Knockdown Ceilings vs Smooth Ceilings: 7 Main Differences

A clear vision and plan for what you want are vital when renovating a room. Not only does it allow you to get a better sense of your costs, but it’ll also save you any regret in case you change your mind later.

Over recent years the use of textures on walls and ceilings has become increasingly popular, with the knockdown textured ceiling effect standing out as a staple of modern contemporary design. 

But before you rush ahead to decorate every ceiling with this unique texture, you should know how it differs from other ceiling types and whether it’s right for you.

The main difference between a knockdown vs a smooth ceiling design is that a knockdown has a more stylized aesthetic making it more appropriate for contemporary designs. It’s a bit more laborious to apply than a smooth finish but also has some great sound diffusion benefits thanks to its rougher surface.

A smooth finish is universally appropriate for any decor style. It’s clean, simple, easy to install, and has the added benefit of providing the illusion of a bigger room. Not only that, but it’s also cheaper to use thanks to its lower labor requirement.

Ultimately no one can tell you which ceiling design is best for your application. You should inform yourself about each style as much as possible to make the right decision for your tastes. Let’s take a deeper look at what these ceiling types can offer.

What is a knockdown ceiling?

The knockdown ceiling texture is a more recent kind of textured ceiling style that was first popularised in the early 90s and has since remained a consistent choice for those looking for a unique and stylized finish that makes your ceiling stand out.

Despite its association with contemporary design, it does a great job no matter your decor style. Even if you want a more homely and warm design aesthetic, it is worth considering.

It has the appearance of an orange peel finish where drywall mud and texture are sprayed onto the ceiling, but then the texture peaks are ‘knocked down’ to create flat areas.

This provides a stylized and uneven design, attracting many people to its uneven pattern style.

It’s quite a laborious process to apply the mud and then knock it down, but once it’s finished, many people really adore this unique and striking ceiling texture.

What is a smooth ceiling?

As the name might suggest, a smooth ceiling is a nice and simply smooth surface in which drywall mud is applied to the entirety of the ceiling and then smoothed down using a trowel.

It’s by far the most common ceiling type, thanks to its versatility and its most accessible ceiling type to both apply and maintain.

Not only that but depending on the color of paint you decide to use, you can make the room look both larger or smaller, so its versatility and applicability to various decor types are unmatched.

What are the differences between knockdown and smooth ceilings?

Of course, the primary difference between the two is aesthetic. However, even if you already know which one you prefer visually, there are still many more factors you should be aware of that might sway your decision.

This can range from price differences, application difficulty, and maintenance and repair requirements. So let’s break these differences down by category to understand them better.

1. Application methods


A knockdown finish is without a bought the more laborious of the two finish types, requiring more time and a degree of skill to get it looking good. But as a DIY project, it’s gratifying to achieve this effect by yourself and control how it looks.

To create the knockdown ceiling texture, you will need to start by preparing the ceiling, which means filling in any holes left by previous fittings and sanding everything flat.

After that, you mix up the drywall compound as instructed on the packet and then load it into the sprayer’s hopper, ready for application.

It’s best to wait about 15 minutes to absorb the water thoroughly, or it can thicken inside the hopper, causing an uneven spray and potentially blocking the spray.

Apply the drywall mud compound to the wall evenly, ensuring it’s not being applied so thickly that you can’t see any of the original flat ceiling surfaces. But also not so thinly that it looks weak and unappealing.

Once the applied drywall mud has dried a bit, you can proceed with ‘knocking down’ the peaks. This is where the real key lies. You need to wait long enough so that you’re not just smearing wet drywall mud around the ceiling, but also not waiting so long that it’s already dry and you’re just breaking it off.

You should check the drywall mud visually, so it’s no longer reflecting light and has that obvious ‘wet appearance.’ That’s your cue to go. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.

Once you’re finished with the knockdown process, you can seal the finish with a drywall sealer, and now it’s ready to paint with your color of choice!

Smooth finish:

This is a considerably more straightforward process. Prepare the ceiling similarly by filling all holes and sanding the surface flat.

Mix up your drywall mud and apply it to the entirety of the ceiling—no need to wait this time. Immediately go ahead and smooth it all out as flat as you can. You can always sand down the odd bump after.

