Help! They swirled my ceiling

lovlilynneJune 23, 2009

When I got home last night, I found that the mudders swirled my ceiling (you know those groovy cirlces made with a brush - they always reminded me of the gooves on an LP). Isn't swirled as passe as popcorn (which is what I had before)? DH and DS like it. I don't - I can't even explain why - even though my popcorn ceilings were out of date, I didn't really care. But now that they were going to be redone, I just assumed that they would be flat.

I don't know what to do - can I have them re-do them (probably cost me), and what about the living room next to it - they haven't done them yet, do I have them do them plain? But that would probably look weird right next to the kitchen and DR ceilings being swirled.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Can you have them do a knock down finish? We have an old house with very pretty, very lightly textured ceilings. My painter told me the way to get the look is with texture spray and then literally scraping it, hence the knocking down, of most of the texture. It is far from popcorn, just more of a soft, sandy texture.

But if it bothers you, I wouldn't put too much stock in what DH or DS say (sorry men out there!). They would probably soon forget whether it was flat or textured, while it could bug you for a long time.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you did not specify that you wanted a textured ceiling, they should not have assumed that. I'd speak to them today about it! The reason finishers prefer to texture a ceiling is that they do not have to do a good finishing job. With a smooth ceiling, every defect in finishing shows. With texture (as with popcorn), nothing shows. So they like doing it and usually charge much more for smooth.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ditto. Also, texturing provides a better acoustic environment; flat smooth transmits sound more.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You paid to get a flat ceiling, then you should have it. I'm amazed they didn't ask, but I guess with all the GC stories out there, it doesn't really surprise me. Actually, I'd be happy with anything other than the popcorn at this point!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Although they should have asked, in my area, smooth isn't very common. Mudders assume you want a textured ceiling due to the cost difference of smooth. Your mudders can re-do your ceiling, but if you didn't specify - with the both the group that hung and the guys who mudded the ceiling that you wanted a smooth ceiling, then it isn't their fault and it may be more difficult. I know it is more expensive to do a smooth ceiling and believe me, they will try 7 ways from Sunday to try and talk you out of one. My whole house bill was about 25% more for all smooth and when the guy hung my house they kept repeating - it's all smooth guys - watch the ceilings. As already said, a knock-down or orange peel texture may be a better option in your position. Just talk to your mudders about it, but be prepared, it would have rasied you inital bill to have smooth, so for that, and now the cost to have them remove the swirl it may be a significant increase.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 8:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Circus Peanut

Ugh, I'm sorry. Not a fan. Perhaps this is a regional issue (I'm in the far Northeast) but personally, I'd say smooth is vastly preferable for re-sale. (We only see textured ceilings in very cheap homes around here.) But your mileage may vary! There are advantages/disadvantages to both. Just pick what YOU like best.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 8:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, I talked to contractor - he said they did the swirl to match the other ceilings. Since they are popcorn, this is the only way to get a sand finish. I told him that I knew he said I couldn't get a perfect smooth finish, but I didn't think it would be swirls. He said that a smooth finish would look like waves because with such a long expanse (it's the entire 1st floor - probably 25' or more) it's impossible to get it level. Of couse, he did it in his basement, but he wishes he didn't because it shows every bump, yada yada (ok - waves worse than swirl? It would have to be pretty bad).

So, we compromised with a skip trowel finish - sort of a subtle stucco, which I have in my FR addtion, and it's ok. At least it's paintable. I'll have to pay $250 extra for them to re-do the kitchen. I didn't quibble because he's been excellent, and it's not worth it to me to cause bad feelings over $250.

Circuspeanut - I'm in Mass - pretty far northeast, and there are still a lot of textured ceilings in my neighborhood, but I agree - not in the new homes.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"He said that a smooth finish would look like waves because with such a long expanse (it's the entire 1st floor - probably 25' or more) it's impossible to get it level."

He's not being truthful. It is VERY possible to get a smooth ceiling that has no waves over a long expanse, unless it was not hung properly to begin with. My sunroom is 47' long with vaulted ceilings and it is as smooth as glass. My floor plan is very open so all of my ceilings are very long...and all smooth. He just doesn't WANT to do it. If textured ceilings are not common in your area, I'd be very hesitant to accept them. It might make resale harder. Around here, the only ceilings that are textured are low-end homes and mobile homes.

