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Decorative texturing guide

by Michael Collihole

Decorative texturing is an attractive and economical wall and ceiling finishing technique. Texturing compound is applied and while it is still wet, an overall design is created in the compound with special tools. Using specialized tools and techniques, the homeowner (or contractor) can create a unique design. Most surfaces can be textured, including new or existing drywall, plaster, concrete, cinder block, brick, and wood paneling. An advantage of decorative texturing is that it can be used to conceal minor imperfections.

Preparation for texturing:

The most important step in decorative texturing is to properly prepare the walls and ceiling. While texturing will cover small imperfections, some patterns may require a good original surface.

Begin by repairing and taping any holes and cracks. Any taped areas will require at least one coat of joint compound and two or three topping coats for a smooth finish. Smaller cracks and holes can be filled with white latex caulk (not silicone) and blended with your finger.

If walls are saturated with cigarette smoke, wash them using a mixture of 1/2 cup of ammonia to a gallon of warm water for general cleaning. Increase the ammonia to perhaps a 50:50 solution and even use it full strength for tougher jobs. Test your solution first in the worst areas to determine the proper mix for your project. When the surface is clean, use a sponge and rinse with fresh water. If you are concerned about the possible bleed-through of nicotine residue and cigarette odors, apply a stain killer before priming to seal them with a solvent system mentioned below.

Prime the surface:

Priming provides a clean surface for the texturing compound. It increases adhesion and will give you even greater working (or playing) time with the wet texture/compound. If you skip this step, you face the possibility of peeling.

Use a latex primer-sealer for most surfaces, or use an oil-based primer in very dry climates for bathrooms and kitchens. One product worth considering is Zinsser's B-I-N product. This fast-drying white-pigmented stain-killing primer-sealer allows you to prime and topcoat in the same day. It blocks out all kinds of stains and also handles odors such as fire smells, for example. B-I-N is a shellac-based primer, not a water-based (latex) or oil-based product.

Selecting and applying texture:

Whether you are applying a compound or a texture, add water until the product is creamy. If you wish, you can tint your texture/compound. For more working time, consider adding Floetrol, which also minimizes brush marks.

Use a good-quality 4-inch brush or a 3/4-inch nap lambskin roller to apply the texture/compound, maintaining a uniform thickness of about 1/16 inch. Work in sections:

  • For walls, apply texture/compound to a 4-foot by 8-foot section at one time, working left to right.
  • For ceilings, apply to a 4-foot section out from the wall and the width of the ceiling when working with the roller. When creating an "old" look, work in 4-foot by 4-foot sections.

After you apply texture/compound to a section, put your 4-inch paintbrush into a bucket of water.

Next, wet back the wall with the brush, dipping it many times into the water, until the texture is smooth. You cannot make a mistake on this step and you can wet back in a particular section for 10 hours or more. Use a 1-inch paintbrush around the edges and in corners.

It's now up to you to use your texturing tools to create a unique look on your ceiling and/or walls. When it is dry, paint or glaze the finished texture.

We believe these texturing suggestions will be helpful as you plan and create your own unique decorative finishes. As always, we recommend that you carefully read and follow all the instructions provided by the manufacturer(s) of the products you select.

Copyright © 1999 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. & Michael Collihole. All rights reserved.

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