Category: Walls & Ceilings

Quick Tip: Taping Drywall Joints

Taping drywall is the most important—and often the trickiest—step in the installation process. Follow these guidelines to render the seam between panels all but invisible.

Here’s a helpful tip for getting really smooth drywall seam. After you’ve laid the tape in a four-inch bed of joint compound, apply another thin coat of compound with a six-inch knife. Let it dry overnight, then add another coat with a ten-inch trowel. Feather the edges out with the knife. Smooth it out again with the ten-inch trowel and let it dry. Apply your third coat the same way, this time with a 12-inch trowel. Increase the size of your trowel with each coat, and you’ll be sure to get an invisible seam every time.

For more on drywall, consider:

Seamless Drywall Finishing
Quick Tip: Installing Drywall
How To: Finish Drywall Joints

How To: Texture Walls

Raise visual interest in your home by raising the texture of your walls. It’s a fun DIY project that allows your creativity to really come through.

How to Texture Walls


When you texture the walls of your house, you accomplish two things. First, you transform boring-to-look-at surfaces into pitted, peaked, and otherwise visually appealing objects of interest. Second, you are able to hide any imperfections that may exist on the wall, which saves the trouble of making a dozen little repairs.

Related: 5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas

There is an almost endless number of techniques for texturing walls—the process is as much an art form as it is a popular home improvement job. To learn more about several of the most common approaches, we contacted texture and design specialist Larry Oliver, owner of Westchester, New York-based Lawrence Oliver Painting.

Drywall Mud
An easy way to texture walls is by simulating a stucco finish. According to Oliver, this virtually fail-safe method often yields satisfying results for average do-it-yourselfers. “Apply taping or joint compound to your wall with a trowel or a wide compound knife,” he explains. “Next, dab a sponge into the compound, then press the sponge against the wall repeatedly to create an overall texture. Dab on additional compound as necessary. Let dry and then paint.”

Joint taping compound, also known as drywall mud, can be purchased at any home improvement store. When using compound to texture walls, first make sure the walls are clean and completely dry. Water down the compound slightly prior to application so that it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. One thing homeowners like about working with compound is that if you apply too much or incorrectly position it, you can simply wipe away the mistake and begin again.

Another way to use joint compound to texture walls is to apply it by means of a notched trowel (the kind used to skim-coat a plaster wall) or a squeegee into which you’ve cut a series of indentations. Use either tool to make a line pattern across the breadth of the wall surface. Work in one direction first, then go in the perpendicular direction, spreading the mud in such a way as to form a crosshatched pattern, one that looks the way some woven fabrics do when seen up close.

To achieve the popular “skip trowel” wall texture, a knife is angled during compound application to create a pleasingly uneven surface. Don’t be fooled: You need a steady hand to pull this off. That’s why Oliver suggests a different approach for DIYers: the knockdown method. “Use taping compound and a sea-sponge roller. Roll the compound onto your wall with about 80 percent coverage. Before the compound dries, lightly smooth the higher areas with a knife.”

In the stomp-knockdown technique, a variation of the above, a special brush is smacked repeatedly against a compound-covered wall. Some of the mud pulls away from the wall with each strike. Before the compound starts to dry, the installer follows up with a knife or paint scraper in order to eliminate unwanted peaks.

Oliver says that if you’ve chosen to apply taping compound with either the knockdown or stomp-knockdown method, it’s important that you wield the putty knife at the correct angle (approximately 15 degrees) and not exert too much pressure. “The slight angle and light pressure ensure that you do not smooth out your finish too much.” Oliver then cautions, “Always remember not to be heavy-handed in the corners and edges—that’s a common mistake made among DIYers.”

Other tools that may be employed to apply joint compound include tissue paper, old rags, and specially designed deep-nap rollers. In addition, you can also try rolling on the compound with a standard paint roller before artfully removing some of the material you have added. Because compound has a forgiving nature, feel free to experiment with whichever technique you find the most promising. In all cases, let the compound dry thoroughly before you proceed to paint. Depending on local humidity, drying may take as long as 24 hours. To speed the process, aim a fan toward the wall surface on which you have been working.

How to Texture Walls - Blue


Many of the major paint manufacturers offer a line of textured paints. Such products work similarly to drywall mud, but because they are comparatively more difficult to remove, they require greater precision.

For example, when using textured paint, you must work quickly to cover the entire surface before the coat dries. If one area dries before you’ve covered the next, rigid lines may appear at their intersection.

Related: How To: Paint EVERYTHING 

That said, textured paint goes on simply with a standard paint roller and a brush to cut in at edges and corners. Two coats are typically needed, one for the base and another as the finishing layer.

Because textured paints are available in only a limited range of hues, you may wish to pursue a different option—namely, a paint texture additive, which can be mixed with any color of regular paint you like.

If you wish to texture a very large wall or the walls in several rooms, consider renting a drywall texture sprayer. Powered by compressed air and featuring a gun-like nozzle, a sprayer speedily covers surfaces in joint compound, producing, among a variety of other looks, the currently passé “popcorn” texture.