When ceiling are going to be sprayed with popcorn, they do a very shoddy job finishing them. So when the popcorn is removed, the entire ceiling would need to be solid skimmed in order to get a good smooth finish. It is a lot of work and is also difficult, which is why he may be reluctant to do it. Solid skimming might be beyond his skill level. Around here, they have discovered another way to solid skim that is easy and cheaper. They mix drywall mud, water and primer. The consistancy is thicker than paint, but thinner than drywall mud. They spray this on the entire ceiling and then sand it. The result is gorgeous!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Where I come from, nobody would even DARE ask if you wanted anything but smooth.

Of I mean, that would be like asking if you want the black dinner jacket or the orange plush dinner jacket. Whathewha? Easy to what? Skill level? Does not compute around here. There are no other considerations other than aesthetics.

Personally though, I think a ceiling with any texture at all draws your attention to it and brings it down, visually, making the room look shorter. And it traps cooking grease and therefore dust. I'd rather it showed a little crack than a solid layer of greasy dust. I've been in some kitchen, I can tell you ...

Don't, please, don't, go through the next however many years with a 1970s ceiling, IF it bothers you (which you may decide it doesn't after the initial shock wears off, only you can decide).

And boys ... you know. Don't make me say it.

Talk to the mudders, say something like you both should have talked about it, but you assumed they'd do a smooth finish, it never occurred to you that anyone would do anything else, and that's what you want them to do. (If it is. Or whatever it is you want.)

See what they can do, for at least a reduced fee. They really should have discussed the options, not just picked one. (If you have a GC, talk to him first, as this is part of his job to negotiate your desires to the mudders and the error may have occurred there.)

Don't throw good money after bad and repeat the bad effect in the other room. Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small decorators.

I've come home from work from bad surprises and had to have stuff torn out before. The conversations were never as bad as I rehearsed them all night. And I was SO glad I spoke up. It'll be OK.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Baloney!!! Of course you can have big expanses of smooth. My house was built in the 80's and every speck of it is smooth. Including the great room ceilings and the expanse that covers the entire from to rear of the house from the dining room through the kitchen to the back entry with no breaks. It just takes more skill and time.
We were a tad ahead of our time in the early 80's but aything other than smooth or a VERY very light orange peel would be odd in anything other than a spec home in our area now.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I loved the swirled plaster ceilings in our old house (built in 1987). Of course, I grew up with popcorn. My mom just had her ceilings redone with texture (not big chunks of popcorn) - I have to see it. She said the guy offered to do a heavy texture (chunky popcorn?) but she said no. I can't believe he even offered.

But you should have been consulted, I wouldn't pay the $250 to have it redone if they didn't even ask. But have them do them on their dime, and do the others the way you want them.

Ceilings in my new house are flat(tish) since it is a modular and it came from the factory that way - no way to transport plaster w/o it cracking, and the MBR spans the marriage wall (with an engineered beam) so drywall had to be put over the joint after the house was set - there would have been no way to match the texture. Not to mention we had to have all the downstairs ceilings plus the upstairs hall, MBR ceiling, and bathroom ceiling retaped, skimmed, and painted 9 months later. Ds's room and study only had a few small cracks, the others were wall-to-wall. Now that we've spent $3000 on the ceilings in this house (as much as it initially cost to paint ceilings *and* walls!) I can't see having someone texture them - not to mention the mess! At least the flat ceilings are easier to patch and skim/feather out.

BTW, has anyone ever heard of spraying a clear-coat over the ceiling? My mom's painter sprayed an oil-based white paint on her ceilings yesterday, today is supposed to "seal" them with some clear coat that he mixes the sand into?? I've never heard anything like it, and hope her ceilings don't turn yellow, but every time I ? her about any home improvement she's doing, or suggest something, it turns into an argument (even though she did end up taking my advice and is replacing her single-pane picture window in the FR when she is getting her sunroom redone).

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
collins design

This is so interesting!! lovlilynne, I am sorry you are having to go through this.

