Artex Ceiling

5 Ways To Deal With An Artex Ceiling

Artex is a water-based covering that is used to decorate ceilings with a textured finish. It had its heydays in the 1970's, when the spiky or swirling effects it produces were considered high fashion. However, in today’s IKEA generation, an artex ceiling looks very dated and is a pain to repair and clean.

If it's time to bid farewell to your artex ceiling, there are five ways you can remove it: ‘Scrape & Sand’, ‘Cover with Plasterboard’, ‘Wet Plaster Over’, ‘Steam, Scrape & Sand’ or use ‘Eco Solutions X–Tex’.

The best option for you depends on many things, including the age and condition of your ceiling.

This guide looks closely at each of the five methods and provides everything you need to know before deciding how to remove Artex from your ceiling.

IMPORTANT: A Note About Asbestos And Artex

Until the mid-1980s, Artex was made with asbestos to strengthen it. In 1999, the UK government banned the use and import of chrysotile asbestos.

If sent airborne, asbestos is extremely toxic and can severely damage your health. Do NOT scrape or sand down artex ceilings without taking the advice of a trained asbestos expert. Only those trained to remove asbestos should do so. If you are unsure, contact your local council for more infomation.

To learn more about asbestos and how it should be removed, check out this post.


Preparing The Room

No matter which of the 5 methods you choose, you will need to dedicate some time to preparing your room for the mess that will inevitably follow.

Tools & Materials

Please note that the tools and materials listed below are just for the preparation stage, and should be used for all 5 methods. Additional tools and materials required for each of the 5 methods are provided under the 'Tools & Materials' section for each method.

  • Safety goggles, dust mask and rubber gloves
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    Plastic sheeting
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    Canvas drop cloth (carpet) or Rosin paper (hard floor)
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    Step Ladder

Step-By-Step Method

The steps below will help you reduce most of the mess, but for a comprehensive list of tips & tricks, check out my guide to Painting A Room With No Mess - 27 Top Tips.

Remember, these steps should be carried out regardless of which method you choose.

1. Ideally, move all furniture to another room, but if this is not possible, stack furniture in the middle of the room and cover with plastic sheets

2. Cover all non-removable items with plastic sheets

3. Lay down a canvas drop cloth for carpet floors, and rosin paper for hard floors.

The plastic sheeting and floor covers will protect furnishings and flooring from dust and debris. They will also make things easier when it comes to cleaning up.


Method 1: Scrape & Sand

Cost

Time

Difficulty

WARNING: As mentioned above, do NOT use this method before your artex ceiling is given the all clear by a trained asbestos professional. Failure to do so could severely damage your health.

Pros

Cons

Cost-effective

Messy and slow process

Can be completed by one person

Risk of disturbing asbestos and sending it airborne

Not much skill required

If artex ceilings have been painted, it might be very tough to scrape them

Scraping can often damage the ceiling

Tools & Materials

  • 4-inch utility knife or a joint knife
  • Joint compound
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    Bucket
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    4-inch taping knife
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    220-grit sanding block
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    Cloths

Step-By-Step Method

1. Put on your safety goggles, dust mask and gloves

2. Mentally divide the ceiling into sections and tackle one at a time using the techniques below. Take your time, don’t rush it

3. Use a 4-inch utility knife or a joint knife to slowly chip away at the texture and create a smooth surface

4. Mix joint compound in a bucket as per the instructions on the package

5. Using a taping knife, skim the surface with a thin layer of joint compound to smooth out imperfections. Leave to dry overnight before moving on to step 6

6. Using a 220-grit sanding block, lightly sand the surface smooth

7. Wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth before painting


Method 2: Covering With Plasterboard

Cost

Time

Difficulty

Scraping off artex is a tough job, not to mention dangerous if it contains asbestos. Another option, and often preferred by the Pros, is to cover the artex with plasterboard.

However, covering a ceiling with plasterboard is no simple task, as it involves; heavy lifting, plenty of time, mess and some skill.