Once it’s dry, seal it in, and it’s not ready for painting!

2: Its appearance 


The knockdown finish is visually striking; its uneven nature is more engaging and dynamic compared to a smooth ceiling. It’s also one of the least common finish styles, so it’s bound to draw the eye of guests.

It’s generally used for contemporary decor but still applies to other styles.

Smooth ceiling:

This nice, straightforward finish can often help the illusion of a bigger room. But it’s also the most versatile and can be used with any decor you wish.

Smooth ceilings are considered a nice and safe option, so if you are unsure or are the kind of person who likes to change the look of their home quite often, you can’t go wrong with a smooth ceiling.

3. Durability


By its protruding elements, a knockdown finish is more likely to chip and suffer damage when coming into contact with something.

But the genius is that it does a great job of hiding and masking minor dings and imperfections because of its more ‘chaotic’ visual nature.

So while it’s technically less durable than a smooth finish, it hides the blemishes so well it could be considered less prone to needing repairs.

Smooth ceiling:

Because of its flat design, a smooth ceiling is less likely to suffer damage. Despite showing its imperfections quite heavily when it is damaged in some way, the fact it’s a flat surface makes it incredibly easy to repair.

Just fill in the gap, sand, and paint back over it, easy!

4. Cleaning and maintenance


A knockdown finish is quite challenging to keep clean. Because it has many peaks, valleys, and crevices, it tends to accumulate dust and dirt in a way the smooth ceiling does not.

That, combined with the fact it’s on the ceiling, can make cleaning quite a process, so be ready to put in a bit of elbow grease to keep it in good order!

Smooth ceiling:

Considerably easier to keep clean as it’s a simple flat surface. Just wipe it down, and you’re done! The smooth ceiling is the winner if you’re looking for easy maintenance.

5. Repair difficulty


The big challenge with repairing a knockdown finish is to sand the damaged area and refinish it precisely when you first apply it.

This requires the same sprayer pressure, drywall mixture, and knockdown technique of the repaired area won’t blend in correctly with the previous application.

This makes repairing a knockdown ceiling quite tricky compared to a smooth one.

Smooth ceiling:

A smooth ceiling is super easy to repair. You can just refill the damaged area and sand it flat. Then apply a soft coat of drywall mud over it and repaint! You will have no trouble blending a repair into the previous ceiling!

6. Removal


The knockdown texture is relatively easy to return to its original state. The texture can be mostly knocked down with a trowel, and then the whole thing sanded flat and refinished.

It takes a bit of time and labor, but no special equipment or skill is needed.

Smooth ceiling:

A smooth ceiling doesn’t need removal as it’s already a flat surface. If you wish to refinish it, you must sand it down and then paint it back over it. About as easy as it gets!

7. Cost


Because of the extra equipment required, including renting/purchasing a hopper and sprayer, combined with the additional labor time, the knockdown texture is quite expensive.

Smooth ceiling:

By comparison, the smooth ceiling is very inexpensive. Only requiring the drywall mud and a trowel, you can finish the rest yourself for free!

Knockdown ceiling vs Smooth ceiling: Are they the same?

While both of these finish styles can be used for any decor you wish, there are numerous factors you will need to contend with when applying and maintaining these finish types.


Out of the two finishes, although knockdown is slightly more susceptible to damage, it does such a great job of hiding imperfections we consider it to be more durable as there’s seldom the need to repair it. 

A smooth ceiling, despite being less prone to damage, will need immediate repairing should anything happen.

Cleaning and maintaining 

Because of its uneven surface, a knockdown finish is considerably more challenging to clean than a smooth ceiling. Whereas a smooth ceiling, you can give it a quick wipe, and you’re done!


Compared to a smooth ceiling, a knockdown finish is more difficult to repair due to the need to match and blend it in with the previous finish. It’s much more demanding and labor intensive.


The smooth ceiling is much easier to remove as you don’t need to remove the texture beforehand. You can just skip straight to the sanding part!


Because you don’t need to acquire the sprayer or hopper and spend the extra labor time knocking the surface down, a smooth ceiling will work out quite a bit cheaper when compared to a knockdown finish.

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