other coat(s). Or that person can be paid to come back and put them on (usually a professional does not sand between coats of putty). They make a spackling that is "light' and not so difficult to sand. Cover all vents and connecting doors really good.
  • DeborahDesigns DeborahDesigns on Jan 31, 2014
    Install decorative ceiling tiles onto the ceiling. it's an easy, affordable DIY project. Lots of colors and designs available to choose from.
    • John Reilly John Reilly on Feb 01, 2014
      @DeborahDesigns ceiling tiles onto the ceiling will also add to improved acoustics --
  • Lynne Lynne on Jan 31, 2014
    i have a crack down the middle of my plaster ceiling in the living room, i could sure use that sizing paper were do you get it?
  • Kimberly A Kimberly A on Feb 01, 2014
    If you and your husband are brave enough and are willing to spend just another couple of days, then you can actually do plastering yourself. We are do-it-yourselfers to the extreme but even we didn't want to tackle plastering our kitchen and den after we gutted it. We quickly changed our minds when we cost cost estimates from professionals and found out how many thousands it would cost. Our original kitchen (what was left) was smooth and we had to make a transition to swirled plaster on the ceiling plus we had to do all of the walls. My husband prepped everything (in the first picture) with bonding agent and then he mixed and applied the plaster. My 18 year old son did all of the swirling and did an extremely good job so you can't tell the difference between the old and the new. Your only cost will be cheap materials from your home supply store.
  • Cheryl stanley Cheryl stanley on Feb 01, 2014
    we had exactly the same problem in our kitchen when we took the nasty popcorn off. we used bead board to cover the ceiling and it came out beautiful. so far, everyone who has seen it loves it!
    • Lori J Lori J on Feb 01, 2014
      @Cheryl stanley That is the route I want to go in my kitchen. Did you use a tongue and grove product or a panel? I would love to see pictures.
  • Paula Palmer Paula Palmer on Feb 01, 2014
    this is why I just spackled my ceilings and gave it a fresh coat of paint!
  • Luba Luba on Feb 01, 2014
    There are faux ceiling tiles that are very inexpensive ($2 per tile) that are foam and can be put up very easily with adhesive. They are 24" square and you can easily do an entire ceiling in a selection of patterns. Its a lovely vintage look and very easy to do.
  • Cyndi Moore Tippett Cyndi Moore Tippett on Feb 01, 2014
    If you think the issue is that the sheetrock has not been nailed up properly. We had some issues with the walls when we had to cut out to repair behind our walls and the sheetrock was moving. My idea: to find the stud beside the cracks and every 12 to 15 inches use a wood screw and dimple the screw into the sheetrock and patch the dimples. Before I did the whole ceiling I would do a small area and see if the hairline cracks come back. It sounds to me that the sheetrock is not fastened well and if the screws work then you could do the whole ceiling. Shouldn't take long to fix and then patch the small dimples.
  • We had the same problem in our turn of the century home. We used textured wallpaper that imitates the old tin ceiling tile look. Inexpensive, thick and relatively easy to hang. ( We found it for around $15 a double role) It covered the lumpy - bumpy ceilings and looks great and can be painted too. Here is site that will show you what it looks like, I think Lowes or Home Depot sells it too.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Feb 01, 2014
    I did not rad all of the posts so someone else might have suggested this.. There are Faux tin ceiling tiles that can just be glued up.. the come in beautiful designs, fairly inexpensive and can go over anything. I am using a 20X 20 for behind my stove as part of the back splash. And am thinking that after the dining room is done I will use the faux tin tiles on my ceiling. Here is some I like.
  • Brendalee Perryman Brendalee Perryman on Feb 01, 2014
    i think the most inexpensive way, that would look close to what you wanted, is to sand your paint or to buy an already sanded paint {like ralph lauren suede, or river rock}it will give coverage and the right amount of shadow to hide all imperfections!. its easy ,cheap,fast, and looks good!!! lightweight spackle in any big cracks if you like, but the paint will fill all small. cracks..... trick is to make it seem, the imperfections are intentional if choosing another option..
  • Donna G Donna G on Feb 01, 2014
    This is what we did.
  • Cheryl stanley Cheryl stanley on Feb 01, 2014
    we used tongue and groove planking and offset the plank ends on the ceiling. we also used the same for the wainscoating around the room, too, with a chair rail on top. we painted all of the beadboard the same color, including the ceiling, a soft blue, trim and cabinets in white and the walls in a very, VERY, soft tan. we bought it in packages at lowes, or maybe home depot. it comes unfinished or finished. we used the finished in one of our bathrooms. both are easy to work with.
  • Julie Benson-Grant Julie Benson-Grant on Feb 01, 2014
    There are a number of possibilities including everything suggested above. You can use fabric, beadboard, tiles, faux beams, wallpaper and even a knock-down type of texture. It is all dependent on how comfortable or capable you are doing it yourself. Good luck!
  • Kathy Wilson Kathy Wilson on Feb 01, 2014
    Thank you, all you very talented people, for you suggestions. When we finish, I will post a picture of what we decide to do! I love hometalk!
  • Maureen estell Maureen estell on Feb 01, 2014
    i think Luba has the easiest fix for your ceiling with the adhesive, tin looking ceiling tiles. plus it will be quick, and less messy.
  • Diana Lafavor Diana Lafavor on Feb 02, 2014
