Popcorn ceilings, a cure-all for drywall contractors...
a nightmare for homeowners.
If you are one of the unfortunate owners of a home with popcorn ceilings sooner or later you are going to be faced with the task of either removing the texture or painting it. Both are a pain in the neck and hopefully we can make it a little easier.
Warning: Some of the older popcorn texture contains asbestos a known cancer causing material. Even if you are not sure if yours does or does not it is wise when removing popcorn to wear a respirator, eye protection and cover exposed skin.
Popcorn is made up of primarily chalk, a little clay and an aggregate.
This becomes a soft gooey mess when wet and removing is a very messy operation. Painting too is messy but once it is painted, repainting in the future is not very troublesome.
Removing: Begin by removing as much furniture as possible, cover what remains with plastic drop cloths or buy a small roll of visqueen plastic. Begin by wetting the texture and we have found that using a small pump up type garden sprayer makes this task a lot easier. After 10 minutes or so the texture will become very soft. At this point you can take a 6" to 12" wide drywall finishing knife and scrape the texture off.
Hold a small trash can or bucket under the knife as you scrape so that the texture drops into the bucket.
Another procedure is to tape the tool to a 4'-5' roller pole or push broom handle and scrape from the floor allowing the texture to fall on the plastic covering the floor. When finished bundle up the plastic and toss the whole mess in the trash.
Avoid wetting an area more that 2-3 times as you do not want the drywall board itself to become saturated resulting in sagging.
Allow the ceiling to dry thoroughly and then lightly sand using a sanding pole and screen cloth. Screen cloth is an open mesh material that will smooth the surface without abrading the paper of the drywall board.
Prime the ceiling using (preferably) an oil base primer or if latex is your choice use one of the stain /seal variety's like KILZ-2 or Zinsser 1-2-3.
Allow the primer to dry and then apply a coat of flat white latex finish paint.
Painting an existing popcorn ceiling:
Here we are faced with trying to paint a very soft super absorbent material. In order to get good penetration for bonding and also stop the suction to conserve paint, we need to prime first using a thinned down latex flat finish paint or latex primer. If you have more than one room to do you might consider renting an airless sprayer to make short work of the job.
Spraying is not cost effective for one small room so rolling is the answer.
Set yourself up with a 5 gallon pail, roller grid insert for the pail, 3/4" - 1 3/4" nap roller cover and a 4' extension pole that you can screw into the roller frame. Thin the paint with a pint or so of the appropriate thinner as you are going to apply in small sections and quickly. Rolling back and forth as you normally would softens the texture and it will cling to the roller cover and you will remove it. Saturate the cover well with paint, run it up and down the roller grid a few times to distribute the paint evenly and using a light stroke, roll at first away from you, back lightly, stop and reload your roller.
Do not be concerned about how well it is covering, you are just trying to get enough paint on the texture to "toughen" it up for the finish coat of paint.
Allow your primer to dry overnight and then apply your finish flat latex ceiling paint. You will get a lot more square footage per gallon with your finish paint due to the fact that it is now sealed.