Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

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One of the appeals of older homes is their character and charm. Uniqueness was far more common in decades past, it seems, as many current homes in subdivisions are very similar in appearance. I am always on the lookout for a house that is somehow interesting, unusual, and quaint all rolled into one tidy combination, but more often than not what I come across are problems. After spending several years on the quest for an older home and looking at several that were in the 100 year old range, I have come to realize that there is a lot of work that goes into an old house, some of which you may not even expect.

Take for instance a popcorn ceiling. If you've never given much thought to the popcorn ceilings in an older home, it is time to start paying attention. Back in the good old days, before 1980, asbestos was extremely common. It was used regularly in a lot of places, one of those being the popcorn in a popcorn ceiling. While that popcorn may look harmless, it could be deadly and you might not even know it. You can scrape a sample off and send it off to have it tested or a professional can come to your home to test it. If asbestos is found, you are going to have a new, possibly unexpected job on your hands...the removal of that popcorn ceiling.



Since this task requires water, you are going to have to waterproof your work area before beginning. Start by turning off breakers that give power to the room in which you are working. Be sure to take extra care to seal off electrical outlets so water cannot get into them. Then you will need to take steps to protect floors and walls. To keep floors safe from water damage, you can lay out a drop cloth with waterproof backing or you can layer the floor in thick plastic (such as visqueen) and add resin paper to the top of it. For walls, hang a sheet of thick plastic from the crown molding with painter's tape. If you do not have crown molding, apply a layer of tape at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling and use that to affix your plastic with another strip of tape.



With a garden sprayer, begin to wet small patches of popcorn a few feet in size. It is better to do small sections at a time than to soak the whole ceiling and risk water permeating the paper surface of your ceiling as well as the wallboards underneath. Give the water a few minutes to sink in, then scrape off the popcorn with a ceiling texture scraper or putty knife. When you complete a section, move onto the next until your ceiling is free of popcorn. Take down your plastic and roll up your floor protection and your work is done...at least until it becomes time for you decide how you would like your new ceiling to look and begin to make it a reality!


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