How to Apply a Knockdown Texture on Your Ceiling or Walls

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Spraying the Mixture

You can choose between 3 different sized tips for the hopper: small, medium and large. You can spray the mixture lightly to create a fine texture or heavily to create a more rugged look. Usually a medium texture works great with an air control valve so that you can turn your pressure up and down. When applying knockdown, we recommend using a setting of around 40 psi, because you don’t want it to spray too fast.

Keep a consistent speed when applying knockdown drywall. We recommend that you do not move the sprayer too fast or too slowly. You’ll have to practice in order to find the best speed to use when applying the spray-on mixture. Do not overload the spray surface and remember to use the right spray pressure. The speed of application must remain constant over the drywall being finished.

PRO TIP #1: If you don’t have a hopper gun or don’t want to use a sprayer, you can still achieve a nice knockdown finish without it. You can even achieve similar texture patterns with a paint roller. You may need to thicken or thin the mixture to achieve certain patterns, and you can give it more body by adding a small amount of sand or mica.

Apply Your Texture

At this point, you'll be chomping at the bit to get that texture sprayed on your ceiling or walls. However, if this is your very first time to spray texture, a strong suggestion is to spray some on a scrap piece of drywall or a big piece of cardboard. It can take some tweaking to get your nozzle and trigger settings on the hopper gun and the pressure setting on the air compressor just like you want them. In fact, we used just about a whole box of texture mix in practice alone. (Just in case it helps, we used the third largest nozzle setting, the trigger stop was at about 75%, and the air compressor was set to 20 psi.)

When your practice texture makes you happy, you're ready to tackle your actual ceiling and/or walls.

  1. Hold the hopper gun about 2 feet away from your surface and squeeze the trigger, all the while keeping the gun moving.
  2. Check your texture coverage constantly. Too much spray in one area will make a large flat area when you knock it down, so if you notice a heavier-than-desired concentration, scrape it off right away and dump it back in the hopper or bucket.
  3. If you notice an area that doesn't have enough texture, simply spray back over it.

Donna Fairley Huebsch

Texturing a Wall With Texture Machine vs Roller

Professional painters create wall and ceiling textures with an electric texture sprayer. These tools allow the user to pour texturing compound into a hopper, and the machine introduces water and air to the mix. The hopper is a better choice if you are texturing a large area.

At between one to three gallons per minute, the machine sprays texture onto the surfaces. The sprayed texture goes on rapidly and dries quickly.

Do-it-yourselfers rarely have the benefit of using a $2,000+ electric texture sprayer. An ordinary paint roller fitted onto a roller cage is an effective, low-cost alternative.

Application is far slower than with the electric sprayer but it's easier to control, and can be a good option for smaller areas or repairs. Knock-down and orange peel effects can be achieved with the paint roller method, just like with the electric texturizer.

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Tip

Wall texture effects can vary depending on how the material is applied and rolled. Practice the technique on scraps of drywall or even sheets of cardboard before moving to your walls and ceilings. Practice with both thin coats and heavy coats. Try different drying times between coats.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Poor Coverage

 Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images
Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

Also when using spray-on texture, be sure to add enough water to bring texture material to the right viscosity limits. Do not move the sprayer too fast or too slowly. You will need to determine what will be the best speed to use when applying the spray-on texture. Do not overload the spray surface and remember to use the right spray pressure. The speed of application must remain constant over the wall or surface that it is being finished.

Texture Buildup

 BanksPhotos / Getty Images
BanksPhotos / Getty Images

Texture Buildup can occur over a drywall joint when the surface has not been properly prime. Do not allow too much time between roller or brush and texture applications. Over-dilution of texture material will produce texture buildup over the drywall joints. Use the correct amount of water when mixing texture material and allow enough time between application and final texturing.

