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Popcorn Ceilings: Tips on removing your old popcorn or textured ceiling treatment

Is there an easy, efficient way to remove or even clean my unsightly popcorn textured ceiling treatment? It's beginning to look dirty and I'd much prefer to have it gone. Would it be easier to simply clean and paint it or remove the popcorn ceiling all together?

Our Answer

Of all the ceiling questions we get on our national radio show The Money Pit, removing popcorn ceilings has to rank as one of the most popular.  These are probably biggest challenge up in the ceiling zone found in homes from the paneling-and-disco era.
At that time, popcorn ceilings were an acoustic solution and a handy way for builders to skip having to add three layers of drywall mud and tape (with the added distraction of those little sparkle bits that were scattered across the ceiling scape), but today, they can be an inconvenient eyesore.
Removal of a popcorn ceiling is possible, but it takes some pretty intense work to accomplish: you'll have to soak the popcorn ceiling treatment surface with water (we recommend using a pump garden sprayer for this) and then scrape it all away with a six-inch drywall knife.  You'll then be left with a lot of material that should be disposed of properly, not mention some significant ceiling repair before applying an oil-based primer and a flat finish.
There are maybe a million better ways to spend a Saturday, starting with your annual dental cleaning.  If you can live with the texture of your popcorn ceiling, you can always use a high-pile, slitted roller to apply a new coat of color that coordinates with the rest of the room. This will make the popcorn ceiling appear brighter and cleaner and save you the backbreaking removal process.

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Wallpaper: Trendy or Outdated?

I like the look of wallpaper, but I am concerned that it will make my home look dated. Is there a current and stylish way to use wallpaper without making my home look like it's stuck in the 80's?

Our Answer

The short answer is: yes!  Always a favorite for its versatility, variety, and suitability for just about any room, wallpaper has only improved in terms of cost efficiency and application ease. Choose from inexpensive pre-pasted and easy-change varieties, and go for texture and pattern.  But remember that a little goes a long way.  Use wall paper in small doses, for example to line the back of a book shelf or built in wall unit.  Or frame out an area of your wall with trim and wall paper JUST the inside of that frame.  Or use an interesting pattern on just one wall of the room.  Busy patterns can make a room look smaller if the whole space is papered.

Another option is a full-wall mural.  They are back in vogue again, and thanks to digital technologies, photographic vistas are all the more alluring.  Nature scapes are perfect for kid’s rooms and spaces that connect to the outdoors – like a sunroom.

This is certainly a DIY project.  But one way you can make it easier on yourself is by using the right tools.  The Skil Power Cutter is a very versatile tool that can be used again and again for dozens of projects and chores at home.  You can cut through wallpaper, vinyl flooring, vinyl siding, carpet or carpet padding and dozens of other materials for your home improvement projects.  The bonus is it can also be a go-to cutter for all of your household jobs too – it cuts through denim, leather, cardstock, old credit cards – and that frustrating clamshell packaging!  With powerful lithium ion technology, and an auto sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight power cutter will soon become your favorite tool too.

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foam crown molding

How to Install Crown Molding the Easy Way

I would love to install crown molding in my home to add value.  All the people that I try to hire want a fortune to install it and I can not cut all of the fancy corners!

Our Answer

Installing crown molding is task that requires significant carpentry experience, as well as a set of specialized tools, capable of make compound miter cuts and more.  For those who want crown molding without that hassle, foam crown moldings are an excellent alternative.

Foam moldings are attractive, lightweight and easy to handle.  Corners, the most difficult part of any crown molding installation, are precut - making installation very, very easy.The foam crown molding installs with painters caulk to most surfaces like drywall, concrete, brick or wood. There are now specialized and expensive tools needed as the molding cuts with a simple hand saw and is attached with a caulk gun. .

To install, just apply a bead of painters caulk on the top and bottom of the molding, press into the wall and ceiling and then wipe off the excess caulk. The molding does not contract or expand like wood moldings, and needs only a single coat of paint, which you can apply even before its installed.

Foam crown molding is also available in a wide variety of styles as shown here.

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How-to Insulate Garage Walls Behind Sheetrock

What is the best way to insulate my garage walls that are already sheetrocked? Is is it possible to cut a hole in the top and drop loose material down the cavity? Thanking you in advance. George

Our Answer

In a garage, the walls that are typically drywalled (sheetrocked) are those between the garage and the interior of your house.  The reason is that the drywall plays an important role in creating fire resistance between those spaces.  If those are the walls you are referring to, they may very well already be insulated.  An easy way to check to to pull off an outlet or light switch cover and try and look into the wall cavity around the electrical box.

