Answers to Your Ceiling Questions

ceiling questions answered

Q. Should joint tape be used where the wall meets the ceiling?

A. Yes, the joint tape should be applied to all joints. The only time you can skip the taping at the ceiling is when you will be covering it with crown molding.

Q. We have very high ceilings, but small bathrooms where they look too high. Should we use a chair rail or picture rail to create the effect of lowering the ceiling?

A. Ceiling moldings, especially 5-inches wide, can make taller ceilings look lower. Painting ceilings a shade or two darker than walls can make a ceiling feel lower as well. A wide wallpaper border placed slightly below the ceiling tends to lower it visually. Avoid vertically striped wallpaper, as it tends to make ceilings look higher.

A chair railing is usually positioned about 1/3 the way up the wall. It can give rooms with lower ceilings an illusion of great height. If you choose to use a picture railing, paint the ceiling color to the railing.

Q. I had to take down some of the ceiling tiles in my conventional dropped ceiling after my dishwasher overflowed. I'm trying to replace the ones that were wet, and the ones that I mutilated. I am having an extraordinarily hard time getting the new ones in without breaking them. There are only about 4-inches (if that) of clearance between the frame and the bottom of the ductwork above it. Any suggestions?

A. Since there is limited clearance, you may need to set the panels above the grid away from the ductwork (where there is more clearance) and slide them over to where you need them. Sometimes you can move the metal a 1/8 of an inch or so. Doing so may help.

Q. We have terrible ceilings in our kitchen and master bath. I would like to get rid of them. Any advice? Can we just knock the drywall back until it's flush with the existing ceiling, remove the fluorescents and install recessed lights? Is it harder than it looks? Because it looks deceptively easy.

A. Drop ceilings were installed in many older homes to camouflage cracked plaster and other defects. Look behind tiles to determine what you are up against. If the original ceiling is in disrepair, it can be covered with drywall and mudded for an updated look.

Recessed lights will depend on how much room you have above. You need at least 7-8-inches for recessed lights. You can drill a hole and use a wire clothes hanger to determine how much room you have. You will need to locate your studs. The fewer studs you have to run wire, the easier the project will be.

Most manufacturers provide a template for cutting an opening. You will need to make cuts between joists. If you have access to the ceiling joists in your room, it's best to use cans that mount to joists for greater stability. If you do not, there are cans that attach to the drywall.

Q. I just bought a townhouse with a hanging kitchen ceiling, which I broke down. Underneath that is concrete. I want to redo it by covering it with drywall and then plaster, but I was told that you don't have to use drywall, just plaster the concrete and then smooth it out. Is this an efficient way of creating a smooth kitchen ceiling, or am I better off using the drywall as my ceiling?

A. You can indeed apply plaster to concrete. If the concrete is smooth, you might have trouble getting a bond. Clean the concrete with an acid wash or with a good wire brushing, then plaster on a very tight coat of very rich plaster maybe even neat plaster. Then follow up with a tight brown coat.

To do the job, you will need something to mix plaster in; a wheelbarrow works fine for small jobs. You will need a hawk and trowel and some straightedges - a Darby is helpful too. Put on the bond coat, then mix plaster and sand according to the directions on the bag. You could also use Structolite or Gypsolite and omit the sand, then straighten it and leave it slightly rough but not crooked for the finish. Finish with a white coat, Diamond, or something like it. On second thought, maybe you should hire a plasterer.

Q. I just purchased a home with wood-paneled walls and dropped ceilings. I am guessing that both have been in the house for 20-30 years. What should I do? Should I remove the drop ceilings and just have new drywall put over the wood panels and the neglected drywall ceilings? Should I try to repair the ceiling and walls with the joint compound?

A. Remove the dropped ceilings and paneling. When these new products hit the market, many folks covered ceilings and walls. Sometimes they did this when they had no sins to hide. Some homes have these products because homeowners found them to be the most inexpensive route to take during construction. Remove these products because they date your home. Then, drywall and plaster over any damage you find. It will update your home.

Q. My ceiling is less than two years old; hence, I'm not taking it down. However, I can't stand how badly the texture compound was applied to the ceiling. It was applied to the plasterboard with a special roller that allowed the compound to drip down like a million little stalagmites. Ugly! And the person who did it did not do a good job. I wanted to know if it is feasible to sand down the ceiling and then just retexture. I would like to use the texture paint that is similar to popcorn ceiling, so I figure any bumps and divots might blend well? If this is feasible, is there anything I should keep in mind?

A. You should be able to sand it down, then re-prime and shoot a knockdown texture on it, which would be my recommendation. Use a drywall screen for the sanding instead of sandpaper. You can rent a spraying set-up to shoot the texture.

You'll need a good electrical drill and mixer paddle to mix your mud, as well as plenty of drop cloths to cover floors and furniture. Have a five-gallon bucket of joint compound and several extra buckets for mixing and tool clean-up. If you just want to redo the ceilings, add some brown masking paper and painter's tape to your shopping list.

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