Living Room Renovation – step one remove the Popcorn Ceiling

Is there anything nastier than an acoustic popcorn ceiling treatment? It’s used as a cheap alternative in apartments and office buildings and well, in homes where the owners are too lazy or cheap to put up something nice. It collects dust. Spiders expertly build networks of cobwebs across it, and the worst part? You can’t take a broom and wipe off the cobwebs without losing part of your ceiling!

Popcorn ceilings are just plain nasty. We call them spitball ceilings because that’s exactly what it reminds me of – spitballs stuck to the ceiling of the middle school classrooms (a whole other horror story, let me tell you). No manner of sparkly dust or whatever it is they mix with whatever they spray up on the ceiling is going to make an acoustic ceiling look like anything other than a bunch of pasty, icky, spitballs collecting dust and cobwebs waiting to fall on your head while you drink tea or read or sleep. Yech!

We bought our Colorado lodge in 2003 from the original owner, who by all the information we’ve since gathered had a significant issue with spending money on the house. The house is a great house – big, open, great structure, lots of light, wide hallways, wide stairs, huge secondary bedrooms, but it needed significant updating. Remember the ’70s and that generation’s love of green and orange? Well, we had an orange sink to prove it!

'70s orange kitchen sink

I’m not kidding folks, that sink was the first thing we ripped out. We turned a drab and grey kitchen with an orange sink (who in their right mind would put together that color combination?) that looked like this:

Grey ugly kitchen before renovation

… into one that looked like this:

Kitchen after

Of course, we’ve been tackling the projects room by room because it’s expensive and time-consuming and having your house in constant demolition is no fun. It wears on the mind, makes it hard to write, hard to be nice to each other, hard to want to live there. We recently tackled the living room and we wanted to accomplish these things:

– replace the single-pane windows in the alcove
– replace the spitball ceiling with something, anything
– replace the carpet

Of course, once we got started … any of you out there with ‘dated’ houses will understand this … we discovered so much more needed to be done. We’ll get to that in a minute. So we started with a layer of plastic protection and we began scraping the ceilings.

Step one to remove popcorn ceilings

After we scraped the ceiling, we played with paint colors.

Play with paint colors

Then, we ripped out the windows in the alcove.

Replacing windows diy

We chose double-pane windows with wood frames to match the lodge feeling and still keep us warm. Of course because we like to DIY when we can, we stained them ourselves. Fun, fun Saturday night let me tell you folks. Around here we’re known for rockin’ Saturday nights that involve drinking beer in a freezing cold garage while we stain window frames.

Staining the window frames

Fun times, I tell ya. Then, we installed the windows … again, my role is ‘helper’. We crammed insulation in every section of that alcove.

Insulating the windows

Before, it was a drafty, dark creepy spot, but now, it’s warm and toasty as you can tell from Roxy’s position during the work.

Then, Mr. Man said, “We needed to sand the beams”.

“What do you mean sand the beams?” I think I squeeked this time.

Here I was thinking we were close to finishing this job, and he decides we need to sand the beam? Of course he’s right. That beam was lovely wood, but it was stained so dark, you really couldn’t see its beauty and when a piece of real wood is in your house and you know that a tree sacrificed its life to put it there, you kinda want to take really good care of it. So, we sanded both sides of the beam and the bottom face from ladders 20+ feet in the air.

Sanding a beam 20' in the air

Oh lord help me. I did some of the sanding and let me tell you folks, it’s really hard to hold a sander over your head and slide it back and forth across a beam while hanging onto a ladder. This is about the time in a project where I start thinking about running away to a quiet hotel room where I can drink a cup of tea in silence and perhaps have a long bath, a little sleep, maybe read a book.

Then, the beam was wrapped in paper and the contractor came in to texture the ceiling. That took a couple of days. Then we painted the ceiling and the walls with the new colors we tested. Painting a ceiling that high is like the shoulder workout designed for the Terminator team. Ow.

Then the carpet guys came.

Then, Mr. Man put all the wood trim back in the room.

And we put the furniture back in and finally, we have a living room again!

Living room, fresh no popcorn ceiling

Now, we have to figure out when to get started on scraping the ceilings on the rest of this floor of the house. I need a massage, a good long cry, a vacation, and a lot to drink before we start again please.

fourteenergirl Written by:

A mother, sister, wife, and daughter who writes, knits, hikes, and practices yoga on the west coast. Loves a zippy chardonnay or a tart margarita!


  1. Kristin
    August 25, 2010

    It looks absolutely stunning! I love the colors and the alcove and all of it. GORGEOUS.

  2. August 26, 2010

    Thanks! It finally looks like a nice living room. Still need to put up the curtains and change out the covers on the sofa pillows, but those come this week, so we’ll see.

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