Easy interior design fixes for old popcorn ceilings, paneling

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Real Estate,Merlisa Lawrence Corbett

Unlike white kitchen cabinets, which fade in and out of vogue, popcorn ceilings and wood paneling are relics from a bygone era that are unlikely to be back in style.

Fortunately, there are easy and affordable ways to correct retro gone wrong. Either rip and replace or just cover it up.

In the 1960s, popcorn ceilings were popular with contractors, who concealed imperfections in the plaster by "popcorning." This textured monstrosity continued into the early 1980s.

The best way to get rid of it is simply covering it up, said Glenn Tobias of Ravensworth Custom Home Improvements.

"The bottom line is that it's almost always smarter to just cover with quarter-inch drywall," he said. "I know that seems more expensive, but the incredible mess from scraping, sanding and trying to make the old stuff smooth and level is incredibly bad."

Tobias said the small loss in ceiling height pales in comparison with the cleanup required after ripping the ceiling out.

He said if a house has elaborate crown molding that homeowners don't want to touch, it might make sense to try to sand a popcorn ceiling, but overall, the cost is roughly the same and the time and frustration far less if you put up new drywall, tape and paint.

Ned Overton of FW&D Remodeling Services said these ceilings must be checked for asbestos. He said if the ceiling is "hot," the homeowner should hire a contractor approved to handle asbestos. If not, Overton said he favors either removing the entire ceiling or scrapping it off.

"We like to wet the popcorn and then scrape off, then apply a layer of drywall over the existing popcorn," he said. "This method can be used over a 'hot' ceiling."

When it comes to paneling, you can rip and replace. But "the cheapest route is to paint over existing paneling," Overton said.

Interior designer Lorna Gross of Savant Interiors used paint to transform a dated home office covered in knotty pine wood paneling into a chic, modern study.

"We used so much primer," Gross said. They used three coats, in fact, before several coats of paint. The primer concealed the ugly wood grain but exposed the vertical lines of the panels. This gave the gray-painted room character and style.

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Merlisa Lawrence Corbett

Special to The Washington Examiner
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