I'm in Maine and as circuspeanut said, no one even asks what type ceiling you want, they just do smooth. Our drywallers were complaining about the old-house ceiling rafters in the mudroom and how it wasn't a totally flat, level surface to drywall on, but they DID it, and the finisher did a great job evening it all out. We have a big expanse in the new kitchen/sitting area and they even had to patch in an area where a wall between two rooms had been removed, and it looks great. I can't imagine what he means by waves unless the drywall was just hung really slip-shod to begin with. But--- it must just be a regional thing--- like how some areas get 2cm granite slabs and some get 3cm as the norm.... I never realized how lucky I was to live where 3 cm counters and smooth ceilings are the norm, otherwise I am sure I would have been disappointed after the installations on both accounts!

Anyway good luck.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hate textured ceilings of any kind! When we redid the Kitchen & DR ceilings our KD specifically asked what kind of ceilings we wanted and was visibly relieved that I said flat! Textured ceilings are not only "out", but they cannot be easily cleaned & painted.

Yes, many contractors prefer textured b/c then they don't have to do the job you're paying them to do...put in a flat, smooth ceiling. We have a "long expanse" now that we opened up the DR to the Kitchen and it looks great (~35 feet)! No "waves", etc. I only wish all the ceilings in our house were flat! (A project that will be done slowly but surely.)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not a fan of any texture, on ceilings or walls, it reminds me of a cheap motel, and is so 1950. Thankfully, it's very uncommon here in Maryland. My DD, in Texas, has both and it always looks dirty because of the shadows. I gather it's "easier" to do and can hide a multitude of mistakes. I'd ask them to redo it as a smooth ceiling, like you expected them to do the first time.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This must be a regional So. Cal, most of the newer houses (late 80's to present)have knock down...of course homes from the 70's have popcorn....and most older homes have plaster.

Knock down doesn't bother me, but if you were used to seeing flat I could see where it would bother someone.

Get what you want, it's not like a paint color that's easy to change!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you wanted smooth, get smooth. Record player grooves, orange peel, popcorn, cottage cheese, lychee, or any other fruit part finish is dated.

Have then do it over (even if it costs you money).

otherwise you have simply replaced one dated finish with another!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a 33' expanse of ceiling in both my first floor and my second. Both are smooth textured, and I have never noticed any waves at all, so it is possible.

In my area, a swirled ceiling is almost unheard of. In fact, I've only seen it in 1 house, and it's in a master bedroom where the middle is recessed. The deeper middle is swirled, and the more shallow edges are smooth. I actually thought it may be some higher-end architectual detail since it's so rare here.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

IÂm in So. Cal too and have never seen a flat ceiling  though it does sound nice. Becktheeng  this is knock down? I always thought it was Orange Peel  or maybe Orange Peel is the level of knock down?

DH just redid our bathrooms and bought a sprayer at HD to apply the texture. It came out perfect! I was really impressed.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here in the Dallas area orange peel or knock down in the most common for walls and ceiling. Maybe in very expensive houses there are smooth walls but I've never seen them else where. I grew up in Maryland and walls were smoother there.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I had the kitchen ceiling re-done with drywall over the existing plaster ceiling the fellow just suggested I get a scrubbable flat paint to minimize any waves which he said was next to impossible to avoid. My ceiling looks great and perfectly flat to me.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


We have Orange Peel walls, and knock down on the's a texture that's applied heavily, then "knocked" down with trowel to finish it off (some might consider the look similar to stucco, but it's much finer and easier to paint). It's a heavier texture than the orange peel. It is also hard to patch and look good as it reguires the finisher to try to match someone elses trowel work. A good drywall finisher is really important for repairing the knock down....anyon repair and orange peel finish with a can from HD....we've done it several times at our place.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 1:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I guess the ceilings around here are actually orange peel, not smooth. I thought smooth was just another name for orange peel, but I am gathering there is a difference.

I've never seen actual "smooth" walls before, ones that have no texture, just perfect smoothness.

I just looked it up and knock down is different than orange peel. With orange peel, as you spray, the size of the "blobs" or "islands" are dictated by speed of the spray gun across the wall or ceiling, and are then left to dry. With knock down, they actually trowel off some of it after a period of drying.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here is a link that shows the different textures.

