Popcorn Ceilings: Work of the Devil?

Posted by on Monday, February 7th, 2011 at 8:40pm

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 Hell fractal

There ought to be special place in hell for whoever invented popcorn ceilings. They're ugly, they're impossible to clean, they may contain asbestos, and they are a big turn-off to potential home-buyers.  My personal favorite is when it has glitter in it!  If you are trying to sell your home, I recommend getting rid of them.  Popcorn ceilings distract potential buyers from the true value of your home.  So what can you do?

The first thing you should do is test your popcorn for asbestos! Asbestos was added to many popcorn ceilings because of its strength and fire-proofing qualities.  It is very hazardous to your health.  If left undisturbed, they shouldn't cause any problems.  If the fibers are released into the air, they can be inhaled into your lungs where they stay and can eventually cause Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer.

You can have them tested at a local lab for about $25.00.  In the Seattle area, you can get more information from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. (http://www.pscleanair.org/regulated/asbestos/homeowners/asb-popcorn.pdf)

If you DO have asbestos, here are some options:

  1. Hire a certified asbestos abatement specialist to remove the "popcorn."
  2. Have new drywall installed over the popcorn ceilings.  One-quarter inch drywall does the trick. 
  3. Paint over them using a spray-painter.  Using a roller or brush causes pieces of the "popcorn" to fall.  Not only is this messy, but it can release some asbestos into the air. (Be warned, if you try this option, you still have popcorn ceilings and they will be much harder to remove later!)
  4. You can remove them yourself, but you have to follow very strict regulations regarding both the removal and the disposal.  I don't recommend this, but if you do decide to try it, make sure you get a permit and carefully research the proper procedures.  Otherwise you could endanger the health of your family, yourself, and possibly risk legal action.

If you DON'T have asbestos, you can still paint or drywall over them, but removing the "popcorn" yourself is messy, but not difficult.  I did my master bedroom by myself in about 4 hours, start to finish!  Here's how:

  1. Wear clothing you don't care about and cover your hair with a hat.  Do one room at a time.
  2. Take all of the furniture out of the room.  Trust me on this one.  You may want to do this right before you put in new flooring.  It's also a great time to give the room a fresh coat of paint. 
  3. Cover the floor in tarps first, making sure to overlap them and cover the whole floor. 
  4. Place a layer of disposable plastic film over the tarps, taping them together and to the walls near the floor.  You can purchase this in large rolls from the paint supply section of local home improvement store.
  5. Using painter's tape, place the same plastic film about 10 - 12 inches down from the ceiling all the way around the room.  This should overlap with the floor coverings.
  6. Now is when it gets messy!  You have to start getting the ceiling wet.  You can use a garden hose if you like.  I purchased a fertilizer sprayer and filled it with water.  (DON'T TRY TO USE ONE THAT HAS EVER HAD CHEMICALS IN IT!)
  7. Work section by section and give the water a chance to soak in before you start scraping.
  8. Use a long-handled drywall knife, and scrape off the "popcorn" which essentially drywall mud.  Be very careful as it is very easy to nick the drywall.
  9. Gather all of the plastic with the "popcorn" inside into a ball in the middle of the room, put it in a garbage bag, and dispose of it.  Note: This will be very heavy, so you may need help carrying it.
  10. Allow ample time for the drywall to dry out and, if you are lucky, the ceiling underneath will be mudded and taped, and with a little sanding, and possibly texture, will make it ready to paint. This is a great time to add crown molding!

It's messy, but it's very satisfying and inexpensive.  The room seems cleaner, the ceiling seems higher, and you've just added value to your home!

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1 Response to Popcorn Ceilings: Work of the Devil?

Cary Porter wrote:

I love your postings! Great job!

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 at 12:12pm

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