Knock down the splatter texture

There are really only two ways to spoil a knockdow

There are really only two ways to spoil a knockdown texture: too much splatter coverage and waiting too long before knocking down the splatters. When the splatters become too dry, you just can’t knock them down smoothly. So keep a careful eye on the sheen of the splatters. As soon as the wet shine disappears from the first area you sprayed—usually after 10 to 15 minutes—get moving.

Drag the knockdown knife in straight, overlapping courses. Work inward from both edges of the ceiling, and keep moving. The splatters dry and harden quickly.

Mix up the mud and load up the hopper

I add about 2 in. of water to a clean 2-gallon pai

I add about 2 in. of water to a clean 2-gallon pail (an ice cream pail is ideal) and mix unaggregated texture powder into it. For knockdown texture, never use mix that contains aggregate. Continue to add water and powder until you have a bit more mix than you think you’ll need. Better to waste some mud than to run out before you’re done. Approximately 1-1/2 gallons of mix is adequate for a 10 x 14-ft. room.

Here’s a crucial step for this how to texture drywall project: Set the mix aside for about 15 minutes to allow for complete water absorption. Otherwise, the mix will thicken in the hopper. It won’t spray and you’ll have to clean it out and start over. After this “slaking” period, add a bit more water and remix. The final consistency should resemble pancake batter. A mix that’s too thick won’t spray well, so it’s better to error toward a slightly thinner consistency.

Cost for Prep and Repair Work

The cost of the project will also be partially determined by how much prep and repair work is needed. For example, if the contractor needs to remove an existing texture that could increase the cost of the project by several hundred dollars.

It’s also going to be necessary to repair any water damage or imperfections in the walls or ceilings before applying a new texture. The most common form of ceiling damage is water spots or other forms of water damage.

If the damage is extensive enough, then it might even be necessary to replace all of the drywall in the room, though this is often not the case. If you’re interested, try our drywall calculator to estimate how many panels you might need for the project.

If there is an existing ceiling texture, that will need to be removed as well. Scraping the existing texture off the ceiling should be done first and usually costs $1.25 – $2.00 per square foot.

Preparing the Compound

Before creating any knockdown texture, you’ll want to make sure you tape off the area to be finished and have sanded down the walls.

Here’s how to prepare the compound:

  1. Add Water to the Bucket. You definitely want to put water in the bucket first and not the compound; that way you don’t get clumps or hard spots when you add the powder to the water.
  1. Add Mud or Compound. Pour the proper amount of water in a second bucket. Standard, all-purpose joint compound will work best for this project. You can use either dry compound or ready-mix compound. Avoid compounds that contain sand or grit (unless you want a unique look). Plain mud works best for this type of texture. You should also avoid lightweight compounds. These formulas scratch more easily and may not accept the texturing as well as all-purpose compounds do.
  1. Mix to the Consistency You Want. For knockdown texture, never use mix that contains aggregate. Continue to add water and powder until you have a bit more mix than you think you’ll need. Better to waste some mud than to run out before you’re done. Set the mixture aside for about 15 minutes to allow for complete water absorption. You don’t want the mix thickening in the hopper. You must be able to spray the mixture with the hopper gun, so it should be about the consistency of pancake batter or thick paint.

Questions Answers

Question: Could I apply a California knockdown to just a ceiling and not the walls in the same room?

Answer: I'm not familiar with California knockdown, but I know that you can apply knockdown texture on a ceiling and not the walls. You'll have to cover the walls with something to protect from overspray.

Keep Knockdown Looking Nice!

  • Dust the surface weekly with either an electrostatic duster or a vacuum with a soft brush attachment. Never use abrasive scrub brushes or broom heads, which could slough off the texture.
  • To remove grime and stains, saturate a paint roller with a solution of one teaspoon liquid dish soap and four cups warm water. Gently go over the dirty areas, then use a clean, damp roller to remove soap solution residue and make a final pass with a dry roller or soft sponge.
  • Drywall compound can take on smoke and soot stains over time, so avoid smoking and limit the frequency of fireplace fires near the textured surfaces.
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