Here is a link that might be useful: textures

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 2:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Did I understand right that they removed the popcorn texture and put up the swirling? We had the popcorn stuff removed in our dining room/kitchen/entryway during our remodel and if I had come home and saw that they put up another textured finish I would have had a kitten! I can't even imagine the magnitude of my freakout. :D

Our popcorn was removed, the ceiling sanded, patched, and sanded again. It looks nice and flat, it is certainly not impossible! I think they should have assumed that removing the texture did not include putting up another texture, that sounds like a no-brainer to me.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Circus Peanut

pharoah - gah! gah! those are ALL singularly hideous to my northern eyes. People choose these textures of their own free will?!

How do you possibly paint such stuff? How do you sand it smooth (erm - I guess you don't). Doesn't grease and dust and ick get into all those little cracks and fissures? I cannot imagine trying to clean such walls adequately, esPECially in a kitchen. Erk.

Sorry, no judgement intended, just puritan Yankee shock. ;-)

For proper karmic balance, does anyone want to share some pics of these kinds of walls done well?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I actually patched and skimcoated large areas of the walls of my house. Several walls worth. Even taped and drywalled some areas completely.

If you can frost a cake you can drywall. Heck, drywall is easier because the wall doesn't crumble. (Unless it's my house ...)

Yes, I know ceilings are a bit different, but not night and day.

I'm not a pro, but by the time I was done, between building up layers, scraping, and the sanding afterward, the walls were nice and flat and smooth afterward. If a complete novice can do it, I honestly don't think it's a matter of "can't". There might be exceptional situations (like Calcimine) but I think the finish is a matter of choice.

And I recently watched my contractor do it. He did it by hand, not with a sprayer. From what I have read, the sprayer is only to give you the finish texture anyway. (I could be wrong about this.)

True, real horsehair plaster has an orange-peel, human skin texture, while Sheetrock gives you a flatflatflat, poreless finish.

There does seem to be some regional preference for finishes. Maybe it has something to do with architecture? Or building techniques?

Interesting to read about.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 3:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, they skimcoated an entire room for me to take it back to smooth (from an original lathe and plaster that someone put an exterior heavy textured stucco finish over). It took 3 days, and it didn't cost 1/2 as much as I thought it would. It can be done, and it looks fabulous.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 3:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here in the PNW, textured walls and ceilings are the norm or at least they were the last time I looked. I only recall seeing smooth walls and ceilings in period homes. I guess I'll have to start looking up more often. Maybe the status quo has changed and no one sent me the memo.

Since texture seems to be the norm in CA, too, could it have anything to do with living in earthquake country? Maybe texture hides the tiny cracks that come from our periodic shaking but I'm just guessing.

Personally, textured walls and ceilings don't bother me (sorry, circuspeanut if that offends your Puritan Yankee-ness >grin

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OFF TOPIC: SLO Bubble Gum Alley

This discussion of textured wall brings up a particularly nasty image in my mind. Take a look at this photo. I have been to this place and I think it is thoroughly disturbing.

Warning: Can make you feel creepy or nauseous!

(some think it is art).

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree, circuspeanut, about most of the textures except orange peel and that's because literally 99% of homes in this area (PNW) have it. I've always considered it standard - in my mind due to my experience orange peel means "no texture". It's funny how experience and locale impacts perception of walls so much :-). I guess that's why I thought smooth and orange peel were the same thing - everyone has orange peel :-).

I guess we do "smooth" out here, but that's reserved for garages because it's a waste of effort, time, and money on just a garage. So a lot of finished garages are just taped and mudded and then painted as is, right over the drywall.

Here are my orange peel walls:

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think you should get what you want, and I certainly wouldn't be paying extra for them to fix something they assumed I'd want.

Here is a picture of my walls and ceiling. Here in my region of the south, textured is the norm. I see knock down mostly, but mine is some form of hand trowel. Sorry if the pic offends the texture haters. ;)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 5:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I never thought about it. My '70s house is smooth all over. I always thought texturing was just a way to cover up sloppy drywall.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 5:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, thanks for all the responses! It certainly is interesting to see the regional differences - even in different states of New England! My house was built in 1969-70, and acoustic ceiling was the norm. From the link that Pharoh shared, I have the "perlite". When we added on in 2001, I had them do the ceilings in the perlite to match. It really doesn't bother me, I chuckle when I watch on HGTV the people who complain about the "popcorn" ceilings.

