Redoing a Ceiling – Better To Go Over Existing or To Start from Scratch?

Redoing a Ceiling – Better To Go Over Existing or To Start from Scratch?

There are a number of reasons why someone may want to replace a ceiling.

Perhaps their existing ceiling has some type of texture to it that is overly annoying to them.

Maybe they have a large section of the ceiling that is damaged (think – someone falling through a ceiling while putzing around in the attic!).

Or they may have an old calcimine ceiling that gives them a fit every time they go to try to fix some peeling paint on it and the paint seems to keep peeling and peeling and peeling and peeling…no matter how thoroughly they prep the ceiling before painting it.

Whatever the reasoning, once the decision has been made that the ceiling needs to be redone, there are two different ways of doing so.


One method is to go over the existing ceiling with a new ceiling.

In the Northeast, where blueboard and plaster – particularly in residential settings – is king, the general approach would be to hang new 3/8” blueboard over the existing ceiling and then plaster over the blueboard to whichever finish one desires (smooth, swirl, textured, etc.) over it.

If there is crown molding that surrounds the room, a ceiling fan, certain types of light fixtures, or the like, they may have to be very carefully removed prior to the ceiling being hung and then properly re-installed (or have an updated version installed) after the ceiling has been completed.


The other method is starting from scratch.

This method entails, literally, taking down the existing ceiling in its entirety, hanging a new ceiling – again, assuming the Northeast typical residential construction approach – in this instance with ½” blueboard and then plastering over the blueboard to whichever finish one desires (smooth, swirl, textured, etc.) over it.

In both methodologies, one can certainly substitute sheetrock (vs. the blueboard) and its accompanying process of taping the seams and joint compounding the seams and screw holes and the entire process that is involved with this particular procedure.

Most often, however, in this part of the country, blueboard and plaster is what is utilized for this type of project the majority of the time.


If there is an existing “bow”, even a slight one, with the existing ceiling, if going over the ceiling with a new ceiling, the bow will most likely NOT disappear as the new ceiling will simply follow the contour of the old ceiling once the new ceiling is hung over it (whereas taking down the ceiling in its entirety clearly provides an opportunity to possibly correct what may be causing the bow behind the ceiling).

With this all being said, which angle is “better”?

As with many things, there are pros and cons to each.

The biggest con with hanging a new ceiling over the existing ceiling is one will lose about a ½” of ceiling height (which for some folks is a big deal, for others not so much).


The biggest con with demoing an existing ceiling when replacing it, is the demo process can be a bit more cumbersome and messier (as well as costly if you are hiring someone to do this for you) than simply going over the existing ceiling (even when taking into account any crown molding or fixtures that might have to come down and go back up with the process involving going over the existing ceiling).

The biggest pro of hanging a new ceiling over the existing ceiling is it is a bit easier than having to trudge through the messiness involved in taking down a ceiling in its entirety.


The biggest pro in completely removing a ceiling is that no ceiling height is lost.

With me, the optimum choice is truly situational.

While some folks may be more strongly opinionated than others on this topic, I believe there are some times when going over the existing ceiling makes more sense and there are other times when taking down the ceiling in its entirety and starting all over again might be the better way to go.

If you have a ceiling that is bothering you to no end and you are hemming and hawing over which path to travel down, feel free to reach out to our office and set up some time to chat on the phone, we would love the opportunity to dive into a deeper conversation regarding your specific situation with you!

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