However, today I finally have a chance to share how we removed the popcorn ceilings!
First, if you don't have time to read all of the nitty-gritty details and look at the accompanying pictures, here's a quick list of the steps we took to remove the popcorn texture:
Yeah, ok, that's not the quickest of lists, but it's as succinct as I could make all of the steps involved. I won't lie and say any of this was easy. It's a time consuming, work-intensive project, but on the other side of it, I would still say it was 100% worth it. At least in the main rooms of our house. Who knows if/when we'll have the energy to tackle our bedrooms and bathrooms!
But anyway, on with the details.
First, before we even got to the steps I listed above, we did a TON of research. See, here's the thing. No two ceilings are the same. Everyone is going to have a different situation, some ceilings will be painted, some will have messily done drywall underneath, some might just fall right off. And you'll never know until you start actually doing the scraping, which is why it's good to go in armed with as much info as you can, so you can play it by ear with what techniques will work best for your ceilings. So with that said, here are a couple of links I found especially useful when researching removing popcorn ceilings.
Ron Hazelton (video)
Jasongraphix (check out the comments for useful tips too)
Basically, just Google the heck out of removing popcorn ceilings, and read as many forum posts as you can, to start getting an idea of what has worked well for others. I'm adding this blog post into the mix, to give yet another perspective of what worked, which hopefully will be useful.
Then, obviously, test for asbestos. I already mentioned this in a previous post, but cancer causing fibers aren't something you want to mess around with. We used Western Analytical Lab, because of their 24 hour turnaround time, but there are a number of labs across the country that do the testing. It cost us $30.
And then, before you can start the process, you need to gather your supplies. Here was our shopping list, and what we spent, to do the approximately 1100 square feet that make up our family room, breakfast nook, kitchen and entry hallway:
Plastic sheeting (10' x 20') - $3.28 each x 8
Painter's tape - $7.87
Resin paper to cover floor - $0 (we bought 2 rolls at $8.72 each, but didn't use them, so returned them)
1 gallon garden sprayer - $8.98 (highly recommend getting one of these!)
Joint knives for scraping (10 inch and 6 inch, but hardly used the 6 inch) - $5.98 and $4.98
Putty knife (2 inch, flexible) - $2.98
1 gallon joint compound for filling holes - $14.48 (only used about 1/3rd of the gallon)
Sander to attach to pole - $5.46
Drywall sand paper - $10.47
5 gallons of wallboard primer (Kilz brand) - $76.41 (used about 3.5 gallons for 2 coats)
Flat ceiling paint with low sheen % (Olympic brand) - $19.47 x 2 (only used about 1.25 gallons for 1 coat)
Dust masks - $6.47
Already had, so not included in the price:
Green frog tape
Bandannas to cover hair
Total price for supplies: $209.26 + tax (although we do have leftovers of about everything, and will be able to use the garden sprayer, joint knives, sander, etc for future projects)
Then, it's time to get started! We opted to do a test run in an out of the way area, our laundry room. We wanted to get a feel for how easy or hard the popcorn removal was going to be, and play around with the water soaking times, since everything we'd read said people were having luck with waiting anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes for the water to soak in. So we played around with the garden sprayer (which I highly recommend getting. It would have made such a bigger mess with using a hose, and is why we didn't need the rosin paper--there were only a few drips by using the light mist of the garden sprayer), and we determined that the ideal soaking time for our ceilings was 10 minutes. It was also great to have the opportunity to test out scraping the ceiling, and the different angles that worked best, in an out of the way area, in case there were any slip ups that caused holes in the ceiling.
(popcorn-free laundry room)
Once you're done with your test area, you can move on to the real deal, with the steps I listed at the beginning.
1. Turn off power to the room.
Water and electricity don't mix. Enough said.
2. Remove light fixtures from ceiling and tape off electrical plugs and light switches.
Because you will want to scrape the popcorn from under the edges of the light fixtures, and again, you'll be using water, so protect anything electrical.
3. Cover floor with medium weight plastic, taping it halfway up the wall (optional: cover walls with plastic if you want to protect the paint job).
We used 6 Mil plastic sheeting, because it didn't have to be super thick, just durable enough for us to walk on it and have ladders on it without tearing. Also, we are painting our walls, so didn't care if the paint got a little damp in the process, but some things I read suggested covering up the walls with plastic too. We did cover our fireplace though. And during this step, we also taped up paper towels to protect our bare wood beams in the family room from getting wet, and from falling popcorn material. Cleaning that off of rough hewn beams didn't sound fun to me!
4. Using a garden sprayer, lightly mist a 3' x 3' section of popcorn ceiling, let the water soak in for ~10 minutes.
Some things we read said do up to 5' x 5' sections of ceiling at a time, but we found that it dried too quickly doing that big of an area. Again, this is something you'll have to experiment with on your own popcorn ceilings, but 3 foot sections, soaking for 10 minutes is just what happened to work well for us.
