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How To Level A Ceiling With Furring Strips

Cracked and wavy ceilings are typical in older homes, especially ones built using plaster. To cover up such things, drywall is often used; however, if you put drywall on a wavy ceiling, you’ll still have dips and bulges.

Furring strips are used as a remedy to this problem. First, however, you need to know how to install these to get around the highest peaks on your ceiling. In addition, such a technique is used for creating a space you fill with insulation. Carrying out this task isn’t as complicated as you imagine, and the most challenging part is to find the lowest spot on a ceiling and then fit your furring strips.

In our guide, you can learn more about installing furring strips on ceiling for drywall. You’ll see these uneven ceiling solutions can make all the difference to your home. By the end, you’ll find when you attach furring strips to your existing ceiling, your home will be transformed. (Learn How To Hide Drywall Seams In Ceiling)

How Do You Level An Uneven Ceiling?

Here are the main steps you need to level a wavy ceiling. Drywall is heavy, so you’ll need some help lifting it as you fasten it to your furring strips.

What you need

  • Stud finder
  • Hammer
  • Step Ladders (2 sets for lifting your drywall)
  • Different color chalks (Two chalk lines will be made)
  • Mason’s line
  • Spirit Level
  • Line level
  • Shims
  • Furring strips (any sized lumber can be used to furr out a room in your house. However, the two ends need to be close to your walls while leaving minor gaps that will be covered.
  • Nails
  • Screws for installing strips


Locate Existing Joists

  1. Locate the joists with a stud finder
  2. Snap chalk lines to mark the centerline of each one.
  3. Mark the centerlines of the furring strips, which are typically 16 inches on center, using your different color chalk.

strip cutting

Cut Furring Strips

  1. Cut two 1 x 3 furring strips 1 inch shorter than your room’s opposite ends and at right angles to your joists.
  2. The first strip should be tacked to one wall. Level it with the top edge around 3/4 inch below your ceiling.

Mark Strips To Be Installed

  1. Transfer the bottom edge of the first furring strip to the opposite wall with a mason’s line and a line level.
  2. Make a mark on the second wall and install the second furring strip at the same height as the first.

Check Using String

  1. Tie a nylon mason’s line between the first top nails on the two strips.
  2. Hold a scrap piece of the strip at the furring strip centerline marked on the ceiling next to the string.
  3. Ignore the string if it is below the furring strip for the time being.
  4. If the strip extends beyond the string lines, take a measurement and write it on the ceiling.
  5. Repeat the steps by moving the thread 12 inches and checking the entire ceiling surface from one end to the other side.
  6. The biggest measurement shows the lowest point of the ceiling. You can start at any area with the exact measurement if there are multiple.

Remove Temporary Strips

At the low spot, screw a furring strip flush against the ceiling and shim its ends to level it. You now have a flat surface around the room. Remove the temporary strips from the room’s ends. (Learn How Much Weight Can A Ceiling Fan Hold)

Snap Lines From First Strip

  1. Clip a line level to a mason’s line.
  2. Make pencil marks from the bottom center of the first furring strip to the corner of the room.
  3. Connect the corners using a chalk line on the walls.

Increase the number of strips installed

  1. Shimming both ends of each furring strip flush to the chalk line on the walls is the first step.
  2. Secure the strip’s middle using a level or straightedge along the bottom.
  3. Slide in your shims close to the remaining attachment locations to avoid bowing.
  4. Nail through the shims into the joists.
  5. Work slowly and carefully, ensuring that each new strip is straight and level with the previous one.

celing with strips

Can Furring Strips Be Used In A Ceiling?

You won’t need to use furring strips when hanging drywall on new ceiling joists.

You’ll use drywall screws to attach standard drywall panels to the joists. Most often, these will all come out at the same level.

You will attach furring strips to deliver a sturdy basis if the old plaster ceiling is ancient and you don’t want to remove the existing ceiling finish.

However, you should know that you will lose some ceiling height if you use them. (Learn How To Keep A Painted Door From Sticking To Weather Stripping)

Reasons For Furring A Ceiling

Although ceiling joists are usually sufficient for drywall installation, there are a few situations where furring is beneficial.

Furring strips will secure the existing ceiling and extend below the lowest part to provide a base for the drywall. If the existing ceiling is plaster and broken or sagging, there are many layers of wallpaper. You should install furring to help.

Furring is required before drywall can be installed on open ceiling joists with a wire linked to the bottom of the joists, which is common in basements. (Learn How Many Led Lights Can I Put On One Circuit)

The Furring Procedure

Furring a ceiling entails installing strips as a stable foundation for the drywall.