    I have textured walls and ceilings throughout my small home except in the kitchen and bath. I wished I had smooth walls and ceiling but the only way we could accomplish this, woulfd be to redo every bit of sheetrock. Our house was finished this way by the builder, in some cases they never properly tape and mud seams since it will be hidden by the texture. I think the only way you will ever get and keep a perfect ceiling is to address the joints between the sheets now. Even cracks from settling need to be under cut, mudded, taped and have at least two thin coats placed over the tape, then sanding to blend it all into the ceiling. A lot of mess and work but it is the only permanent fix I have ever found
  • Joanna Stoltzfus Joanna Stoltzfus on Feb 02, 2014
    i think a textured ceiling would look great
  • Luba Luba on Feb 02, 2014
    Helen - I found them on Amazon. Just type in foam ceiling tiles and it should pull it up. The company is Antique Ceilings and their tiles range from $2 per and up. I plan to do my kitchen and my basement with these foam tiles. The link to their website is:
  • Karen powell Karen powell on Feb 02, 2014
    I vote for the bead board ceiling ! I just love this look ! Its on trend and I don't believe it ever really goes out of style
    • Meg Hauss Aguilar Meg Hauss Aguilar on Jan 01, 2015
      @Karen powell That's what we are going to do with our kitchen and then put in recessed lighting.
  • Amanda DesJardins Amanda DesJardins on Feb 05, 2014
    I got fancy ceiling tiles on eBay for about $2 each. They were easy to put up. I painted mine silver and they look pretty awesome. I get tons of compliments on them too.
  • Genelle Thew Genelle Thew on Feb 05, 2014
    When we took the popcorn ceiling of our basement ceiling, a friend who does sheetrock work textured it with a technique called "stomping". He sprayed on the plaster stuff then took a tool that looked like a smashed broom and stomped it on the ceiling, rotating it a qtr turn with each stompe. It looks cool. He's stomped all the ceilings we've redone and on the walls he did a "knockdown" technique.
    • See 3 previous
    • Tabby Tabby on Apr 01, 2014
      @Genelle Thew well that looks nice, it isn't what mine looked like so it is not the same thing I have, but thanks for posting the pics, I love your Green Bay room! My son would LOVE that.
  • Carolyn Hoxton Carolyn Hoxton on Feb 07, 2014
    that textured wallpaper is beautiful, and can be painted any color, it covers any imperfections, but wallpapering a ceiling is a PAIN ! Good luck.
    • Nancy Spencer Carlson Nancy Spencer Carlson on Feb 11, 2014
      In the event you want to wallpaper a ceiling, use a push broom and another person to hold up the back of the piece while you're attaching the front end. Makes it sooo much easier!
  • Kathy Wilson Kathy Wilson on Feb 11, 2014
    Thanks for all the helpful suggestions! HomeTalk is certainly THE place to go for help with any home issues. I did find one suggestion online that no one else suggested that is inexpensive and looked reasonably easy and quite attractive. I am going to try it on something small first and will let you know how it goes. Tissue Paper textured ceilings. Not sure I will do it yet, but hope to try it on a piece of sheetrock next week. Here are some links about it:
    • See 1 previous
    • Carol P Carol P on Aug 15, 2014
      @Kathy Wilson I did this tissue paper technique on a kitchen wall and love it. So easy. I wondered if you have to scrape the popcorn texture off before you put the tissue on? I have all popcorn ceilings and know they need to be upgraded. I hate them. I think the hard part is your working with your arms up. I wonder if you would have to make the tissue really extra scrunchy to lose the popcorn look.
  • Nick Nick on Feb 12, 2014
    Take a trouble light survey the surface..If nails are popping out, remove them or drive,them in and add a drywall screw next to them to hold them down. If there is no tape, tape the joints and mud as necessary. Floor lamps may help.
  • Anna Anna on Mar 26, 2014
    I had my popcorn ceiling removed and the company that did it repaired any damaged seams. They then textured the ceiling with a plaster-type material. It looks like decorative flattened plaster swirls. For an 1800 sf house it cost about $1,000. No mess, and no work for me to do. At about 90 cents/sf this seems like the cheapest way to go and looks fantastic!
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Mar 27, 2014
    I am going to use those faux tin ceiling tiles as a backsplash behind the stove and behind the one counter were I am hanging pots on a rod. , painted the same color as my walls... There is a wall paper that can be painted that looks like ceiling tile...I bet it can be put on the ceiling with adhesive ..maybe thin molding used as a grid over the paper to hide any staples used to hold the paper up. I have no idea if it would work, but I think if it did it would be really pretty.
  • Jean Proctor Jean Proctor on Feb 22, 2016
    I'm thinking of using the ceiling tile wall paper but will use the wallpaper glue that is used for vinyl wall paper, and will spray paint the decorative thumb tacks/upholstery nails and use them every 4 tiles or every foot to hole the wallpaper up... since they are decorative there will be reason to hide them and I will put them over what looks like a cone head nail detail in the wall paper... Wished these posts had dates on them.....
  • Jeremy Jeremy on Jul 04, 2016
    Everytime I removed popcorn from ceiling always had to remud and sand sometimes two times and a skim coat if needed but always had to refinish the drywall,i really like slick ceiling though and if your removing popcorn you don't want another pattern,so break down an mud and sand and repeat,or you'll never like fish results without the hard work it always takes,there some things that takes hard work and no quick fix will do, sorry. Good luck
  • Sarah Ketcher Sarah Ketcher on Dec 30, 2020

