Dealing with the headaches of textured ceilings

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Tue., Apr. 9, 2013
Textured ceilings can present many challenges. - Contributed Photo

There are a few DIY projects I have done, if not masterfully, at least well enough to satisfy the repair and remodeling need. But there are a few among them that I vow to never do again - at least until the next time I absolutely have to. For instance, every time I look up at a textured ceiling, I get an instant headache. The thought of repairing, repainting or dealing with them in any way puts them high up on the list of projects to avoid.

The textured ceiling concept was sold on the basis of its decorative nature and the idea that it offered some acoustic abatement. In reality, builders and painters latched onto the concept because these ceilings were quickly applied, disguised imperfections in the workmanship, and allowed them to completely skip the step of priming the drywall.

Unfortunately, I live in a house that has nothing but textured ceilings. While innocently painting the ceiling over the bathtub, a large swath of my textured ceiling peeled off and began to wrap around my roller. That put a stop to my painting, until I could educate myself and develop a recovery plan. I realized the ceiling had not been primed for painting. Once I primed the vacant spot, I used a paint additive that promised to match the texture of my ceiling. The repair was less than satisfactory to me, and let's just say that I don’t look up when I am showing in that tub.

As I began the renovation of my kitchen, I was prepared to first seal the existing paint to the ceiling with a quality oil-based primer, and apply a coat of ceiling white. But upon removing the ceiling light fixture, I discovered the vestiges of an old water leak, which had caused the textured paint to separate from the wallboard. The defect quickly spread outward from the concealing circumference of the light fixture, leaving an ugly scar.

For this repair, I chose a spray-on texture that, like the additive, promised to match the popcorn finish in my ceiling. For just under $12, you can buy such a spray-on product that will produce eight to 10 half-second bursts of textured material. If you practice first on scrap material, you might need a second can to complete your repair. I accepted the repair, such as it was, painted the ceiling and moved on.

Based on my experience and my dislike for this dated decorative concept, I have decided to remove the textured ceilings throughout my house, as the need for painting them arises.

The cleanest way to move past a ceiling you loathe is to apply a 3/8-inch drywall cover right over the existing one. Apply an excellent course of tape and compound. Then prepare a flawless surface, and apply a quality paint job.

If your texture was sprayed on, it can be completely removed, though the process is somewhat painstaking. Remove any furniture, and cover the walls with thin plastic taped near the joint with the ceiling. Also cover the floor with a tarp.

Using a garden sprayer, spray the ceiling lightly with plain water. Work in sections 3- or 4-feet square. There are some specialized tools for taking the finish off. Some remove as well as capture the finish waste before it hits the floor. You might also fashion your own device, or use a wide taping knife and a scrap of cardboard or lightweight bucket to catch the droppings.

All textured ceilings are not the same. Most are sprayed on, but others are created by applying compound with a taping knife in a swirled pattern or in random fashion. To remove the texturing from these, you will need to sand the surface several times, and float a new, even coat of compound over the existing ceiling. In the end, replacing the drywall might be less painful.

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