Furring strips are available in bundles of 8 feet long and 1 to 3 inches broad, but you can also fur out a ceiling with lumber of other lengths.

Furring strips should be the same width as the ceiling joists as a general rule. So, for example, if your ceiling joists are 2-by-6, you’ll need boards the same width as the joists, which are only 1.5 inches broad.

Fasten the strips through the existing ceiling and into the joists with a screw gun and framing screws.

Cut Furring Strips

If you’re installing the strips to accommodate wiring or plumbing elements that reach below the original ceiling joists, ensure the furring strips don’t rub against the wires or pipes.

Measuring from the end of a joist to the wires that cross it is the simplest method.

Cut and install a half-inch shorter furring strip than the measurement. Then, carry out the same procedure on the other side; if you install your drywall panels and spot little gaps in the strips, it won’t matter.

Installing Drywall

The most common way to hang ceiling drywall is to place the panels perpendicular to the joists, which will be perpendicular to the furring strips.

Use drywall screws an inch longer than the thickness of the panels since the strips act as a frame to hold the panels in place.

Use 1.5-inch screws to attach the drywall panels to the furring strips. (Learn How Much Weight Can A Ceiling Fan Hold)

nylon string

How Do You Level A Ceiling For Framing?

You may find lots of info on using laser levels, metal channels, sistering joists, and more.

You’ll need to screw drywall directly to the joists without using furring strips, shimming where needed.

Here are the overview steps on how to level your ceiling for framing.

Use Your Stud finder

Using a stud finder, locate wall studs around the room’s perimeter. Mark the location of each stud.

Measure the Height

  1. Building code dictates ceiling height, so have an assistant hold the chalk line on the wall while you hold the other end in the opposite corner. Then, check your chalk line using a line level.
  2. When the line is level, draw the chalk line taut and remove the line level. Next, chalk a level line on the wall.
  3. Repeat for each wall to establish a room-wide level line.

Measure the Length of the First Wall

  1. Measure the length of the first wall and cut a 2-by-6-inch board to fit. Place the bottom edge of your board at the first level line.
  2. Nail each wall stud with a 16-penny nail, which is your ledger board.
  3. Measure the next wall’s length, then cut and nail a board to it.
  4. Install ledger boards around the room’s perimeter.

Mark Your Points

  1. Mark a ledger board 15 1/4 inches from one room corner.
  2. Measure 1 1/2 inches past the 16 3/4-inch mark and draw a vertical line. Draw the two lines. This is the first ceiling joist.

Draw Lines

  1. Get your help to measure 16 inches from the 15 1/4-inch mark to the 31 1/4-inch mark.
  2. Draw a vertical line. Measure down 1 1/2 inches to the 32 3/4-inch mark and draw another vertical line.
  3. To designate the location of the second joist hanger and ceiling joist, draw a “X” between these two lines.
  4. Repeat until you have located and marked all your joists.
  5. Do the same on the other side of the room while keeping your markings level.

Install a Joist Hanger

  1. Place a joist hanger flush on your first mark. Hanger flanges should hang on each side of the 1 1/2-inch “X” lines made while measuring joist placement.
  2. Nail the joist hanger’s flange to the ledger board.
  3. Face your initial joist hanger on the opposite side of the room and install a joint hanger on the opposite side of the room.

Measure Boards

  1. Measure the two ledger boards. Cut a 2-by-6-inch board to fit.
  2. Place the first joist in the joist hanger seats at either end.
  3. Hold one end of the joist as you secure the other to the ledger. Finally, close the loose joist hanger flange to the joist.
  4. Nail the flange to the ledger board. Then, drive 10D nails into the joist hanger’s flanges—nail hanger holes.

How Do You Level Ceiling Joists?

In antique houses, an old ceiling is never flat or level. The stated leveling procedure produces a flawlessly flat ceiling but does nothing to enhance the existing ceiling framework.

A different technique is required when a ceiling is sagging due to serious structural issues such as decay, poorly notched beams, or a sinking foundation. (Learn How To Redirect Airflow From Window AC)

Sistering steel studs to the ceiling joists can correct even the most crooked ceiling.

Setting up a laser level as a reference line is the first stage in the process. Next, measure down to the laser beam several times to get the ceiling’s low point (new ceiling height).

Drive your nails at your new ceiling height in the corners and measure up from the laser line.

The nails will hold two string line. Stretch the strings perpendicular to the joists as tightly as possible. These ropes guide the steel-stud installation.

How To Level A Ceiling With Furring Strips (2)