March 1, 2013

Return of the Popcorn Ceilings

After completely gutting our Family Room of the unwanted fireplace & built ins, it was time to put everything back together, starting with the top down.  This was by far going to be the worst project on the list for me, and likely the reason it has taken us so long to tackle this room.  Frequent visitors might have seen this lovely image from the last time we scrapped a popcorn ceiling:

While this photo may hint at the mess of the project, it doesn't begin to describe the pain.  The sore neck, shoulders and arms from standing on a step stool and working over your head for hours into the evening.  And the last time we scraped ceilings we were working on 5'x10' bathrooms.  This time we were talking a 25' x 15' space.  Shoot me now.

But it had to be done.  Not only were the ceilings stained and dirty, there were holes from previous electrical that had since been removed, and even holes from where the previous owners suspended their punching bag from the ceiling. (True story.)  And that's not to mention the huge holes we managed to put in the ceiling while "carefully" doing our demo.

The bottom line is that they needed to be patched.  And if they needed to be patched, our options were either to try to spray new popcorn to blend them all in, or to take down the popcorn entirely.  Since I hate, hate the idea of working to put up something I don't even like in the first place, the popcorn had to come down. 

Step 1- Cover the walls and floors with plastic.  This will prevent a lot of extra work at the end of the project cleaning off all the gunk on your walls.  Totally worth it.

Step 2- Use a sprayer to wet portions of your ceiling.  We worked in approximately 6'x6' squares.  We let the water sit for about 5 minutes first to soak in.

Step 3- Use a 12" spatula to scrape the popcorn off.  If you're lucky and the ceiling hasn't been painted, the popcorn will float down like magical snow.  If you're unlucky, layers of paint will force you to scrape and scratch at the ceiling repeatedly to get the stuff down.  We had a little of both, about 90-10, only 10% good.  You know, because we're lucky like that.

The smooth ceiling to the right has never been painted.  The disaster on the left (which is post scraping) has.
 So after days of scraping, we had pretty rough ceiling to work with.  Not just all the holes that needed to be patched, but the whole ceiling needed to be smoothed out.

Step 4- Apply patches to the holes.  We cut back our holes with a drywall saw to the stud, so that we had a place to attach our new piece of drywall, which we cut from scraps in the garage.  (Score another point for the DIYer that doesn't like to throw things away.)  I like to use the mesh tape instead of the paper tape in these instances, as you can get a much smoother finish.

Step 5- Skim coat the ceiling.  I didn't get a good photo of this because, well, it was awful.  I was too busy using a trowel to wipe joint compound in thin, clean pulls across the ceiling, fighting gravity and neck cramps, to hop down and get a great photo.  The only consolation while you are doing this step, is the knowledge that it's not even the worse part. 

Step 6- Sanding.  This is my little piece of hell on Earth.  As if sanding drywall wasn't already my least favorite thing in the world, sanding it over your head as the dust rains down on you is the worst.  You have to stop every few minutes to clean off your goggles so you can even see what you're doing.  And for added fun, later in the shower any dust that gets into your hair turns into a sticky paste that you can't wash out.  Oh yeah, and the room is a complete mess.

Crossing my fingers that the couch is okay under there.

Step 7- Hooray!  Things are looking up! (No pun intended.)  Now you can finally pull down all of your plastic, and begin the super fun chore of painting the ceiling.  Trust me, in comparison this step is fun.  I decided to use Valspar's Color Changing Ceiling Paint, which goes on a light lavender and dries white. 

We plan to replace the carpet- so no drop cloth needed.

I'm actually a huge fan of this paint as it really helped me make sure I was covering every square inch.  I did my first coat after Bo finally went down for bed at 10PM, and finished around 12:30, you know, because I'm a baller like that.  All the cool kids are painting into the wee hours.  They call themselves cool kids too. 

You can see the lavender paint going up on the right side.
The next morning in the light of day it was obvious that the ceiling needed one more coat in order to have a smooth, clean finish.  That means I'll have to wait until Monday to give you an update, but hopefully now the worst is over.  Now that the ceiling is done and we can get started on much more fun stuff, like the fireplace, paint and tile.  And that my friends, is my idea of a great weekend.  Hopefully my boys play nice and let us get a lot of work done over naps. *Fingers crossed.*  Wish me luck!


  1. Oh man that is an ambitious task... I think I could handle a bathroom, but I would absolutely hire out a ceiling that size. Props to you! Go get a massage!

  2. Impressive! I just removed popcorn texture in a bedroom, we lucked out that it was super easy to remove. I know all your hardwork will be worth it in the end!!

  3. We removed the popcorn from the kitchen ceiling in our old house. Not a fun task! The only saving grace was finding a guy on Craigslist to skim coat and sand it for $100. He did a great job and my marriage did not suffer :)

    1. Shut Up! Why oh why did I not think to look on Craigslist? You're a genius Amy.

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