Q: How do we get rid of a cottage cheese ceiling without messing up the rest of the room? Once it is removed, what do we do with what's left on the ceiling?
A: You need to be careful with that old popcorn ceiling texture because some contain asbestos. If your home was built after 1980, chances are it is asbestos-free. To be sure, send a sample of it to a laboratory for analysis. Those labs are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Asbestos-Consulting and Testing." To get a sample, wet a small area with a mixture of water and liquid detergent, and use a putty knife to carefully scrape about a square inch of the material into a bag.
If your ceiling does contain asbestos, you are better off leaving the texture alone and painting it. Another option is to add ceiling tiles over the existing textured ceiling. Armstrong has ceiling tiles that create the illusion of a tin ceiling depending on how you paint it. It can be installed directly with adhesive or attached to furring strips.
If you do decide to remove the popcorn ceiling and it has not been painted, first spray the texture with a mixture of water and liquid detergent to ease the removal and cut down on the dust and mess. If it has been painted, it will not absorb the water, so you will need to use a chemical paint stripper, such as Lemon Peel from FiberLock. To minimize damage to the drywall, carefully scrape the texture off, then sand and clean the ceiling. After the ceiling is clean, apply a drywall compound to create a nice smooth surface. When the drywall compound is dry, sand, prime, and paint it.
For more information on ceiling tiles go to www.armstrong.com.
For more information on cleaning ceilings www.fiberlock.com