If the wall does in fact have drywall and is not insulated, then adding blown-in insulation would be the best option.  Typically a hole that is about 1 1/2" is drilled near the top of the wall cavity.  Insulation is blown in and then the hole is sealed and spackled.

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hanging picture

How to Hang Heavy Pictures on Drywall

What's a safe way to hang heavier art pieces on drywall? I've done a bit of unintentional damage before, and don't want to repeat the performance.

Our Answer

There is a wide array of hardware available to help hang a heavy picture on drywall. One gadget I really like is The Monkey Hook, an easy-to-install wall hanger that supports art weighing up to 50 pounds and can be doubled up for even heavier pieces. It was created with both residential and commercial drywall in mind, and designed to work in wall locations where there is no wall stud to latch into.

The Monkey Hook looks is a hook shaped piece of strong wire. One end is sharpened and can be easily driven into the drywall with a few twists. It then is locked in place and this heavy-duty helper is ready to display your favorite framed art and photos.

The other nice feature is that when you change your mind and decide to move your art around (and you KNOW that will happen!), The Monkey Hook leaves only a very small hole in the wall that's easily covered with just a dab of spackling compound.


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wall decor

Textured Wall Repair

Is there any way to match the texture sprayed on drywall when getting the wall ready to paint? I have small nail holes in sections of the texture falling off that need to be retextured.

Our Answer

There are a number of textured surface repair products out for just this situation.  For example,  Wall Textured Spray Patch in Orange Peel White for Ceilings, Drywall is made by Homax and should do a fine job.

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How to Remove a Mirror Glued to Wall

My mounted bathroom mirror is wedged in and glued to the wall.  It extends more than eight feet across, and it three and a half feet from top to bottom.  I want to remove the mirror and replace it with framed mirrors - but have no idea how to get it off of the wall.  What is the best way to do this?

Our Answer

You're wise to use caution when removing your mirror - especially given its size.  You can use one of two methods.  Both will require repairing your drywall after, but if done properly, should spare you injury or further headaches - and will leave the mirror in one piece in case you want to decorate with it later. 

The first method involves buying a length of cutout wire that's longer than the width of your mirror.  Cutout wire is also called windshield removal wire because it's used by auto body shops to repair windshields.  Apply clear packing tape over the mirror to minimize mess - and risk of injury - if it breaks. Then stretch the wire tight, and slide it between the back of the mirror and the drywall.  With at least two other people holding the mirror in case it falls, wiggle the wire back and forth until the mirror dislodges.

The second method requires a drywall saw.  Push the saw into the wall near the edge of the mirror, and remove the section of drywall the mirror is glued to.  This is the safer of the two methods, so go with this one if you're fully replacing drywall anyway.

Again, don't attempt mirror removal without a few strong hands there to hold the it once it's been released from the wall. Good luck!

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Hanging a Flat Screen TV

Like many people this season we are buy a new flat screen TV and were planning to mount it over our fireplace. I was wondering if there were any special precautions that we need to take because of the fireplace being behind the wall that we are mounting. Is it going to affect or damage the bricks or the functionality of the fireplace if we have to drill into the wall? What would be the best way to do this?

Love your show,

Jenna Ostrowski

Buffalo, NY

Our Answer

Jenna, assuming that this is a traditional brick wall of a real fireplace (as opposed to a fake brick wall on a manufactured fireplace!) there's no reason you can not attach the flat screen TV mounting bracket directly to the brick and have it provide a solid connection. 

The best fastener to use for this is a "Tapcon" concrete screw.  Tapcon screws are designed to grab into brick and concrete and come with a drill bit preciously sized for the screw you need to install.  Just follow the instructions carefully and you should be good to go.  The other option is to use a traditional lead shield and lag bolt combo to attach the mounting bracket.  However, in my experience, the Tapcon will be strong enough.  To be sure, check with the manufacturer of the TV mounting bracket and follow their recommendations before proceeding with the project.

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Wallpaper Removal

Good Morning

My son has just purchased a new home and will need to remove multiple rooms of wallpaper.  We were wondering what would be the best method to use since we want to do it ourselves.  It looks like vinyl coated paper not solid vinyl or flocked. Is it easier to use a chemical such as Piranha or would using a small steamer work better.  Maybe a combination of the two?  He had heard using hot water with fabric softener and a scrapet worked well. Please advise

thank you in advance

Jan Mancini

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Darks Spots On the Outer Edge of Ceiling – Why?

