We want to get rid of the texture on our ceiling. It's a very ugly stipple effect.

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However, there's a foot and a half of insulation over this ceiling. Knocking it down to install new drywall is not an option.

We also don't really want to slap another layer of drywall on top of it, because we don't want to give up any more height than we have to.

So we are torn between sanding it down with a very coarse paper on an orbital sander or just skim coating the entire thing (and yes I do know how much effort that is, I skim coated a whole wall once to eliminate the texture).

Is there another option, and if not, which one of the two above should I use?

Edit: The stipple I mention is joint compound which, while wet, was pulled down upon with a wet sponge, creating lots of peaks. It has subsequently been painted many times presumably over 72 years. (House built in 1940)

  • Would have developed a really nice knockdown leaf pattern if they'd pulled a 12" knife over it. Eeuyuck for a half-finished job. Oct 16, 2012 at 21:12
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    If you glue-and-screw new Sheetrock, you're only losing 1/4". That seems well worth it given the hours upon hours of labor you'll be saving.
    – DA01
    Oct 16, 2012 at 21:26
  • Thanks, but that wasn't my question. Oct 16, 2012 at 23:17
  • Well, if you're only debating sanding vs. skim coating, I'd just go right to skim coating, as you'd have to do that after sanding anyways. Might as well skip one of the two steps. I suppose one other option would be to apply yet-another texture on top of that. Would save a bit of time, but you'd still be left with a texture (though perhaps one easier to live with)
    – DA01
    Oct 16, 2012 at 23:38
  • Since you mention that the house was built in 1940, some of the many layers of paint could contain lead. I would avoid sanding on any type of surface that could contain lead based paint and instead stick with a skim coat or a wet-scrape method.
    – dslake
    Oct 3, 2016 at 19:18

8 Answers 8


As with many textures, it is likely formed from water-soluble base like drywall topcoat. If so, spray it with water from a spray bottle until you think it's saturated enough then take a wide drywall knife and see if you ca scrape it off. If this works, you'll need to tape and re-texture afterwards.

Alternatively, a drywaller can skimcoat over the top of it, then re-texture to your liking. They may often use a giant heavy-nap roller of sorts and "paint" on drywall mud. Then they scrape it flat enough to base whatever texture you intend.

If you could manually scrape off the large peaks before this, though, it will work better.

  • I think brute force is going to be the way to go but I'm going to try dampening it per your suggestion as we go along. Too bad I can't pick multiple answers since I'm going to basically combine them in the approach... but you got here first. :) Oct 17, 2012 at 11:36

I have the same thing. We used two methods: 1st we used a sander to lower the high points of the texture, this is something you want to use as last resort. After the sanding was finished I did a skim coat, then had to sand again to smooth the skim coat. Super labor intensive. The next room I just put up 3/8 drywall, took half the time. It seems more practical to just give up a little space and hang drywall.


This kind of textured coatingis generally known as Artex in the UK (Wikipedia link.).

Take great care if you set to it with a sander as other answers have suggested, as old Artex can contain asbestos.

The two ways I've dealt with it previously have been to either skim over it or to remove it by first using a scraper to knock the tops off the peaks then to steam it with a wallpaper stripper and to scrape the Artex off the ceiling. Knocking the peaks off helps the steam penetrate through the layers of paint.


I was going to say "At least its not popcorn"!. You can also get a drywall sander that hooks up to a shop-vac to cut down on dust. I think I would do what Matthew suggests and see if it can be knocked down some with a scraper first. I would try a wall paper scraper, which I call a "razor blade on a stick". You can wet it to keep down dust, but I doubt it will soften it since its covered with 40 years of paint.

  • Yeah, I don't think it will soften up either. I have both the vacuum drywall sander and razor blades on a stick and even heavier duty scrapers (like for removing tile). I think we'll go the brute force route, in that regard, but try the dampening as well, cause it can't hurt. Oct 17, 2012 at 11:32
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    <vendor plug warning> HD rents a 9" Porter-Cable "sander-on-a-stick" that hooks up to a synchronized vac, fabulous and fast for overhead work. Saw recently that Festool came out with their version, one upped with a segmented pole for more flexible access.
    – HerrBag
    Feb 28, 2013 at 14:34

The problem with re-hanging the drywall on the ceiling is the risk of getting halfway across the lid and finding that the framing no longer aligns with the joints. This could result in butt joints next to impossible to correctly finish. This has happened to me several times, forcing me to abort the re-hang and just skimming the texture already in place.

Scrape out only the high points with a floor scraper--don't go crazy and tear up the rock--then for speed use a drywall texture pump to spray an even coat of mud to cover old texture. Let this dry completely, then with a pole sander give it a light fast sand. Don't remove too much base, then spray texture again with thin mud on small dial on hopper. Give it a light orange peel.

  • In regards to the possibility of joints not aligning: while true, keep in mind that gypsum board comes up to sixteen foot. Assuming you can get the proper length into the room, you can avoid those joints. You can also use a stud finder to locate, add mark all your ceiling joists ahead of time. You'll likely need longer screws along the edges, and able slightly towards the wall to ensure you hit the backing. Feb 15, 2017 at 23:34

This kind of coating is often put up to cover cracks etc in ceilings and is often not the original covering. This can give you an advantage. A steam wallpaper stripper can heat up the layers which will break the bonds of each coating and then it can be scraped/peeled off leaving the original plaster surface. You may need to sand down a spot first as a starting point.


I stumbled on a good method. I had a heavily textured ceiling with splattered mud. I soaked it and scraped it like all the advice I found online. It worked OK, but the best success came when I started using notched trowels to get the bulk of the work done. Do it in layers, soaking after each step...the first gets the surface scratched with a medium v-notch allowing water to soak in. next after another good soak use a hearty 1/4" square notch which sort of chisels it off. then fine square notch. Then clean up with a flat sheetrock trowel, or a flat masonry trowel works pretty good too. work at right angles so you make a waffle pattern. The idea is weaken it each step so it gives away without too much effort. Patience in soaking with spray bottle softens it quite nicely. The cieling underneath was painted underneath I should note...probably not the best method for bare sheetrock under.


One coat of base coat Durabond 90 and one coat of regular 90 mud. First you have to knock down the high spots with a scraper. The 90 is a mud you have to mix yourself; it's made by Sheetrock brand.

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