Stucco removal, takes lots of patience, a totally cleaned out room, and a big plastic sheet.
If you have a room, that you want the stucco ceiling removed from, then here are a few steps to consider before you get started on this journey.
1. Is the stucco painted? If yes, you will need to find out if it was painted with oil or latex.
2. If the stucco ceiling is from the early 70's or before, chances are that it could contain asbestos. Asbestos is only really a problem if you disturb it, so you need to find out the history of this house and stucco ceiling, or at least send in a sample for analysis. Your local building inspector can direct you with where to send samples. Make sure you do this step if you are unsure of the history of this house and the ceiling looks old.
If you find that when you pick at the ceiling, the stucco seems to come off a bit, then chances are it was not painted. This is the best case scenario. If it was not painted, then you need the room cleared out, a good breathing mask (this will create a lot of dust) and a big plastic sheet, and a ladder and a drywall scrapper.
3. Fill a spray bottle with water, and spray a section of ceiling you can handle from your ladder, keep spraying it, and do this for about 15 minutes. You will see the ceiling go a bit darker where the wetness has penetrated. Now take your scrapper and start scrapping sections of the ceiling. Stucco removal, with a non painted ceiling is much easier and quicker. Try and not dig into the ceiling, just keep your scrapper flat and go along the surface. You will find it comes right off.
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If your ceiling has been painted, and you are not sure whether it was with a oil based paint or a latex, then take your spray bottle and put in a couple of drops of dish soap (this helps to soften the paint) and spray a section of ceiling. Since many people don't really get under the stucco when painting, it tends to just be the "icing" part that gets painted, you will still be able to remove it, it will just take a bit longer. If it is latex that was used (or water based paint of some kind) then the spray will penetrate the stucco and you will see the ceiling going a darker color from the wetness. This is good, it means you will be able to scrape it off.
If it was painted with oil, then you are pretty well going to have to go to "Plan B" because the water will just bead on the ceiling and not penetrate at all, and you will not be able to scrape it.
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Most people did not use oil paint on their ceilings, as most ceiling paint sold now is latex. But depending on how long ago your ceiling was painted, you could be dealing with old lead paint, and possibly asbestos stucco. Toxic combination, but only when disturbed. So your choices then, are to either A. Leave it alone and just repaint to freshen your ceiling up, add some crown moldings and work with it! or B. Install a second layer of drywall right over top. You can get professionals in to do this fairly quickly, unless you are good with ceiling drywall. If the stucco is really thick like icing, they may want to take the bulk off, but a second layer of drywall may be the way to go in the worst case scenario. They usually use 1/2 inch drywall.
Stucco removal, is best done in small rooms. If you have a large area, and your stucco ceiling was never painted, then just get a few people together, and a few ladders, hand out some spray bottles of water, and each of you take a section.
Once you have done your stucco removal, then you can take a drywall sander on a stick and sand the ceiling smooth. This can be achieved, but it takes some time, also keep in mind that drywall installers, used this method of stucco, to avoid having to do much taping and mudding of the seams, so you may need to tape the seams of your drywall and add more mud. (or drywall spackle) once you have done your stucco removal.
One way to save some money, is to do the stucco removal yourself, and then call in dry wall installers to smooth out the ceiling and patch any holes and seams, and get it ready for painting.
You will always save money, if you can do the dirty parts of the job yourself.
If you are faced with the worst case scenario, of oil based paint on top of old stucco, then you may need to call in drywall installers to cut out the ceiling and replace the drywall. I saw this done quite quickly, and then the homeowner put up Styrofoam crown molding at the edges to hide any scars near the wall. It looked stunning.
So, if you are wanting to renovate or update a house that was built in the early 70's, or before, then you have to be careful with what could be lurking behind the walls, or in the walls. Asbestos was used in many building materials back then.
We ran into this with the floor tiles. We dug up two layers of flooring, to get to the sub floor, not realizing that the peel and stick original tile most likely contained asbestos. So, check with your local town office. The building inspector can help you determine dangerous building products.
We had a stucco ceiling with a hole in it from repaired plumbing. After looking at all the options for stucco removal, we decided that it was best to just "go with it". We scraped off some of the painted stucco around the hole, replaced the drywall, then purchased some stucco in a pail, and sponged it onto the ceiling until it matched the best we could. Then we repainted the ceiling. It looks good, and it was the cheapest and easiest option! Maybe stucco ceilings will come back in style?.
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