The ceilings of many homes and apartments are not painted, but instead are coated with a substance that has a bumpy texture. It looks like this:

This treatment is normally called a textured finish or an acoustic finish by builders, but most people refer to it as popcorn. This sort of ceiling treatment is popular for several reasons:

  • It keeps you from having to plaster and sand the ceiling. If you've ever done it, you know that plastering a ceiling is no fun.
  • It hides lots of imperfections in the ceiling. The ceiling is a huge, flat, uninterrupted and well-lit expanse. Any imperfection is immediately obvious. The texturing hides imperfections very effectively.
  • It helps eliminate echo in a room. If you have ever talked in a room before and after carpeting, you know what a big difference carpet makes on echoes. An acoustic finish is like carpeting the ceiling.

There are many different ways to put a texture on a ceiling, but the most common technique involves mixing some sort of lumpy aggregate -- either vermiculite or polystyrene -- with ceiling paint. The mixture is then sprayed onto the ceiling using a special spray gun like the hopper texture gun from Lemmer. It goes on in one coat, and once it dries (like normal paint), you're done!