Pros

Cons

Don't have to deal with asbestos. I.e., you encapsulate the harmful substance instead of disturbing it and sending it airborne

Cost of plasterboard sheets

Smoothest possible finish (assuming you tape and joint well). BTW, here's an excellent video of how to tape and joint

Need more than one person to move sheets around

Will cover up any major holes in the ceiling. In fact, it provides a good opportunity to do the jobs you were delaying because you didn't want to cut holes in the ceiling. E.g. adding or moving light fixtures

Will probably have to remove and replace covings

Skilled job. You will need to be proficient at taping and jointing for a seamless finish

Step-By-Step Method

Fortunately, I have already written a comprehensive guide on How To Plasterboard Ceilings. Therefore, instead of repeating the whole method here, please check out this post.


Method 3: Wet Plastering

Cost

Time

Difficulty

WARNING: As mentioned above, do NOT use this method before your artex ceiling is given the all clear by a trained asbestos professional.

As with dry lining, wet plastering over artex will avoid the pain of scraping it all off. However, you will still need to scrape off the ‘high spots’ and remove any flaking or loose sections. Therefore, you MUST get your artex ceiling checked by asbestos professionals before you start.

Pros

Cons

Smooth finish (assuming you are a good plasterer)

Still need to scrape off and sand 'high spots' to achieve a smooth finish

No need to scrape the whole ceiling

Very messy job

Cheaper than dry lining

Skilled job. You need to be an experienced plasterer to produce a smooth finish

Tools & Materials

Tools

  • 4-inch utility knife or a joint knife
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    Buckets
  • Large emulsion brush
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    Electric drill and ‘paddle’ attachment
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    Plasterer’s trowel and hawk
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    Spray bottle
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    ½ inch soft paintbrush

Materials

  • 220-grit sanding block
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    PVA
  • Skim plaster
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    Cloths

Step-By-Step Method

Before you get started, remember to put on your safety goggles, dust mask and gloves. 

Part 1 - Prepare Artex Ceiling Surface

2. Remove any loose or flaking parts of artex.

3. Use a 4-inch utility knife or a joint knife to remove all the artex stipples ('high spots') that hang down

4. To make plastering simpler and to improve the final finish, sand it flat with a 220-grit sanding block.

5. Paint the artex surface with PVA adhesive as this will help the plaster stick and slow down the moisture absorption.

  • Dilute the PVA with a 1:1 ratio with water and mix well
  • Using a large emulsion brush, paint the PVA solution on the ceiling and leave the PVA to dry (roughly one hour)
  • Apply a second coat and then leave to dry again

Part 2 - Skim Plaster Artex Ceiling

6. Follow the instructions on the packaing and mix plaster to a smooth consistency. To make mixing easier and faster, use an electric drill with a ‘paddle’ attachment. Set the drill at the lowest speed possible to avoid messy splashes

7. Apply skim plaster to the artex surface using a plasterer’s trowel and hawk

  • Place a maximum of two full trowels of mix onto the hawk
  • Cut into a small chunk of the mix with a trowel angled at 90° to the hawk
  • Tilt the hawk towards your body while at the same time scooping and pushing the trowel away
  • Spread the trowel’s plaster evenly across the surface. Don’t try and smooth it yet

8. Wait for the plaster to reach a goldilocks condition of beginning to firm but not going hard. At this point, smooth the plaster with a clean trowel, starting at the same location you began skimming.

