Day one of renovations – ceilings

Popcorn ceilings had a place and time.  The modern homeowner, however, feels that time is neither here nor now.  Thus begins our first home renovation.

We started in the living room since this will (hopefully) be the first room completed.  Once the ceilings are returned to a proper condition, Bradley will install the new shelves he is building before I slap on some new paint.  I had the afternoon off and a surge of energy – seemed like a great time to get started.


  1. A basic pump sprayer – we got a 1.5 gallon one to make it easier for me to tote around. It ended up being plenty big enough.
  2. A taping/putty knife – anything with a flat edge will get the job done. We got a ten-inch blade, and I’m not sure I would recommend anything longer (since I am basically a pro now).  You might think that a wider knife would let you scrape off more ceiling at once, but you also have to keep in mind that you are doing all of this above your head while trying not to gouge holes in the ceiling.  Trust the expert on this one.
  3. A sturdy step ladder – don’t get the cheap, flimsy kind. You will be spending a lot of time on this step ladder.  I recommend one that has rubber feet on the bottom to reduce the risk of slipping and sliding.  Your floor may get wet during this process.  Keep that in mind.

This would be a great time to mention that I do not technically have health insurance at the moment…perfect timing.

Things not required but highly recommended:

  1. Safety goggles – that popcorn stuff gets everywhere.
  2. A hat – for extra protection. Thanks to Carolina Brewery for the hat – I’m pretty sure I “borrowed” it when I bartended for the golf fundraiser, and I never returned it.  Don’t worry my law-abiding readers!  While I may not have exchange money for this good, I most certainly exchanged countless hours of my youth.  And a few tears.
  3. Something to cover the floors with – we have hardwood floors so we weren’t too worried about it for this round. Our mistake.
  4. A rag – have I mentioned that the popcorn stuff gets everywhere? It will get on the walls while it is wet and then harden.  Better to wipe it off as you see it.
  5. The right clothing – I wore a tank top so that I had freedom of movement. I support this decision.  However, I ended up with quite a bit of ceiling material in my sports bra.  Small price to pay for the ability to contort my arms as necessary for this project.
  6. Awesome tunes – this project takes longer than you think. Great time to work on your karaoke skills.
  7. A good attitude – I’m serious.  Don’t do this if you are in a bad mood.  This is not the kind of project you can emotionally muscle through.
  8. Booze – you will need a glass afterward. I don’t recommend drinking while working for obvious safety reasons.  And that popcorn stuff really does get   Probably best not to ingest.  (Someone steal that and turn it into a snazzy PSA to keep kids from drinking things they shouldn’t.)

The process is quite simple when you write it out.

  1. Use the sprayer to generously wet a portion of the ceiling – I did 4×4 sections. Here is the hard part:  leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.  You will be impatient but wait it out.  It makes it so much easier to scrape off when you give the water time to soak in.  I did one more misting before I started scraping and then got to work.
  2. There is a magical, perfect angle. I don’t know what it is.  I scraped and scraped until I could see the ceiling.  If I started to dig into the ceiling, I changed my angle a bit.  If I wasn’t getting much off, I changed my angle a bit.  If my shoulders started to hurt, I changed my angle a bit.  You get the picture.  Just climb up there and start scraping.

And that’s it.  No joke.  I ended up spraying more than I thought, but it was worth it.  If the ceiling produced dust rather than flakes when I scraped, then I climbed down the ladder and gave it another good soak.  Again, let it sit after you spray it.  Waiting is the hardest part of this whole process.


I take that back.  Cleaning up the ceiling carnage was the hardest part.  Since I only finished about 20% of the living room today, I only cleaned at about 20% my potential.  Seems like a waste given what the future holds in store.

The picture of me smiling was about five minutes in.  The picture I didn’t take was of me later that night in mix-matched clothes, a bandana, and sporting a glass of wine.  I’m thankful that Bradly could take a hint and offered to cook dinner.  Grilled pork chops…yum yum.

I will be doing more of the above lists the rest of the week in an effort to finish the living room and kitchen before the weekend.  We still have patching, sanding, priming, and painting before the ceiling is anywhere close to being done.  The original plan was to do the whole house.  New plan:  reassess old plan once living room and kitchen are done.  I think we all know where this is headed.

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