I have a 12-year old ranch style home, and have a question about the ceilings. In the last few years it's developed dark areas where the sheetrock was screwed to the trusses. This is only at the outer edge where the ceiling meets the wall.  I assume this has to do with the cold winters.  The ceiling is covered with a joint compound product with a random pattern.  Should I seal the spots and then paint? What do you suggest?  Thanks - I listen to you every Sunday morning!  Chuck

Our Answer

Hi Chuck - thanks for being a loyal listener.  As far as your ceiling goes, what you're seeing is a very common condition called ghosting.  It's caused when warm, moist air air rises to the ceiling, is cooled near the outer edge of the wall, and then falls.  That conductive loop essentially layers typical household dirt and contaminants in one place - that is, the coldest place, where it's basically just sheetrock on wood.  A lot of times you see this on the bottom edge of a ceiling joist, and sometimes in stripes.  Again, it's not a major problem, and is fairly common.  Given that, houses can always use added insulation, so use this opportunity to evaluate the insulation in your attic.  Try to get 10-15 inches of insulation up there, if possible.  Good luck!

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Easy Repair For Loose Drywall Tape?

There is a seam in our upstairs ceiling where the drywall tape is peeling up.  I know I can repair this, but I am worried about the cause.  It's just in one little section, maybe two feet long, right above this ceiling is the attic.  Should I be looking into attic humidity levels?  Is there a way to test that?  Our attic has a vent on the side but no roof mounted vent.  I just want to make sure I'm not covering up a potential problem by repairing the dry wall tape.

Our Answer

No need to read so much into a loose tape seam.  It rarely indicates a serious problem. Ceilings in particular expand and contract along seams as well as intersections with walls, causing tape to loosen.  
To fix this, you need to cut out the old tape with a utility knife, because this loose tape will never reseal.  Next, apply fiberglass drywall tape, which is mesh and perforated.  You can trowel and spackel across and through that.  Finally, apply a drywall compound on top of the fiberglass tape to restore the seam.  Once that's complete, you can prime and repaint.  

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Prepping Walls for Paint After Wallpaper Removal

I am in the process of refreshing my kitchen and intend to paint walls that were previously wallpapered. Thanks to the Wagner Power Steamer, the wallpaper is coming down pretty nicely, with just a few spots where the backing paper has come off the sheetrock. Once it's all down, what is the best way to prep the walls for paint? I intend to paint the walls a matte finish, probably in a light tan color

Our Answer

Kudos to you for using a steamer to remove wallpaper.  It makes the job so much easier, doesn't it?  

Your next best step is to prime the walls.  I recommend a latex or oil-based primer, which will seal in the surfaces nicely and give you a great base upon which to add your top coat of paint.  Using primer will help the new paint flow and adhere properly.   
Post some before and after shots to Money Pit's Facebook page so we can admire the results!

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Does Waterproofing Paint Work?

Would the application of a "waterproofing" paint be worth it before finishing my basement?

I want to ensure that my new home (built in 2013) has a dry basement for many, many years. It is currently dry and already has all the right exterior features: Sloping yard, no landscaping around the perimeter, great gutters and drainage, just as you have described on your show. So before I have the basement finished, would it be worth applying a "waterproofing" paint to the poured-concrete walls?

Our Answer

Congratulations on taking all the proper steps to ensuring your basement remains leak-free for many years to come!
Adding a damp-proofing paint is not a bad idea, but only because you've already taken all of the other, more preventative steps toward waterproofing your basement.  If you asked whether this was a wise first step, I'd say no.  No paint can stop water from getting in.  However, with all other preventative measures intact, damp-proofing paint CAN reduce humidity that inevitably forms in basements.  I say "inevitably" because any foundation below grade is going to get damp, since it's against outside dirt.  Moisture wicks its way through the concrete, gets inside, and evaporates into the inside air, no matter the precautions.  So go ahead and add that damp-proofing paint as a final step toward ensuring dryness.

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Yellowing of Wallpaper

I own a mobile home and in the kitchen and the bathroom the sheetrock is covered with wallpaper it is white with fofers on it it .

The wall paper is yellowing in spots is there a way to clean this  the mobile home is 13 years old Have not really tried anything yet

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Painting Wallpaper

Is it advisable to paint over my existing wallpaper in my breakfast area & kitchen?