How To Fix A Broken Ceiling

Now, this may not be an everyday experience, but even in a pinch, DreamyHome is here to help. If you have a broken ceiling, through your fault or that of another, it’s a massive pain. This is made especially bad if you’re renting rather than owning your home, but it sucks either way. We’re going to give a very basic walkthrough on how to patch a broken ceiling for those who already are familiar with the basics. If you’re not familiar with how to do any of this – please, call a professional for help.

To patch a broken ceiling, you need to remove any texture (popcorn ceiling) first. After that, it’s a matter of cutting a hole, installing supports, and then patching over the damage.

This is by no means easy, so let’s try to make it a bit easier to understand before you give up and call for an expensive repair.

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

We’re starting with this because regardless of whether or not you have a hole or crack in your ceiling, you’ll need to do this first. As a bit of preparation, if your ceiling is painted, prepare for a much more difficult task. To do this, you’re going to need:

  • A spray bottle of water
  • A paint scraper or putty knife
  • Plastic sheeting (to collect everything that falls)
  • Respirator or mask

Now – here’s how to remove a textured ceiling:

  1. Cover the walls and floor of the room you’re working in with plastic sheeting. This will catch all of the bits that fall and make cleanup drastically easier. I also recommend wearing a respirator so you don’t breath in all of the gunk from your ceiling.
  2. Next, you’re going to want to use that spray bottle to cover a section of your ceiling in water. I recommend doing this a square meter at a time to make it more manageable.
  3. Wait for the water to absorb into the ceiling and then scrape at a shallow angle with your putty knife or paint scraper to remove the texture. You’ll notice a feeling of massive satisfaction as it peels away; savour it.
  4. Repeat the process across the entire room until the texture is all gone. You may need to go back over some areas several times, especially if the ceiling is painted.

How to Patch a Broken Ceiling

Now that you’ve removed any texture from the ceiling, your repair process can begin. To do this, you’re going to need:

  1. A paint scraper or putty knife
  2. Utility knife
  3. Sanding paper
  4. Optional – a sponge will protect your hands while you sand. It’s not necessary, but it’s nice if you have delicate writer hands like myself.
  5. Pry bar
  6. Nail gun
  7. Crown Moulding
  8. Plastic sheeting
  9. Drywall compound
  10. Measuring tape
  11. Paint and primer

Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of ceiling repairs.

The Process

Now all that’s left is to read and follow along:

  1. Begin by smoothing out your ceiling to the best of your ability. Gently sand (using the sponge as a protective layer if desired) until it’s all smooth. This is extra important if you have (had, now) a textured or painted ceiling.
  2. Cut away all of the loose paper that was underneath the paint and texturing. Using your utility knife, make clean, straight cuts along the paper to remove it in sections (or wherever the damage is). It should peel away pretty easily, but a putty knife at an angle will make this easy if you find resistance.
    1. Don’t cut away paper that’s still snugly fitted to the ceiling. You’re just pulling away obviously loose paper.
  3. Using your drill, screw in as many screws as needed to keep the plaster secured to the lath. Take your drywall compound and apply it using a putty knife over the screws in an even layer. Wait for the drywall to dry and reapply a second layer. Mud other areas that need patchwork with your remaining drywall compound.
  4. Sand down any excess drywall to make an even layer and apply paint primer once it’s dry.
  5. Paint with your colour of choice and admire your handiwork.

How to Patch a Ceiling Hole

Thankfully, this type of fix is easier than the previous one. To patch a ceiling hole, you’re going to need:

  1. A trowel
  2. Measuring tape
  3. Joint compound
  4. Power drill (or screwdriver)
  5. Screws
  6. Scrap wood
  7. Hand or power saw to cut the wood
  8. Sandpaper

Now, let’s get that hole patched.

The Process

There are two ways to do this. The first is to do a quick, slapdash job of patching over the hole with drywall or wall putty, though that’s not what we’re after today. DreamyHome doesn’t do things halfway. Instead, you’re going to:

  1. Find the hole and measure it. Locate any existing framing around the hole – this will be the bit that keeps your scrap wood in place so you can patch the hole properly.
    1. If you’re unsure how to do this, knock on the ceiling. It will sound hollow in parts without framing, whereas it’ll make a dull “thud” when you hit a frame piece.
    2. Measuring the hole doesn’t just mean the diameter – you’re also measuring the depth. You want this piece of scrap fitting so snugly that nobody would ever know it wasn’t supposed to be there.
  2. Cut your scrap wood so that it’s roughly 1.25 cm thinner than the opening. This will allow you to put drywall over it without it forming a weird bump in your ceiling. Addtionally, cut it slightly smaller than the opening so it can slide in.
  3. Attach the scrap wood using screws to the framing. You can also use adhesive, but again, DreamyHome doesn’t do halfway fixes – use screws.
  4. Cut your drywall so that it’s ever so slightly smaller than the existing hole. Screw the drywall into your scrap wood.
  5. Apply drywall over the whole thing. Fill any holes thoroughly and then allow it to dry. Once it’s dry, sand down the drywall. Repeat the process.
  6. Add primer and once it’s dry, paint with your colour of choice!

Fixing Cracks or Nail Pops

Contrary to my normal modus operandi, we saved the easiest for last. If you need to patch a nail popping through your ceiling or a small crack, it’s surprisingly easy.

You’ll need:

  1. Mesh tape
  2. Joint compound
  3. Sandpaper
  4. Screws and power drill or screwdriver

The Process: Small Cracks

  1. Sand all loose paint and drywall so that it’s even and smooth.
  2. Apply mesh tape over the crack.
  3. Spread joint compound over the tape and sand it down.
  4. Prime and paint.

The Process: Nail Pop

  1. Drive screws into the stud that the offending nail is in on both sides.
  2. Remove damaged material and replace the original screw.
  3. Spread joint compound over the screws and sand it down. You can now prime and paint it!

Final Thoughts

First things first – a broken ceiling is no joke. If you have minor cracks, nail pop, or a small hole, you can use the above steps to get a DIY fix done in a day. However, if you have a large hole and notice a) damage to the foundation/supports, b) rent your home, or most importantly, c) are uncomfortable doing any of this, please call a professional for help. They exist solely to make your life easier, safer, and overall less of a hassle.

Not only will a professional fix this in a fraction of the time that you probably could, but in all likelihood, they’ll do a much better job. So call a professional contractor, sit back in your favourite chair, make yourself a drink, and watch the pros do what they do best.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.