Friday, February 10, 2012

{d.i.}Why not?

The first room Mr. S and I wanted to tackle was the living room!

Not a terrible color, but in a room with only one window, it did make for a bit of a cave like feeling.  Also, the entire house has those pop-corn ceilings, which we’re not crazy about.  So we thought, “Let’s try a living remodel and see what happens!”  We felt we could learn a lot from the first room and get it finished in order to have company over!  First things first the CEILING!

Now, this should be a simple, but messy DIY project.  
I watched several videos on Youtube, Googled many how-to’s.  I highly recommend Ron Hazelton’s video on removing acoustical (aka popcorn) ceilings.  I did not go into this project unprepared – or so I thought…
Ceilings come in lots of different styles.  Smooth, Textured, Coffered, Tray, Cathedral, etc…It’s often the forgotten last moment of the room.  I mean how many people (other than designers) really think about what their ceiling is going to look like when visualizing a room?  Not many except to think, “I want high ceilings.”  Imperfections in the ceiling, from patching or whatever, can be easily covered by acoustical (a.k.a. “popcorn”) ceilings.  If you have these “popcorn” ceilings and you hate them – as I do – or you just want to do something more charming in a room, you may be thinking surely this is a DIY project I can handle?  Why not?

First, let’s talk about what it takes to remove a popcorn ceiling texture.  I used Ron Hazelton’s video to learn what to do.  After watching several videos, his was the most clear and concise.  Supplies you will need:
  1. Painter’s Tape/Plastic Sheeting – These are essential for keeping the water off your walls while you’re spraying it at the ceiling.  No matter how careful you are, you WILL want to prep properly!  This job is MESSY!
  2.  Contractor’s paper – This helps you to make clean up easier.  Put it over the plastic as Ron suggests in his video.
  3.  Coveralls/Goggles/Mask/Gloves – I strongly recommend a cap too if you can stand it, because this stuff gets ALL over you.  Do NOT try this without goggles.  You don’t want this stuff in your eyes.
  4. Scraper of some description – I used a dulled putty knife.  Dulling the edges keeps you from gouging the ceiling as badly.  Ron’s video showed a wide tape knife.
  5. Water – Using a garden sprayer is an inexpensive option that won’t kill your hands (imagine a spray bottle?? Yikes).  I got mine for $8 at Wal-Mart and now I can use it to water the flowers.
  6. Ladder or scaffolding – Honestly, if you have some kind of scaffolding to use that you can make long walks across the room without getting up and down a ladder, that would be less tedious…
  7. Alternative source of light – You are going to need a work light if you are going to be doing any work at night.  I found this out when the project took me MUCH longer than I anticipated and I’m stubborn enough to work all night to get it done!  Do yourself a favor and get a work light with an extension cord (if you don’t have an outlet near the door of the room)
  8.  Sheetrock tape/mud/sanding block – these are the tools you’ll need to patch/repair any problems you find (cause) on your ceiling.  I highly recommend the low dust brand from Wal-Mart.  It was only $6 for a large bucket and I ended up needing almost all of it…
Ok, first go check out Ron Hazelton’s Video then come back here for a recap and tips/photos on some troubles you may run into!  Get yourself a bottle of water with a protective lid and get ready to work hard!!


1 - Tape sheets of plastic up around the entire room.  Cut a slit or leave a flap for ventilation in and out of the room, and so you aren't stuck in the room.  You can see in the photograph how i had to sit an extra work light outside and shine it through the plastic.  Though it doesn't appear to be helping, it was like being in the room on a cloudy day.

2 - Cut the power to the room before spraying any water AT ALL.  The last thing you're gonna want is an expensive electrical problem!  And even with all the plastic - better safe than sorry!!

3 - Remove any ceiling diffusers (if you have them).  This is simple - removing the two screws on either end of the grate is usually all that is needed to get them down.

4 - Begin at one corner of the room and spray a section of ceiling 4' x 5' {ish} and let it set in for about 5 minutes.  In the video, it says to immediately scrape the ceiling and if your ceiling has never been painted try that.  Our popcorn ceiling had been painted before, and it took a minute for the water to soak through the latex paint.

5 - Begin scraping using GENTLE pressuer - it shouldn't take force.  If you press to hard, you WILL gouge your ceiling.  Also, only go as far as you can comfortably reach to help avoid gouging.

6 - Work your way around the room in this manner.  If you run into spots that don't want to scrape off (as I did), just let the water sit on there for 5 or 10 minutes and try again.  I don't recommend trying to cut it away with a razor or sanding it while it's wet because you'll just tear up your ceiling.

7 - As you finish around the room, go back and work on the trouble spots.  I highly recommend leaving the plastic and resin paper down until you've mudded/sanded everything that needs it.  This will make cleaning easier.

You may run into some trouble spots {as I did}!  Acoustical ceiling treatments hide imperfections in ceilings VERY well.  Unless you built your house (or know who did), don't be surprised when you find weird patches or uneven spots in your ceilings.  We had a large, unusual patching job that was 1/4 in lower than the rest of the ceiling.  We opted to go several rounds of joint compound feathering to create a smooth appearance.  This, however, added about one week to the overall time-table of this project.

Some Tips:  {From Mr. Hazelton & Myself}

* DO have your ceilings tested for asbestos if your house was built in the 1960's or 1970's.  The cost seemed pretty unreal to me - like $90 - for an EPA certified lab (at least all the ones I looked up) but it could be a lot cheaper than dealing with asbestos poisoning.  The NIST keeps a list of labs.  You can contact them at (301) 975-4016.  For more information visit

* DO use "resin" paper ("rosin" paper?) that Mr. Hazelton refers to is worth the extra cost.  I used regular rolls of brown paper (marked for latex painting) and while it did absorb water, it tore very easily.  The other would probably hold up better to being soaked through.

* DON'T feel like you HAVE to buy 2 mil poly sheets to line your walls.  I know this is recommended in several of the "how-to's," but I used 0.5 mil poly sheets.  A 3-pack is cheaper than 1 roll of the 2 mil and it worked great.  Also, 0.5 mil poly is lighter and, therefore, easier to hang on the walls if you're working alone.

* DO wear protective gear.  Even if your ceiling has NO asbestos, you don't want that acoustical stuff getting into your eyes, nose, and throat.  I noticed that Mr. Hazelton's video did not show wearing coveralls, but I strongly recommend this as my job made a HUGE mess.

* DO use water - and you could probably mix it with something to help "loosen" the ceiling.  I've heard vinegar works well, but I used Method Clementine All Purpose cleaner (1 tbsp to 2 gal) and that made our living room smell wonderful.

* DO NOT think this will be done in one day!  If you have to mud anything, the mud has to cure for 24 hours.  Bear this in mind when planning your project!

As much as I LOVE diy projects, I'm not sure this is one I will tackle again in this house.  After fighting with the suprise "patch" in the ceiling, I waled away from this DIY more exhausted than exhilarated.  However, seeing our beautiful, flat, white ceiling...I'm in love. <3

Thanks for reading and come back to see us take on that bold red color!

1 comment:

  1. still so impressed by this. Exhausting project, for sure, but it looks awesome.