(If you stepped back, it was easier to see the part you'd sprayed with water, which was a little darker, as you can see above the fireplace)
5. Scrape the ceilings using a 10 inch joint knife, at a 45 degree angle to the ceiling.
Thank you, husband, for doing most of this step! He was able to reach a lot more area than I was, since he's taller, and the popcorn easily came off in sheets once he perfected his technique, which you can see better in this video.
(Don't mind the creaking sound in the video, hubs was standing on an old end table, which was easier than a ladder, and the table creaked every time he shifted his weight.)
Or, some photos, if you can't watch the video.
And the aftermath:
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until ceilings are mostly free of popcorn texture.
Up until this step took, oh, 9 hours to complete in our ~650 square foot space, but keep in mind that we had beams to work around, which definitely made things go more slowly.
7. Using a 1.5 inch putty knife, scrape around the edges of the ceiling, where the ceiling and wall meet, to remove any difficult texture.
Again, more edges with the beams made for 7x as much work.
8. Take a pole sander and rub down the entire ceiling.
This worked well to remove any little "nubs" of the popcorn that were left behind. It didn't look like there were a lot to the naked eye, but judging by the amount of dust that came down when sanding, there was still quite a bit hanging around. Be sure to wear your dust masks and safety goggles (and hair protection if you want), because dust in your lungs and eyes won't be a fun time!
9. Putty all of the non-smooth areas of the drywall (center of all of the mud spots that are covering drywall screws, along where the pieces of drywall meet, in any misc holes, dents or cracks.
Super important step! This is where it really starts to count to take your time and do it right, because any and all non-smooth areas will be very noticeable once you paint the ceilings.
10. Wait for the putty to dry, then either pole sand, or use a hand sander to smooth all of the puttied spots. Make sure to run your fingers over the spots to ensure they feel smooth.
So tedious, but so worth it. Again, smooth, smooth, smooth is the mantra you should be singing over and over in your head. Trust me, it's worth it for the smooth look you want your ceilings to have.
11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 if any spots still aren't smooth after sanding.
There were definitely a few spots that needed to be puttied at least 3-4 times, sanding in between each putty application. Building up the putty to fill in large holes or divots takes a while, but again, worth the effort.
12. Vacuum the ceiling, to remove any particles leftover from sanding.
The wide, flat floor attachment on our vacuum worked well for this step.
13. Wipe down the crown moulding or top few inches where ceiling meets the wall with damp paper towels, then tape off with painter's tape.
Another step that took us forever, because we had to tape around the beams too.
14. Prime the ceiling using a primer that says it is for wallboard/drywall. Cut in around the edges with a 2"-4" paint brush, then use a paint roller on a pole to prime the center. Take care to prime over any spots that needed excessive sanding when cutting in with your brush.
We used Kilz brand, because I'd read good things about it. And be sure to get more than you think you'll need. The bare drywall soaks up a ton of primer on the first coat.
15. Apply a second coat of primer, especially if you did lots of puttying and sanding.
After the second coat of primer, we could hardly even see any of the tan colored drywall showing through. Nice and gripy for the paint to stick to!
16. Using ceiling paint (with as low of a sheen percentage as you can find), apply the paint as you did the primer, by cutting in with a brush, then using a roller in the center. Go over the edges, where the brush strokes meet the roller strokes with a small foam roller for a consistent finish.
You don't want to see any brush strokes on your freshly smooth ceiling, so using the foam roller was worth the extra effort.
17. Enjoy your super smooth ceilings. Resist the urge to pet them unless your hands are clean!
Mmmm, smooth! The after photos:
(Kindly ignore any white looking paint drops on the wood moulding. It's definitely not from us, it's from when the previous owners painted the popcorn ceilings. We're pretty sure they were blind, or just really lazy, with all of the paint drips everywhere in the house. Luckily we're going to be painting the moulding white, so you won't be able to see it for long.)
It's so nice to look at the beams and not be distracted by the popcorn ceilings right next to them. Also, you can see a little preview of our wall color and white trim that's currently in the works in the below photo.
Overall, I'd say we spent about 35 hours of solid working time to remove the popcorn ceilings from the family room, dining nook, kitchen and entry hallway. And that's not including waiting for things to dry overnight! But things really took us longer than it will most, since we had the beams to work around. We're hoping this coming weekend, when we tackle the living room, dining room and foyer, it will go a lot quicker. Still, we definitely are glad we're doing this ourselves, and not spending the $4,000-$7,000 we were quoted to get the ceilings removed from our whole home by professionals!
Have any of you removed popcorn ceilings ceilings yourselves? How did it go? And if you've got any questions about our technique, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!