How to Remove Ceiling Spackle

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Spackle, popcorn, acoustic, textured and cottage cheese are all popular terms used to describe ceilings with a thick coating that were a design trend beginning in the late 1960s. As with most decorative stylings a generation removed, textured ceilings have become the bane of many new homeowners who want to modernize an older home. Here is a messy, but effective, guide to removing ceiling spackling.

Things You'll Need

  • Roll of plastic film (at least 1 mm thick)
  • Ladder
  • Floor mats or tarps
  • Safety goggles
  • Hair covering
  • Coveralls
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Small, medium and long putty scrapers
  • Patch spackle
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Electric or hand sander (optional)
  • Painter's tape
  • Masking tape
  • Extra-large trash bags (optional)
  • Remove all furniture and accessory items from the room. If this is not possible, make a furniture pile in the center of the room and cover with heavy plastic tarps so that the items will not be damaged.

  • Bring the ladder and work supplies into the room.

  • Put down tarps over the flooring. The heavy spackle will create layers of soft debris on the floor covering that might otherwise damage the carpet, wood flooring or tile.

  • Make a plastic drape with the roll of clear plastic and tape. The purpose of this step is to protect the plaster walls or wallboard. Use the painter's tape to attach the plastic on the wall near the ceiling. Start by standing on the ladder and taping the plastic as close to the edge of the ceiling as practical. Work a path around the room until all the walls are covered, including those with windows and doors. If the plastic roll is not room-sized, use the tape to make seams in the plastic so that the spackle doesn't enter the room underneath the plastic.

  • Gather the bottom of the plastic drape in the center of the room and make a central bundle. Tape the center bundle. This will ensure that spackle doesn't leak onto the floor.

  • Begin to remove the spackle, using a small plaster scraper. Start at one corner of the room and work down the wall. Work with light, even, long strokes to remove the spackle.

  • Continue working in a back-and-forth pattern. This allows for even coverage. Rest often, since this will allow you to make long and even strokes.

  • Move debris to the center of the room as the work continues. If the room is large and the spackle is a large popcorn style, it may be necessary to use large garbage bags to collect spackle from the floor to take to the trash.

  • Continue scraping until the ceiling is clear of spackle.

  • Patch with a patch spackle and use the sandpaper (or electric sander) to sand any small holes or deep grooves left in the ceiling from using the removal tools. Watch the how-to video listed below for directions on light spackle application.

  • Carefully take down plastic draping and tape. Move all spackle, popcorn and texturizing pieces to the center of the room. Take down ceiling tape by removing it from the top of the wall and handing the top of the plastic to an assistant to move carefully to the center, creating a giant bag with the plastic drape. When all plastic is removed, the center will be completely covered by the bag.

  • Remove debris. Lift the bag made from the plastic drape and remove to the trash.

Tips & Warnings

  • Entrance and exit from the room are easier if the drape has an overlap directly over the door. If more than one person is scraping, have the other person begin at the opposite wall so that the work will meet in the center. This allows an open work area, without the two workers competing for space.
  • Have the ceiling tested before removing acoustic or spackle covering. Older ceiling texturing incorporated asbestos, a known carcinogen. Many home improvement stores offer test-kit packages that are mailed away for test results. Allow several weeks to receive the results. If the tests are positive, most states require professional removal of the ceiling.

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