Jill and Jerry hated the popcorn ceiling in their hall and asked me to remove it. I was only too happy to oblige. Texture coat done wrong can look a lot more like baby sick than fluffy snack food, and theirs was the worst. But, luckily, like baby spew, it’s pretty easy to clean up. Here’s what you want to do.
Cover all electrical outlets with painters’ tape then completely encase the walls and floor in plastic sheeting. It’s easier to hang the sheeting if you rim the room with painter’s tape first and tape the plastic on to that line. We were not concerned about protecting the floor since we were planning on replacing it. But if you want to preserve your existing surface, line the floor with generous plastic sheeting. Pull the edges of the plastic up about a foot and affix to the wall with tape. Let the plastic that’s taped to the walls hang down and drape over the edge.
Now, with more plastic sheeting, seal the entry ways of the room off from the rest of the house. Seal your lungs off too. Thar’s asbestos in that there popcorn! (Not if it’s been manufactured recently, but the older stuff can be lethal, so why take chances?) I wore a respirator mask, safety glasses and a shower cap in addition to protective clothes. Jill says it was quite fetching. You’ll have to take her word for it.
Next, squirt the ceiling with a water hose. We used a pump type hose, but the good old garden variety garden hose works even better. Be sure to control the flow and don’t over saturate.
Either attach a flat sharp scraping tool to an extension pole or climb up on a ladder and start to scrape away the gunk. The texture coat practically falls off when it’s properly damp. Great clumps fall to the ground and you’re finished it’s easy to wrap them up in the plastic and toss them. You may want to invest in the shop vac popcorn ceiling tool if you have a lot of rooms to cover. But I advise against springing for scraper that comes with a clip for a plastic collection bag. The attachment is awkwardly placed, not too sharp and doesn’t catch all the refuse anyway.
I also advise you to stock up on Epsom salts. Your shoulders may welcome a hot bath after work.
Of course, the popcorn is up there to hide something. So my next job was to use plaster to hide that something (read cracks) in a more pleasing way. Jill and Jerry wanted their hallway to have “some texture” rather than a glass smooth surface. On the other hand, they weren’t looking for the classic knocked-back ceiling you see in, say, an Spanish or rancho style house. I decided the best way to make cracks vanish and yet leave a uniform pattern was to hand apply a thin coat of plaster everywhere.
I went along filling cracks with plaster and flattening them back a bit. Then, I went over every inch of the ceiling with a tiny sponge applying, swirling and patting. Yes, you may secretly chortle at me for being so anal, but, hey, plastering is an art, and you’re allowed to get creative with it. The result looks pretty good, don’t you agree? I filled and smoothed cracks on the wall, too.
I waited a day for everything to dry then created quite a dust-up sanding all the surfaces lightly with a small handheld electric sander. My light application of plaster made it a breeze. Blessedly, Jill did the clean up.