But, even though I don't really care that my ceilings are popcorn, I was not happy to see the swirls - which looked like the "mud swirls" in Pharo's link. Part of it was that I wasn't expecting it, and part of it was that I just didn't like it.

Interestingly, I was sharing my story with my manager, and she said that they did her ceilings (NH lake house built in the last 10 years) in what sounded like the skip trowel or maybe even the spanish knife. Then I told my co-worker, and she described that her NH home built 10 years ago what sounds like the sand swirl.

I am happy with what they did today. It's the "skip trowel" from the link, except a bit more subtle. I know I could have pushed it and insisted on the smooth, but this is really ok with me. It will be a looong time before I can scrape of the popcorn in the other rooms (if I even do - do you know that there was asbestos in that stuff in the 70s??).

Circuspeanut - when we moved in here, the ceilings were indeed yellowed, I believe from the smoker who had lived in the house (but had been dead for ~10 years). But, I'm not sure it was anymore yellow than it would have been if it were a smooth ceiling. But painting is a b*tch! I have painted 4-5 of the ceilings in my house now, and getting into all those pepples is tedious. Also, at this age, it has started to peel off in some places of the ceiling - looks awful.

Growlery - we too have skimcoated whole rooms in our 1st home and areas of this home. It can be done, but it's a lot of work for an amature - DH spent weeks and still it had imperfections - and the dust! Ugh. I can't imagine doing it with your head bent back at a 90 degree angle. I think it costs more because it's more work.

A mom2threeboys - I like your ceilings and walls, they look great. It looks a lot like my ceiling does now.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have the mud swirls in the living room foyer and hall and also dining room, the rest of the house is smooth. Came home from work 2 weeks ago and there was water coming through the ceiling, ended up being the central air which was put in a year ago. They had the pitch wrong and caused a real mess. Finally had professionals come in that do this and they all wanted to just replace the damage and re swirl and that would be 1000.00 for this. I insisted on smooth and the price is 2000.00 for smooth, but he strongly advised to swirl again these beautiful ceilings..... Alot of bull just easier job for them. Our house was built in 1987 and in the northeast this was the big thing. Alot of new constructions had them. They never bothered me until the last 5 years or so. Trying to update the whole house so it was a no brainer for me to have the smooth. I am probably having the dining room done also and just paying out of pocket for this. I don't have to pay my deductible for the home owners as they found negligence on the air conditioning install and are going after them. They will be skimcoating and said it is a 3 day job.
I am glad that you are happy with the result you agreed on. At least no more popcorn or mud swirls. The one you got is very nice and does not draw your eye to the ceiling.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 11:53AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Largest sink I can get? 33" exterior cabinet, 31/32" interior. HELP!
1st time home buyer here and we're trying to replace...
Joyce de Leon
what metal finish with a Chambers stove?
I'm planning a kitchen remodel. I already have my white...
Gap between backsplash and over-the-range microwave?
Hi, all. Does anyone have an over-the-range microwave...
Can you look at my kitchen layout and tell me what I'm missing?
Sorry I posted this once previously, but I wanted to...
What do you think of leathered surfaces? and why?
So I did my first foray into a granite yard today....
Sponsored Products
Ceiling Medallions White Urethane Ceiling Medallion 15 1/4 Dia | 11783
The Renovator's Supply, Inc.
Kichler Lucien Olde Bronze Chandelier 6-Light
Leucos | Laugna P74 Platinum Wall Sconce
$787.50 | YLighting
Kichler Roswell Modern Contempo Island Light
Sunset Trading Park Avenue Reclining Loveseat
Beyond Stores
Trans Globe 3090 PC Semi-Flushmount - Polished Chrome - 13.875W in. - 3090 PC
$226.10 | Hayneedle
Progress Lighting White Track Accessory, Outlet Adapter P8751-28
$23.40 | Home Depot
My World 70-Inch Annas Ruffle Purple Valance
$29.99 | Bellacor
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™