Monday, January 25, 2010

The Money Pit- Popcorn No More

Sorry for the digression from story about our house.  But now, I'm back and READY TO SPILL THE chronological order of course.  

There were many projects on the agenda for the first week of home ownership...and the time was ticking.  We had one week to fix up the house, make it livable, and move out of our apartment before our lease ran up.

Popcorn No-More

The ceilings of our wonderful new home....were, let's say, a little less than wonderful.  Although our house was built in 1938, at some point during the life of the house (most-likely in the 70s) someone decided to apply popcorn spray-on stippling to the ceiling.  This was in fashion during some of the 60s-70s-80s and was added in older houses to conceal irregularities in the ceiling due to foundation settling.  This treatment is no longer really in style, and it really darkens your ceilings and makes them appear lower.  Because my mother never sees a popcorn ceiling with out shuddering, it was ingrained in me that scraping these ceilings smooth would be the first order of business to giving the house a more updated look, while also restoring it to its original charm (slanted ceilings and all).  Luckily, Chris agreed and he was willing to exert the effort to make this happen.  Here are a few pics from this experiment along with a little how-to.

Popcorn Ceilings before..

First, we scraped off a sample of our ceiling to take to a lab to be tested for Asbestos.  Luckily, it did not contain asbestos.  Don't skip this step, if your ceilings contain Asbestos they are toxic and must be scraped by a professional.

Cover the floor with Contractor's paper.  
(optional, cover first with plastic disposable tarp)

Cover walls with plastic disposable tarp (cover outlets individually with plastic or painter's tape)  Tape around top edge of wall.

Get one of these suckers (gardening weed-killer-sprayer), be sure to get it clean and free of weed-killer then fill it with 1 part vinegar-10 parts water.  (Some sources say plain water will work fine, and home-depot also has a solution they sell).  Spray down the ceilings with a light mist (don't drench any spots because it will damage the ceiling).  Let the water set in for about 10-15 minutes (although I don't think we waited that long).

Set up a free-standing ladder.  Start scraping the texture off with shallow long strokes using a putty knife, or preferably a 12in painter's taping knife.  Be sure to wear goggles or you will have eyes full of dust.  You should also wear a mask, the dust is very fine, and you don't even realize how much you are breathing in.  We were coughing for weeks due to not wearing a mask for the first night of scraping.

After the ceilings have been completely scraped, they have to be sanded with a pole sander to finish them off. 

Prepare yourself for a magnitude 7 mess...

Here are Chris and our friend, "Saint" Alex covered in dust on a beer break.  
Our friend, David, also elevated to "Sainthood" status in our home, was also there through-and-through for the scraping process, but I didn't get a picture of him.  So I thought, I'd include this picture of him when he was my last minute escort to a Halloween formal in college because Chris hates dressing up.  (I was an olympic speed skater, and he was....umm, a bunny?)

 Our ceilings aren't perfect after our rushed DIY job, but they are SO much better!  Our ceilings look so much taller, brighter, and cleaner.  I recommend this project, but you MUST do it before you move in.  Trying to do this with furniture in the house is NOT an option!!!

Smooth Ceilings...

HERE's a great resource for more detailed instructions for removing popcorn ceilings.
and HERE is another.  

...if you likey to readee, then postey a commenty...


  1. the bridal shoot looked great!

  2. Sarah---Carrie & Nate did this with their house too. What an accomplishment & nightmare (only the beginning of yours). David & Alex are "saints" I suppose for helping you so much! I LOVE reading the stories of your house!

  3. Sara, the house looks great! Keep on keepin' on!

  4. sara, that is hilarious. i wish i had been there to see the chaos.... AND THAT AWESOME PICTURE OF YOU AND DAVID!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA! oh, the glory days of 705.

    anyway... when i am in birmingham i want to see the new abode... it already looks fabulous!



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