Low cost, big results!


Since we spent a big chunk on the geothermal installation, we decided to do some low cost renovations. Our biggest problem with this house is the cottage cheese ceilings. Awful stuff that makes the rooms look dingier. Well, I set out to remove all the cottage cheese ceilings in the public areas of the house during the month of October.

I started in the hallway, the smallest area. It’s fairly easy to do but messy. You have to wet the ceiling, let it soak in, then scrape it off with a putty knife. After it’s all removed, spackle is used to repair the joints and touch up the nail holes. The whole ceiling is then rinsed and smoothed with a sponge and water, then primed and painted. Not complicated but each section took a week.

I should mention that in my quest for an easier removal method I came across articles about asbestos in this stuff. Our house was built after the ban, but builders apparently continued to use up their stock until 1986. Great! I had already scraped the hallway ceiling and I’d previously done the two guest bathrooms. I had visions of asbestos dust floating around the house … forever. So, I got a sample tested, which came back negative; what a relief!

As I said the hall was first, then the kitchen and dining room, finally the living room. There’s just a small section left in the entryway (see photo), because I needed someplace to put the loveseat and chair. The upheaval was disturbing but thankfully brief.

What a difference it’s made. The rooms are brighter and feel cleaner. For the price of some paint and primer, and my hard work, we have what looks like brand new rooms. I was able to find a brand of paints (Olympic) that has few or no volatile organic compounds, VOC, so we didn’t have to move out because of the stink; there was almost no smell.

Now I have to figure out what to do about the texturing on the walls. One option that I want to try on the main dining room wall is a clay plaster. It’s made from natural products, mostly clay, it’s sound absorbing, so it should make up for the loss of the acoustic texturing on the ceilings, and there’s no waste, so if you have leftovers, you just re-wet it and use it again.

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