Popcorn Ceiling Removal

DEAR MIKE: Although our house is only a few years old, my husband and I have popcorn ceilings that we absolutely hate. We want to remove the popcorn and have a textured ceiling like the rest of the walls in the house. Due to money considerations, we plan to do a few rooms at a time. How difficult is this and should we get a professional to do it? -- Wanda M.

DEAR WANDA: This job is horribly messy. Also a word of caution: those people whose homes were built in the '70s or earlier need to be careful and fearful of asbestos. You need to have this checked out by a professional before you do anything.

When you are ready to begin, I suggest you clear the furniture out of the room or cover it with plastic sheeting. Cover everything. Cover the floor with tarps or plastic. Tape plastic sheeting where the ceiling meets the walls along the entire perimeter and let it drape down to the floor.

The only exposed surface will be the ceiling (and that includes you). Wear a respirator and goggles as you work. Cover yourself with a rainsuit or you can fashion a poncho out of plastic sheeting.

Fill a plastic spray bottle with hot water. Spray the ceiling lightly. When it starts to turn a darker color, that's enough water.
With a large taping knife (12-14 inches), scrape the ceiling where you have moistened it. Scrape gently because you don't want to damage the underlying drywall. You might want to file down the corners on the taping knife to round them so they won't dig into the drywall. You can use smaller sizes of scrapers to get into small areas of the ceiling.

The popcorn texture should peel off of the ceiling. To minimize cleanup, hold a box or some other item under the taping knife to catch the texture as it falls. You can also buy a scraping kit at a home center that has a scraper and bin in one; I just don't think it's worth it since the bin is too small to hold much texture.
Work in sections. Spray the ceiling in an 8-foot square and then go back and scrape it. By the time you have finished spraying the last part of the square, it will be time to start scraping.

If you gouge or damage the drywall behind the texture, you need to repair it. Smooth on some drywall mud, let it dry, and sand it smooth.

Once the ceiling is dry and smooth, you can shoot the new texture on it. You may want to consider a few bids on doing this part of the job because this is the finished product.

You can rent the equipment from a rental yard for about $50 per day to shoot texture. This will be professional equipment and will include a compressor, hopper, gun and hose. You want to make sure the compressor is large enough to give continuous pressure to the gun, otherwise you will have to shoot the texture in short bursts and let the compressor catch up.
Essentially, you are going to load the hopper with texture, press the trigger on the gun and shoot it on the ceiling. It sounds easy (and it is), but there are lots of issues to consider.

The consistency of the texture is very important. If it's too thick it won't spray and if it's too thin it will drip and run and it won't be dimensional. You can buy premixed texture or you can mix your own. Whichever way you choose, practice on a scrap to make sure you are getting the look you want.

The size of the nozzle orifice and the volume of texture material also play a factor. Likewise, the air pressure and the distance you are standing from the surface affect the final appearance.

For the ceiling you will need to raise the gun until it's a few feet from the surface and spray in a slow sweeping motion. If you are looking for a knockdown finish, let the texture set up for a few minutes and then use a taping knife to level the splatters. Hold the knife nearly parallel to the surface and gently run it down the texture. Be consistent with the length of your stroke and the pressure you apply. Let the texture dry and then paint it. You can move your furniture back in after you stop arguing about who gets to take out the trash.

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