Continue smoothing the surface in the same order you skimmed it. If the plaster hardens too much while you're working, spray on some water. Note: once the skim has set hard, the only way of smoothing it is by sanding

9. Using a ½ inch soft and wet paintbrush, define edges and corners

10. For non-porous surfaces, wipe clean with a damp cloth

11. For porous surfaces, wait for it to dry before you clean up the mess

For more info on how to wet plaster over an artex ceiling, please watch the video below: 

Pro Tips

  • Don’t place too much plaster on the trowel or hawk
  • Cover the whole surface with a uniform thickness (max 5mm), so that the entire area takes the same amount of time to harden
  • Divide the ceiling into distinct and separate areas and do one at a time. Do not rush and try to do the whole ceiling in one go. Remember, divide and conquer!
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    Mix just enough plaster for the area you plan to do next, no more, no less
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    In between mixes, clean your tools and buckets

Method 4: Using A Steamer

Cost

Time

Difficulty

WARNING: As mentioned above, do NOT use this method before your artex ceiling is given the all clear by a trained asbestos professional.

If done CAREFULLY, the process of scraping off artex can be made much easier by first softening the artex with a wallpaper steamer.

The key word here is 'CAREFULLY', as removing artex with a steamer can become extremely messy and time-consuming if not done properly. The trick is to leave the steam plate in one spot just long enough for the artex to soften but not liquefy.

Pros

Cons

Makes scraping easy when done well

Messy

Cheaper than plasterboard or plaster, assuming you rent or borrow the steamer

Slow

Risk of damaging the ceiling

Chance that artex will liquify and run everywhere

Tools & Materials

  • Wallpaper steamer (rent or borrow to reduce costs)
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    All the tools & materials listed in the ‘Scrape & Sand’ method 

Step-By-Step Method

1. Put on your safety goggles, dust mask and gloves

2. Warm up the steamer and gently press it's plate on the artex, while testing it's softness every few seconds (see step 3 below) 

3. Test frequently with a 4-inch utility knife or a joint knife to monitor how soft the artex is becoming

4. When soft enough, follow the steps 2-4 in the ‘Scrape & Sand’ method above

5. Repeat the process above for the whole ceiling, covering one small area at a time. Do NOT rush it!

For more info about using a steamer to remove artex, please check out this video:


Method 5: Applying Eco Solution's X–TEX

Cost

Time

Difficulty

One of the best ways to remove artex is by using this fantastic product. Simply put, when X-TEX is applied, the job of scraping off artex becomes MUCH quicker, easier and safer.

To learn more about X-TEX and how best to use it, please watch the video below and check out his very informative article on their website

Pros

Cons

Makes scraping off artex much easier and less messy

Although this method, when done well, does not create any asbestos dust, you still need to check for asbestos using trained professionals before carrying out this process.

Water based product, so is nontoxic and nonflammable

More expensive than the simple ‘Sand & Scrape’ and ‘Steamer’ methods, but still cheaper than dry lining or wet plastering

pH neutral, so it's non-caustic and doesn't cause skin burns

No hazardous risk and safety phrases (R & S)

Works on all surfaces

Made in the UK

Tools & Materials

  • X-TEX
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    Large emulsion brush
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    All the tools & materials listed in the ‘Scrape & Sand’ method 

Step-By-Step Method

1. Put on your safety goggles, dust mask and gloves

2. Paint X-TEX over the artex with a large emulsion brush

3. Wait for it to soften. For a single layer of textured coating, this should take between 15 and 30 minutes. For surfaces that have several coats of paint, you might have to wait up to one hour or so. Follow the instructions on the packaging for further info on this.

4. When softened, follow steps 2-4 in the ‘Scrape & Sand’ method above


Which One Should I Choose?

The answer ultimately depends on the time and money you are willing to spend, your skill level and the current state of your ceiling.

One critical factor in making this decision rests on whether your artex ceiling contains asbestos. If it does, you only have two options. I.e. hire trained asbestos professionals to remove it or cover it with plasterboard.


Don't fancy doing this job yourself?

No problem. We've teamed up with Rated People to find the best tradespeople in your area.

Rated People will make sure you get the best person for the job at the right price by providing local ratings & reviews, images or prior work, and multiple quotes from their vast network of skilled tradespeople.

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About the Author Russ

I'm the founder of PropertyWorkshop.com, a site dedicated to sharing home renovation and repair tips. To learn more about me, please check out our About page