The pattern a sprayer creates depends on three variables: the type of compound used, the nozzle selected, and the amount of air that is propelling the mud. There’s no harm in experimenting, as the compound can be easily sponged off if you end up with a texture that is not to your liking.

Be advised that if you decide to employ a sprayer in a home decked out with furnishings and finished floors, it’s essential to cover anything that you don’t want hit by mud.

No matter the technique you opt to use, Oliver offers one final recommendation: “When texturing walls, try not to be too repetitive, making the same shape over and over like chicken tracks,” he says. “To create a more professional finish, keep the textured pattern random.” This should come as a relief to many DIYers, because intricate patterning is harder to accomplish than random texturing. So give it a shot, and have fun!

What Would Bob Do? Dealing with Bulging Drywall Seams

Bulging drywall seams have a number of possible causes. Read on for the likely culprits and the most effective solutions.


Many of the drywall seams on my 40-year-old house are bulging. It doesn’t appear as if the joint tape is pulling away from the seams, because when I tried to remove some of the tape, it was extremely difficult. Also, the drywall appears to be pretty firmly attached. When I press on both sides of the seam, the drywall doesn’t move. Could it be that the seams have always looked this way? Could this just be the result of a poor spackling job when the  joint tape and compound were applied in the first place? What should I do to make these seams less visible?

With the drywall firmly attached, as you say it is, I can think of only three situations in which the seams would bulge, sag, or buckle.

Sometimes, drywall seams become visible when a house has undergone considerable settling. But unless your geographical area has had unusually dry or wet conditions in recent years, structural problems are probably not at play in your 40-year-old home. If, however, you notice any other signs of settling—cracks in the foundation, torn drywall joints, or gaps either along the baseboards or at the point where walls meet ceilings—hire a foundation expert to do an inspection.

Related: Drywall vs. Blueboard Explained (VIDEO)

The more likely culprit is the manner in which your drywall was installed. For the seam between drywall panels to disappear after painting, that joint must be covered with compound in a specific way—in a series of layers, with each layer wider than the last. Additionally, each layer needs to dry—and, in some cases, should be sanded—before the next layer goes on. For tradesmen, it’s a time-consuming process, one that often requires repeat visits to the job site. That being the case, it’s not uncommon for a contractor to use fewer layers than would be ideal, leaving the drywall seam insufficiently feathered to the adjacent surfaces. Or, an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer may have done the work, in the process making some common mistakes without knowing the error of his ways.

Here’s yet another possible cause: When drywall sheets with uncut edges are butted together, a depression forms along the line where they join. That depression is meant to accommodate joint compound and drywall tape. Trouble arises only when installers opt to use cut drywall: Because the edges of these sheets aren’t tapered, there’s no depression when they’re paired. As a result, the joint compound and drywall tape are applied over the plane of the drywall surface, resulting in a buildup that looks very much like a bulge. Again, the explanation is that either a pro did the work and chose to cut corners, or a DIYer did so unwittingly.

No matter the cause, the solution to bulging drywall seams is almost always the same: Call in a contractor to apply a skim coat of compound over the entire wall. That coat fills in the recessed areas, creating a flat-looking surface. This isn’t a job for the average person to do over the weekend; it’s specialized work that requires a trained hand. If you’d rather not spend the money, consider repainting the affected walls in a flat paint, as sheens make it easier to spot imperfections.

Bob Vila Radio: Glass Block

If you want to let light in while maintaining privacy, look no further than the glass block. It enjoys many applications, from flooring to shower stalls to skylights— and here are a few reasons why it just might be right for your home.

Glass block has been used as a building material for more than a century, but it experienced a big surge of popularity in the 1930s and ’40s. That was when technological advancements made the blocks more durable and easier to install. Its use has risen and fallen over the years, but glass block continues to be valued for its strength and its unique ability to let in natural light while maintaining privacy.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GLASS BLOCK or read the text below:

Glass Block


Some of glass block’s other selling points? It’s a far better insulator single-paned glass. Glass block is also easy to clean, it resists fire and impact, and it’s secure against break-ins. If correctly installed, it is long lasting and can be less expensive than traditional windows.

These features explain many of the common applications for glass block, which include basement windows, non-load-bearing walls, skylights and partitions. Its translucence and easy care make it ideal for shower stalls. And glass block flooring is a great way to bring light to rooms below. Outdoors, it can be used for walls or wall accents, bars, deck features—wherever you need to add light or drama. And the good news is that glass block is an accessible material for a competent DIYer who wants to let in some light.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Install a Tongue-and-Groove Ceiling

For a traditional look either indoors or out on the porch, why not install a tongue-and-groove ceiling? Follow these simple guidelines to achieve pro-quality results.

Here’s a way to install a tongue-and-groove ceiling without damaging the wood. Set a board in place. Then with a scrap piece of tongue-and-groove stock as a block, give the board a firm tap. This forces the tongue tightly into the groove. Using finish nails, secure the backboard in place. All the tongues remain intact and undamaged if you use a block.

For more on ceilings, consider:

5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas
Top Tips for Installing Tongue-and-Groove Paneling
From Finland with Loves: Notes on Installing a Wood Ceiling

How To: Find Studs

It's easier than you thought to find studs. Here's the skinny on the three most common—and most effective—methods.