    90 percent of my husband's work is correcting people trying to hack the project, doing a quick fix( which always ends in a long tedious expensive repair at some point), or correcting shotty work. Or hiring the yard man who knows nothing about plumbing to fix and install sinks, you name it. We did have good results from screwing in ceiling tiles to cover a popcorn ceiling but it was flat. I would either do as Jeremy suggested if you feel like you can do it 100 percent. If not get bids from local contractors( ask your neighbors on the app Next door who they used or would recommend for this situation) and ask what parts yall could do yourselves alongside their work to lower costs. Lastly, always use your vet discount if you are one or go with the contractor who should have his discount at say HD, Lowes, etc. Always get everything in writing, call references, never pay before, be smart and it will all work out. I have faith in y'all.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Feb 28, 2021

    What do you mean what to do with it ?

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Mar 02, 2021


    Maybe have it skim coated with plaster or paper the ceiling or shiplap or tile it or run battens on it in a design (to hide lines ) and make a pattern! So times something can be HIDDEN IN FULL SIGHT!!

  • Judy Judy on Mar 07, 2021

    You have wood floors? How about a lighter wood plank ceiling? I have also tried to cover cracked ceilings and I was not successful. Goodluck!

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Mar 16, 2021

    Since it’s still cracking, then things are moving, unless the old cracks weren’t scraped out, caulked and re-mudded.

    Skim coat won’t fix that.

    Maybe a skim coat with a knocked-down finish, or orange peel finish, but I’d go back and address the cracks and why it’s cracking first.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Jan 31, 2022

    house is setteling so I would wait before going upset. There must be a huge temp swing in your house. Make sure that doesnt happen

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Oct 21, 2022

    Tape the cracks/joints with Scrim tape, then plater the whole ceiling with a skim coat. (Job for a Professional)

  • Janice Janice on Aug 13, 2023

    It seems like now is the time to do the repairs on the sheetrock. You can use screws to refasten and strengthen the sheetrock, then purchase the spackle that pro's use to finish the sheetrock. It can be purchased in aerosol cans ut since it's an entire ceiling probably be more coste effective to rent a professional machine and mix the spackle and spray on which will mask a lot of the problems, then repaint. A think "knock-down" texture or "orange-peel" covers fairly well.

  • I would put beadboard over it or faux tin tiles.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Sep 01, 2023

    Amazon has self stick tiles that can be painted and cut, made of Styrofoam.

  • Mogie Mogie on Sep 25, 2023

    If your home has a farmhouse theme going apply flooring to the ceiling. It gives you a natural look and hides an ugly ceiling at the same time.

  • Mogie Mogie on Feb 06, 2024

    Or I have seen wall paper on ceilings and it looks great.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Feb 13, 2024

    Vinyl or textured wall paper would be a good fix.

  • Dee Dee on Feb 13, 2024

    I would go to Habitat for Huminaty or a builders surplus store and get some vinyl or laminate planks and attach to the ceiling.

  • Janice Janice on Feb 25, 2024

    This is a VERY old post and many, many good suggestions were offered. Could the person who originally asked for help please chime in with what they did to resolve the problem. A picture (as promised) would be wonderful. We can all learn from one another! :)