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How to Flatten a Textured Ceiling

Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique smooths over a textured ceiling using joint compound

Flattening a textured ceiling

  1. Start by protecting the entire room with drop cloths. On the floor, use a canvas drop cloth. On the walls, use plastic drop cloths. It isn’t necessary to cover the entire wall, just the top third.
  2. Wipe down the ceiling with a damp rag to ensure it’s clean.
  3. Mix the joint compound in a bucket using water and the drill with a mixing bit on it until it’s roughly thicker than a cake batter consistency.
  4. Add some joint compound to the hawk. Scoop a small amount of the joint compound off the hawk using the taping knife, and then apply it in thin, smooth coats over the textured ceiling. This technique requires multiple coats, so don’t feel the need to fill in all the low spots on the first pass.
  5. Wait roughly 45 minutes for the first coat to dry. Then, add a second coat.
  6. Repeat this process until all the low spots are filled in and the ceiling is flat. It shouldn’t take more than two to three coats.
  7. After 24 hours, lightly sand the ceiling using 220-grit sandpaper.
  8. After the sanding, the ceiling will be ready for paint. Mauro recommends a flat, white paint for the ceiling.


While scraping a textured ceiling is a common tactic to achieve a flat ceiling, Mauro suggests that in some cases, it’s a lot easier to smooth over the texture with joint compound than to scrape it off.

While a step ladder works fine for this project, Mauro finds it’s much easier and also safer to use staging to reach the ceiling. This can be rented from home centers.

Mauro used Sheetrock Easy Sand 45 joint compound, which is manufactured by USG. Mauro thinks this product works well in this application because it dries in a reasonable amount of time while still giving you a little flexibility to really work with it and apply it smoothly to the ceiling.

The other tools Mauro used for the job, including the drill with the mixing bit, taping knife, hawk, and drop cloths, can all be found at home centers.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by Mauro’s Painting.