When we initially bought the Willow house, it was really stinky. It wasn’t really a smell you could identify as just one thing, but rather layers of odd smells combining into this gross odor. As soon as you walked in the door it hit you, and everyone who walked through it in the beginning would always tell us how bad it smelled…. and we agreed! It’s just one of the fun perks of remodeling a neglected home.
Our initial plan to tackle the smell, and to start demo’ing the house, was to scrape the popcorn ceilings. All that texture holds bad smells, and several parts of the popcorn ceiling was coated in either grease (in the kitchen), or soot from the downstairs fireplace. A few spots also had very obvious water damage. Knowing it would be so much easier to haul out the scraped off popcorn ceilings when we rolled up the carpet, we started on the ceilings first.
Practically every room in the house had them, so we started upstairs and worked our way through the house. Removing the popcorn isn’t a hard process, and you can get it done with minimal tools, but it does make a big mess.
Here’s what we used to remove the popcorn:
First thing we did, was fill up a new garden sprayer with hot water. Then, we worked our way across the ceiling, spraying the popcorn in sections. We’d wait a minute for the water to soak in, then used our large putty knife to start scraping. We also wore a respirator mask just to make sure we weren’t breathing in any dust.
It was easy to get a good feel of whether or not the popcorn had absorbed enough of the water. If it had, the texture would come off in descent sized pieces, with minimal effort. If it din’t have enough water, it was really hard to scrape and find a place to have the putty knife get underneath the texture. If it wasn’t wet enough, we’d spray it a little more, letting the water have a few seconds to absorb.
You can tell in the picture below that the popcorn ceiling is plenty wet. At this point, it literally comes off in sheets with the putty knife. The drywall underneath dries quickly, no harm done.
The process really doesn’t take as long as you’d think, and after 20 minutes, the ceiling in the basement living room was drastically different…
It’s definitely a messy job, so if you’re planning on doing this to a room where you’re currently living, I would put plastic drop cloths over everything, and use a pan to scrape the popcorn texture into, rather than letting it fall on the floor. But because we were planning on cutting the carpet and rolling it into strips as soon as the ceiling in each room was finished, we didn’t care about the mess.
The one area that I didn’t take pictures of, is the ceiling right next to the top of the wall. In that area, we were left with a small section of popcorn ceiling that was hanging down. The putty knife didn’t work great at removing it, so we used a razor blade to cut it off, running the blade in the crease between the wall and ceiling. It left a really clean edge.
We worked our way throughout the house and each room instantly felt taller, bigger and so much better! The next step, was pulling up the carpet and pad, which I sadly didn’t get any pictures of. We worked our way throughout the house, cutting the carpet into 3′ or 4′ sections with the razor blade. Cutting it down made it much easier to haul out of the house. We did the same thing with the pad. And let me just tell you how gross it is to see what’s underneath the pad… I’m pretty sure the people who lived in the house before didn’t believe in vacuuming, or they didn’t own one. In the heavy walkway areas, the pad had actually disintegrated and came up in tiny pieces. Utterly disgusting.
We quickly were left with a really lovely blank space…
Here’s a few before and “during” for comparison:
The smell instantly improved throughout the house and the first demo job was complete! Next up, we brought in an electrician to add some lighting, and a plumber/ HVAC technician to install central air throughout the house.
More to come soon…