Once that awful popcorn texture is off the job is done, right?
"The ceiling underneath is usually not finished," says McDonald. "That's why it was covered up with acoustical texture. You'll find blisters, popped nails and other imperfections."
A coat of drywall mud is usually applied to the newly exposed ceiling, then a texture is put on.
"We use a hand-applied skip-trowel texture on the ceilings, which makes it match most drywall walls," says Bell. "It goes on fairly quickly and dries fast."
After the new texture has dried out for a few days, the new ceiling can be painted.
"Although you can paint an acoustic ceiling, it looks funny if you paint it anything other than white," says Bell. "With a smooth ceiling you have more freedom to use whatever colors you'd like."
Expect to pay between $1 and $2 per square foot for removal, retexturing and painting of your ceiling.
"In most cases, the removal and texturing can be done in one day, then the painting is generally followed up a few days later," says Bell.
While it may seem relatively painless to have an acoustic ceiling removed, there is an element of danger involved.
Before 1979, asbestos was commonly added to acoustic ceiling "mud" before it was sprayed on. The material acted as a fire retardant and insulator, but it was banned for use in homes because of the health risks of inhaled asbestos fibers.
"The first thing we ask when someone calls is what year was the home built," says McDonald. "If it was 1979 or earlier, you'll need to have the ceiling tested."
In the testing process, a small piece of the ceiling texture is removed and sent to a lab to check for asbestos. If asbestos is present, the removal process changes dramatically.
"Because asbestos is most dangerous when it's loose, the workers who remove it have to use special equipment and follow OSHA regulations to do the job," says McDonald. "Expect to pay upwards of $6 per square foot to remove an asbestos-contaminated ceiling."
Many homeowners who find that their ceilings are 'contaminated' with asbestos decide to live with it, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that asbestos fibers aren't harmful unless they've been released into the air.
"One of the approved methods is to apply a 'shell-right' surface that seals the ceiling up," says McDonald. "Or, you can cover the ceiling with thin sheets of drywall to create a new, smooth surface.
Finding a good acoustic ceiling remover isn't unlike finding any other type of contractor.
"Look, of course, for someone who's licensed and insured," says Bell. "References are always helpful. Find out which of your neighbors had their ceilings done and how they liked the job."
Also, if your home was built before 1979, be leery of the contractor who wants to pull the acoustic ceiling down without asbestos testing.
"It's not a good thing to have asbestos floating around your house," says McDonald. "You don't want somebody messing with it in your house if they don't know what they're doing."
The bottom line: Is the mess worth it?
"Once you've had the acoustic material removed," says Pollack, "You know you can't live with it again."
Article by John Morell
Originally Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Jun
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY
Used with Permission