What You'll Learn
You rarely notice one, but it has a big impact on every room. In fact, you look right at it when you do sit-ups or lie down for a nap. Give up? It's the ceiling. And stepping up to one of the seven improvements we'll cover here is one of the easiest and most effective ways to give a room a face-lift. It's also a great solution for a cracked or badly stained ceiling. And all of these treatments can be accomplished in a weekend or two by a homeowner with moderate skills. Redoing a ceiling is also a great opportunity to fix some basic design flaws. A room with a high, formal ceiling can feel cozier when topped with a warm or dark color. Lighter ceiling shades visually enlarge a space, as do patterns or colors similar to those on walls. Keeping things proportional is generally a good idea -- save the grandly scaled patterns for oversize rooms, and the dainty tiles or textures for tiny spaces. No matter which upgrade you choose, you need to make general repairs to a damaged ceiling. For plaster, use plaster washers, available from Charles Street Supply and others, to snug up sagging areas where plaster "keys" are broken off behind the lath. If you're using a hard covering (wood, tin, fiber planks or a suspended ceiling) you won't need to repair most cracks. But if they are more than a hairline or run the length of the room, investigate their cause before covering them up. Ceilings that will get partial treatments (medallion and layered drywall) or soft coverings (wallpaper) should be repaired and cleaned with diluted TSP, or trisodium phosphate. Repair cracks with drywall tape and mud, and thoroughly cover stains with a white shellac-based product like B.I.N. In most cases, you'll be attaching the new ceiling to joists underneath the surface of the existing ceiling, so locating the joists is an important first step. If your home was built or remodeled before 1980 and the existing ceiling is covered with sprayed acoustical material or acoustical tiles, have a sample checked for asbestos. A positive test is the signal to call in a professional abatement contractor to remove the old ceiling.