How to deal with Artex Ceilings

If, like us you’ve bought a property that was built say more than 20 years ago, and it’s had minimal love and attention since then there is a high chance you have Artex ceilings, and woodchip wallpapers.

What is Artex?

Artex with a capital ‘A’ is the trademark for Artex Ltd and is as much a brand as a product…there were other manufacturers of similar products, and in essence is a ‘plaster-like’ product intended to allow a patterned finish. It was popular in the 1970’s and onwards for several reasons – it enabled ceilings to be finished without plastering skills, and it allowed for an element of creativity with the creation of swirling patterns…

These days, patterned ceilings have become less desirable and the trend in the UK at least tends to lean towards ceilings with a crisp smooth finish (great news for plasterers!).

The bad news is, up until the 1980’s (and a little after) Artex contained white asbestos, which we now know to be incredibly harmful to humans long term (I won’t go in to depth here, but the dry microscopic fibres found in asbestos has been to linked to lung cancer as well as many other, often terminal  lung and respiratory diseases). For more in-depth info in to why asbestos is so dangerous check out the HSE website.

How did we deal with it?

So…like you, we wanted to get rid of our swirly Artex ceiling in our lounge as part of our major lounge renovation and re-decoration project…we’d read all about asbestos and Artex…and knowing that this house was built in the 1960’s didn’t even bother doing an asbestos test (you can send away for an online testing kit, which will require you to take a swab and send it away for assessment in a lab), we just assumed worst case, and acted as if we had asbestos!

After lots of reading and research the best advice is to disrupt the asbestos as little as possible. When undisturbed, the asbestos poses no risk. So rather than pulling down and removing the existing ceiling at great cost (via an asbestos handling specialist), the best option for us was actually to either plaster over the artex or board over what’s there…sounds a bit ‘bodge-job’ – but after reading various horror stories of failed attempts at skimming over artex and it not holding – overboarding is the route we went for.

 

Overboarding

With the decision to overboard the ceiling made, we next had to decide whether to board & skim the whole ceiling or tape and joint.  After some deliberation, a decision was made to tape and joint….essentially while Rich has already had a very good go at re-plastering the walls…and they look great, the ceiling is a whole other ball game. The lounge is a big room so with the overall size of the ceiling, the risk of the plaster ‘going-off’ before the while ceiling was done and it ending up looking pants…we opted for taping and jointing (I admit I was sceptical) Worst case, if Taping and Jointing didn’t deliver the quality we wanted, we’d just end up skimming it anyway! So no harm in trying.

So, we purchased 14 sheets of 1800×900 9mm tapered edge plasterboard (mostly because that’s the biggest size that would fit in either of our cars…and Rich got to work, with the help of his dad, marking up where the above ceiling joists were and screwing the plaster board to the existing ceiling (it’s worth noting that even to be doing this a very good quality dust mask should be worn at all times to prevent the inhalation of disturbed asbestos spores). This is without doubt a two man job (being that I am only 5ft tall even with a ladder…another sensibly sized human and some ceiling clamps (extending telescopic drywall support rods) certainly helped with this job, and were worth their weight in gold!

With the boards up, and a seemingly insurmountable number of joints and drywall screws to cover, it was time to start taping & jointing. We opted for a pre-mix jointing compound to ensure batch consistency and to ensure we had exactly the right consistency, and after some reading up went for British Gypsum Gyproc Promix Lite Joint Cement which we found at Wickes and got going. The jointing compound was really easy to use and applied really easily…the only draw-back we found was the drying time…even with electric heaters in the room it took almost all day to dry before we could sand-back and apply a further coat. The pre-mixed compound was ideal as it was our first attempt at taping & jointing, knowing now what the consistency should be, we would likely go for something like Gyproc Easi Fill 20, 45 or 60 which we’d mix ourselves, and should offer faster setting times to speed the whole process up.

 

Anyway, for risk of rambling on…once we (or should I say Rich) was happy with the final coat of jointing compound, and after several coats of brilliant white, we have a ceiling to be proud of…the Artex finish a thing of the past!

If you have any questions about any of the above, please feel free to comment below and we’ll happily answer where we can – just remember we are simply home DIYers and not tradesmen J



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