Whether you’re hanging shelves or breaking through a wall, you’ve got to know where to find the wall studs. There are three ways to find studs. One, sound it out. You should hear a solid thump when you hit a stud. Two, look for nails along the baseboard. They’re usually driven at stud intervals. And three, use a magnetic finding device. It will zero in on the nails or screws that fix the wall to the stud.

For more on walls, consider:

Quick Tip: Using Metal Studs
Bob Vila Radio: Locating Studs
How To: Identify a Load-Bearing Wall

How To: Repair Plaster Walls

Find out how easy it can be to repair plaster walls, without having to pay for the services of a contractor.

If you have an old house with holes in the plaster, here’s a quick way to patch them. Apply your base coat (or brown coat) of rough plaster with a small trowel. If there’s no existing wire mesh, make sure you staple some on first for support. Smooth the plaster out with a large trowel and let the rough coat set for one to two hours, depending on the humidity. Then apply a finishing coat of premixed joint compound. Let it dry overnight and with a 12-inch knife, apply your final skim coat.

For more on plaster, consider:

Patching Plaster Walls
How To: Rebuild a Wall with Three-Coat Plaster
Blueboard and Veneer Plaster Offer Old-Style Look

Quick Tip: Using Reclaimed Brick

With reclaimed brick, remodelers can match new repair work to the original portions of an existing installation.

In a restoration project, reusing the original brick is a great idea. Water damage and neglect can destroy the mortar in a brick wall. For repairs, reuse your original bricks with new mortar to strengthen and rebuild the wall. Use tinted mortar to match the original foundation. Recycled bricks create a new wall without sacrificing a historic look.

For more on walls, consider:

How To: Lay Brick
Repointing Brick Walls
Brick Basics: Maintenance, Care, and Cleaning

Add Visual Interest with Board and Batten

Historically associated with Arts and Crafts architecture, the three-dimensional appeal of board and batten is finding renewed popularity in both exterior and interior applications.

Board and Batten


A striking dimensional finishing treatment, board and batten, is enjoying renewed popularity, with homeowners installing it both on the exterior and indoors. Historically a staple of Arts and Crafts architecture, board and batten originated as a form of house siding. The term “batten” refers to the strip of molding placed across the joint between boards. The resulting look boasts an attractive geometry: strong vertical lines balanced by a sense of texture across the horizontal.

As an exterior cladding, board and batten manages to impart a rustic, handmade quality even to new homes built in unmistakably contemporary styles. Within the home, board and batten commonly appears in mudrooms and hallways, bedrooms and dining areas, adding charm to otherwise bland expanses of drywall or plaster. Many traditional designs for non-permanent elements of the home—shutters, for example, or cabinet doors—also feature board-and-batten construction.

Board and Batten - Exterior


For the average do-it-yourselfer, installing board and batten lies well within reach, especially since home centers and hardware stores often sell pre-measured kits that make it a breeze. If you are planning a project either on the exterior or interior, here are a few hard-earned tips to help you achieve a professional-level result:

Exterior Installation Tips:

• Before you begin the work of installation, paint or stain the boards and battens, and don’t forget to apply a sealer, protecting the wood from the weather.

• Start by cutting the boards, typically to width between one and four feet. Leave a 1/4- or 1/2-inch gap between the boards to allow for seasonal expansion.

• Center the one- or two-inch-wide battens over the joints between the boards. Nail through the battens so that the fasteners drive into the expansion gaps.

• Buy or build enough battens to use as trim pieces that finish off the top and bottom edges of your installation, as well as its sides or corners.

Board and Batten - Staircase


Interior Installation Tips:

• Depending on height, interior installations typically run between baseboard and chair or plate railing.

• Paint or stain the board and battens prior to installation just as you would do on the home exterior.

• A simple approach is to use plywood panel boards, roughly four feet wide by four- or six-feet tall.

• In the course of installing the boards, always retain a 1/4- or 1/2-inch expansion gap between them.

• Position one-by-two-inch or one-by-one-inch battens over the expansion gap between the boards.

• Nail through the center of the battens, so the fasteners drive between the boards and into the wall.

• Remember that any extra pieces of batten may be reused as molding around windows or door frames.

• If you prefer not to work with plywood, other cost-friendly materials include MDF and composite.

Board-and-batten styling imparts depth and texture to both exteriors and interiors, lending a sophisticated yet unpretentious air to virtually any home, whether it’s a recent construction or has been around 100 years.

How To: Bend Drywall

In curvilinear rooms, or in situations like an arched doorway, you can bend drywall using this tried-and-true technique of the pros.

Here’s a tip on how to throw a curve with drywall. The trick is to use two sheets of quarter-inch drywall instead of one standard half-inch sheet. Hose down both sides of each panel and form it to the curve, fastening with nails or drywall screws. Do the same with the second sheet, then tape and finish.

For more on walls, consider:

Drywall 101
Bob Vila Radio: Drywall Costs
What Would Bob Do? Cutting Drywall