We received the following email and I thought it might be interesting, if not helpful to post the advice my assistant, Megan, was able to provide. Those of you who suffer from pre-1980's "Popcorn ceilings" should know that there IS an answer!
Q. "I have a question regarding textures. My husband and I bought our first house and the texture on the walls throughout the living room, formal dining room and hallway is really thick and pointed (if you scraped your arm against the wall...you will be leaving skin and more than likely draw blood). Is there an easy way to get this off?"
A. "There are a couple of surface treatments that sound similar to what you present in your email. The first texture is "Spanish Knife" which is applied with a flat metal plaster knife or spade in smooth intervals with a small ridge or edge for a textured effect. It's the smoothest of the three listed here and easiest to remove. Another is "perlite" which is applied by brush or roller and has a moderately level surface stippled with pointed areas. The last treatment, typically applied only to ceilings with a special tool and paint formula, is called "Popcorn". Although mostly found in homes dating pre-1980, this effect is rather sharp all over and can be difficult to remove for a do-it-yourself homeowner. Aside from the unsightliness of popcorn ceilings or walls, it also presents some health risks. There is a strong chance of asbestos or other toxins which can be harmful if inhaled. Ultimately, removing texture from your ceilings and walls will reduce the amount of dust and dirt particles in your home, therefore, improve your indoor air quality.
Before doing any surface removal, you should have a sample analyzed for toxins. The best way to remove the texture is to scrape off as much as possible, then sand out any rough spots or gouges. It sounds like there is quite a bit of surface to scrape so if you want to avoid toxins and dust debris throughout your home - and if your budget allows - it might be helpful to contract the work out to a wall painting/interior restoration company. Again, make sure you keep your family and home safe by having a sample analyzed before any work is started. Good Luck!" MB