The Easiest Ways to Pull Off Perfectly Flat Drywall Ceilings

Even if a project doesn’t specify a Level 5 skim coat, if your ceilings have a bunch of butt-joint bulges — especially during a time of day when a ton of sunlight comes in and shows off all the flaws in a subpar finishing job — your client probably won’t be too happy. It would be great if, every time you walked into a new-construction jobsite, you were working with perfect framing with state-of-the-art framing members and smoothly tapered drywall to help easily achieve perfectly flat drywall ceilings. But every professional finisher knows, more often than not, that can be a pipe dream.

So how do you get that flat, smooth finish on your ceilings every time? Here are a couple of the easiest ways we’ve found, whether you’ve got that mythical perfect framing or not.

Trim Tex20 Buttboard20 Drywall20 Backer

‘Feathering Your Edges’ for Perfectly Flat Drywall Ceilings

As many drywall pros will know, “feathering” your edges means mudding in such a way that it’s gradually applied over a butt joint, so you can barely even see where it begins and ends. This way, the joint compound looks more like a tiny speedbump, rather than a craggy mountain of mud. A feathered edge will require far less sanding than a slathered-on, sloppily applied coat.

To accomplish this on a ceiling, make sure you’re equipped with a fairly large taping knife — we would recommend a 12-inch knife here — as most trowels won’t give you the kind of flexibility you’ll need to feather the edges of your mud. (Your older, stiffer knives should also sit on the sidelines for this one.)

flat ceilings knife2

After taping the butt joint, taking care to not apply too much mud at a time (or else it’ll be dripping down onto the floor), run your knife evenly across the tape along the entire ceiling butt joint. Then, do it again on the left side of the joint, but this time, the right side of your knife should be firmly pressed against the drywall, and the right side should “float,” smoothing out the mud and creating a feathered edge. Mirror this on the right side of the butt joint, and you’ll have a fairly smooth coat of mud that, after coming back the next day for your second coat, won’t require too much sanding to achieve a flat ceiling.

This method will require a fair amount of mud — even if everything goes exactly according to plan here, you’ll have a butt joint that’s at least around two-feet wide — and may not be the best for beginners. But it’s far easier than the four-foot-wide butt joints you’ll often see on the job, much less an entire skim coat across your ceiling. For a visual guide to this finishing technique, check out this video tutorial from Paul Peck’s DrywallTube!

How Did I Get PERFECTLY FLAT Butt Joints on this New Drywall Ceiling?
How Did I Get PERFECTLY FLAT Butt Joints on this New Drywall Ceiling?

Back Your Drywall with Buttboard

If you’re a longtime Trim-Tex fan, you already know all about Buttboard, and have maybe even used it in a wall or two in your day. But Buttboard can be invaluable in crafting perfectly flat drywall ceilings, too.

If you’re unfamiliar with Buttboard, it’s a drywall backing accessory that eliminates butt-joint bulges: a uniquely engineered piece of OSB with thicker ends than its middle. When you screw your drywall sheets into a plank of Buttboard, rather than landing both on a stud, it will recess the butt joint like a factory-tapered edge.

buttboard cutsheet diagram

This way, you won’t have any bulges on your ceiling to begin with — so, after taping the joint, no fancy knife-work like a feathered edge is required. You’re using less mud and less time, and you can simply use a 12-inch box or something similar to finish your ceiling, rather than leaving behind a two-to-four-foot butt joint. For our money, this low-cost solution is going to be your best bet in easily creating flat ceilings.

Learn more about how Buttboard is used on an actual jobsite in this video from our friends at Drywall Nation!

Backing You Up: How to Use Buttboard
Backing You Up: How to Use Buttboard

Do you have a different technique to easily pull off perfectly flat drywall ceilings that you want to show off? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and next time you finish a flat ceiling, take a picture or video and be sure to give us a tag to let us know how you do it!

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