Popcorn ceiling question
March 10, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Should I paint, or dust and clean my condo popcorn ceiling texture? Not looking to remove!

I checked online for some anecdotes and lessons learned, but I'd like to hear experience from the hive mind!

I'm selling my condo, and I am bypassing removing the popcorn ceiling. I would like to clean, dust, or paint it. There are places where it's clearly dusty/linty, and there are a few spots that need re-painted. It's not the real heavy-duty textured, more of the smaller, finer texture (the "orange peel"?).

I know that making textured ceiling moist can make it loosen and sag. Would paint make it do that? Ideally, I'd like to paint over all of it to freshen it.

Any one have any luck with any of these? If you've painted and it worked, can you share your tips, please?

Thank you very much!
posted by foxhat10 to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I also want to add, that, not knowing what the original paint is used for the ceiling as it is now, if I paint anything, I'll likely have to paint all in order to make the color match.
posted by foxhat10 at 5:44 PM on March 10, 2011

If you paint it, you will make it very difficult for anyone to ever remove it-as a potential owner, I'd be totally bummed to face that big job, instead of the relatively minor job of scraping.
posted by purenitrous at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2011

I'm an architect and used to be a general contractor as well. I've been through this process a bunch of times, so maybe I can help. But first, the correct answer depends on a better description of the surface itself.

There is a big difference between "popcorn" and "orange peel." Both are terms used by pros and lay persons alike, and they both mean specific, and very different things. This is a picture of a popcorn texture, and this and this is the type of finish what "orange peel" usually refers to. Orange Peel is usually just a sprayed on layer of drywall mud, but Popcorn is much different and can have asbestos in it.

When it comes to cleaning and freshening, they are best dealt with in different ways. Which do you think you have based on the photos; popcorn or orange peel? There may be a requirement that you test for asbestos and disclose the results as a part of your listing/selling process. If you have already done that, the testing company would definitely have pinpointed the ceiling as a potential asbestos source if it was a popcorn ceiling. In this case, they would have made that information clear to you in their report.

(If it did come up as asbestos, you don't have to necessarily remove it in order to mitigate the issue. You can "encapsulate" it with paint and satisfy most inspectors.)

tl/dr; Based on the photos, which kind of ceiling finish do you actually have?
posted by nickjadlowe at 6:15 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the pix and the information! I definitely do have the popcorn texture. The condo was built in 1984. There is still asbestos used in building materials?
posted by foxhat10 at 6:23 PM on March 10, 2011

Pro painter/contractor here. Painting it isn't going to make it any more difficult to remove in the future. nickjadlowe is right on about identifying the type of ceiling that you have. If what you have is a legit popcorn ceiling, then your biggest obstacle is the potential of destroying the ceiling once you've saturated it with paint. Spraying these ceilings works really well, as nothing but paint will ever make contact with the surface. The problems tend to arise when you try to roll paint on. The popcorn surface becomes saturated and the whole surface can just roll right up on you as you pass the roller over it. Once that happens, it's really difficult to mimic the original surface without the right equipment.

My suggestion is that you pay a professional to come paint your ceilings for you. Trust me, popcorn ceilings are a huge pain in the butt.
posted by Glendale at 6:24 PM on March 10, 2011

We sprayed our popcorn ceilings in our old house with a rented sprayer. It was a big pain as everything had to be covered and the sprayer malfunctioned a bit at first. But once we got everything working it was pretty fast. The ceiling looked FABULOUS after we were done. Took a weekend to do the spraying. Plus the prep time to tape/tarp everything off.
posted by newsomz at 6:27 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree, Glendale, they are a huge, ugly pain! Thank you, and newsomz, too!
posted by foxhat10 at 6:30 PM on March 10, 2011

Well, there may or may not be asbestos in the texture. It's common that there was, and the vintage of your condo puts you on the border line. If it were me, I would test it just to know for sure. It doesn't make a difference in how you handle the painting of it really, but it will most likely be an issue when it comes time to sell. You don't want to waste the money to paint it, only to find out you are required to deal with the asbestos issue. Everybody is savvy to the "Hey, that popcorn might be asbestos" thing so you probably won't sneak it past anyone.

I'd be happy to go into more info on asbestos mitigation if you would like, but until then my suggestion would definitely have a pro paint it. They have the equipment, it isn't outrageously expensive, and they are just set up to do it quickly and correctly. In this case, "correctly" means all of the masking, knowing how to apply the correct thickness of each coat, and the cleanup. Using a commercial sprayer in a small area can turn into a nightmare if you aren't careful and know what you are doing. Problem is, you don't know the nightmare until you take all the masking away...revealing that you now have a problem on your hands bigger than the initial one. Spraying it is the only real option. You can't clean it first in any significant way, and trying will most likely just leave you with a mess. There are paints that adhere to this texture better than others, and I would ask your painter to recommend one of those.

It quite likely could turn out that the popcorn texture could work against you on your sale price even if it has a fresh coat of paint on it. It's one of those things your average Joe can spot quickly and therefore think they are being 100 kinds of brilliant for bringing it to your attention. If that happens, then you may end up having to test it so you can either list it as definitely NOT asbestos, or disclose it as being asbestos. It might be worth it to remove it.

The job is messy to be sure, but within the abilities of most homeowners. Some areas allow homeowners to remove asbestos themselves if it is under a certain quantity provided they follow specific disposal guidelines. Some require you to have it done by a licensed abatement contractor. Abatement can get expensive (here in Seattle it is in the neighborhood of $4-$5/sf.). If you research it online you will find that asbestos has a certain elevated fear factor attached to it. Prolonged particulate exposure can be very dangerous, but limited handling of the material with the proper measures taken can be done safely and without major risk by most homeowners. This is why new guidelines have come into place allowing non-licensed homeowners to remove it. It should be noted however, that most places will NOT let you hire someone to do it FOR you if they are not a licensed abatement contractor. (Do your research to find your comfort level when it comes to asbestos, and if you have any health issues, you may want to run it by your GP to get his/her recommendation for you specifically.)

tl/dr: Get it tested. If asbestos, consider removing it and then painting. Definitely have a pro paint it. If you want more info I can yammer on some more. Hope this helps.
posted by nickjadlowe at 6:53 PM on March 10, 2011

thanks again, nickjadlowe. good information to process :)
posted by foxhat10 at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2011

Oh, and if you decide to go the removal route, it's wicked easy, but wicked messy! All you need to do is (first lay plastic everywhere on the floor) get yourself a pump sprayer, like the kind that you fill with water and miracle grow or something like that. Fill it with just warm water, and saturate the popcorn ceiling with it. Do like 10 square feet at a time. Then, when it's good and wet, take a 12" (or bigger) drywall knife (looks like a massive putty knife) and just scrape the stuff off! I've done a bunch of them this way, and they come off pretty easily... This'll save you some money, cause after that you'll probably want a painter in to do the drywall touch-ups (mudding) and priming/painting... That shouldn't cost you too much more than just a paint job, though, and it should raise the selling price of the house. Like nickjadlowe said, everyone these days takes one look at popcorn and they say "oh man, that sucks..."
posted by Glendale at 4:29 AM on March 11, 2011

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