The lumpy, outdated finishes are time-consuming and dusty to remove. But one GTA company has the answer
Nick Splavsky, of Strataline Inc., removes a popcorn ceiling with a vacuum-fitted sander. (MAXIM SOLOGUB/STRATALINE INC.)
Popcorn is great for movies — not so much any more for ceiling finishes.
Popcorn ceilings and their siblings, also known as textured ceilings, were a must-have fad that started in the in the 1960s and ran through to the ’80s.
They were created by spraying a special mix of plaster onto the ceiling or, in the case of texture, hand-plastered and dimpled for effect with a sponge or some other tool.
Over time they yellow, especially with smokers in the room, and with age. However, painting over popcorn ceiling is messy and there’s often dust and other debris — spider and cobwebs – that get caught up there. And if there’s ever a need to do any repairs, like fixing a leak or moving a light fixture, it’s almost impossible to match up the finish.
Today, they’ve become a must-do renovation. Option No. 1 is to scrape it off by hand — doable if there’s a relatively small area, but messy. There’s also another issue: popcorn ceilings installed pre-1980s sometimes contained asbestos, which requires an added level of filtration to safely remove.
Option No. 2 is to contract out the job to a specialist, like Maxim Sologub, of Strataline Inc. (strataline.ca), a full service reno contractor and one of a handful of companies in the GTA specializing in textured ceiling removal.
The key to the service is an investment in the right tools for the job, namely a power sander with an attachment feeding a special vacuum unit that has two levels of filtration to capture dust.
BEFORE: The ceiling’s stippled finish, and its track lighting, were popular from the 1960s to the ’80s.
“We’ve spent about $5,000 on this equipment so it’s not the kind of thing you can go out and rent,” he says. “Even just the discs are expensive.”
While the machine removes the ceiling texture, or popcorn, fairly easily and minimizes dust, it still requires a technique, he says.
“We drape the room with plastic sheeting to contain any dust,” Says Sologub. “And there’s a bit of a trick to working the sander — you want to make sure it doesn’t catch on the ceiling if you press too hard.”
Sologub says he’s gets a lot of calls for GTA condominiums as owners renovate units built in the 1980s. His company charges $6 a square foot, though he says he goes as low as $5 if there’s a lot of work and as high as $7 or $8 if there’s just a small area.
“I’d say it’s 50-50 houses and condos,” he says of the ceilings his firm refurbishes. “With condos it is sometimes more tricky with people living there.”
Toronto sound editor Mark Dejczak’s 1,200-square-foot Mississauga condo was typical.
AFTER: A smooth, flat ceiling and a new light fixture update the room.
“There was about 750 square feet of ceiling which had to be cleaned up and, to be honest, it looked like crap,” says Dejczak. “We were planning to sell in six months so we were looking for something that would be cost-effective and yield a maximum result.
Similarly, when bookkeeper Lynne Moore and partner Bill Fortnum downsized from their home to a 1980s-era Newmarket condo, they wanted to renovate before they moved in. While they were planning the work, she saw a commercial with the popcorn-ceiling removal machine.
“As soon as I saw it, that was it,” she laughs. “I knew what I wanted to do. My nephew did his own ceiling but he did it by hand. We weren’t going to do that.”
For Dejczak it was money well-invested which paid off in time and the end result without any mess.
“What was impressive was how clean it was,” says Dejczak who lived in the condo with his wife and daughter during the reno. “We’d come home at the end of the day and it was like no one had been there. It was shockingly clean because they tarped everything and then took it down at night.”