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Can You Cover Up a Popcorn Ceiling?

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Knotty Pine Tongue and Groove

Knotty Pine Tongue and Groove

Copyright Beyers Lumber
Question: Can You Cover Up a Popcorn Ceiling?
Aside from a few connoisseurs of textured, "popcorn" ceilings, most homeowners would rather have a smooth ceiling. Is it possible to cover a popcorn ceiling?
Answer: Removing a popcorn ceiling is more than just scraping the stuff off. Since the base assumption is that popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, removal of even some of this material requires special care. Hiring an asbestos-removal company is expensive. So, why not cover up the popcorn ceiling? There are two methods I will cover:

1. Prepared Ceiling Planks

Armstrong, best known as a flooring manufacturer, markets its Woodhaven Ceiling Planks as an alternative to removing popcorn ceiling. I have never been a great fan of laminates for flooring, chiefly because of the way laminates feel underfoot. But laminate planking on the ceiling is a different matter: it looks good and you never have to touch the stuff.

Another problem with laminate flooring is that contact with water will cause it to swell up, requiring removal and re-installation. Unless you have an emergency, such as an upstairs bathtub overflow, you should not have water issues with laminate ceiling planks.

These ceiling planks are tongue-and-groove, each measuring 5" x 84". For best results, first attach a grid of furring strips (1" x 2", available at most home improvement centers). While this allows you to shim out the grid so that it is perfectly level, you lose about 3/4" of ceiling height from the added layer of furring strips.

Woodhaven Ceiling Planks can be installed directly to drywall, provided the drywall is flat. But what about popcorn ceilings? Armstrong does not address this use. In this event, I urge you to use a furring grid instead of attaching directly to the popcorn ceiling.

Cost of Woodhaven Ceiling Planks: high. At one retailer, the cost comes out to about $2.72 per foot. With sales tax, a 12' x 12' kitchen will run you over $400, just for the Woodhaven product--no furring strips.

Pro: Planks fit perfectly together; many colors and styles.

Con: Expensive.

2. DIY Tongue and Groove Pine Ceiling Planks

Once you have done the work of installing furring strips, your work is half done. As an alternative to the Woodhaven planks, why not install something cheaper over the grid?

Do not install 4' x 8' of paneling, as this requires face-nailing. Large sheets of paneling on the ceiling never work out right. Individual tongue-and-groove pieces are needed.

You can purchase six-inch wide knotty pine planks. You can cover a 12' x 12' ceiling with this knotty pine for about $163--again, no tax, no furring strips.

Pro: Cheap.

Con: May be difficult to transport long planks home; long planks are often not perfectly straight and require adjustments to make them fit into place.

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