Pop goes the ceiling's finish

Q. We live in a town home that is 32 years old, and all ceilings (except bathrooms) have popcorn ceilings. We have several cracks in these ceilings along the taping lines. Please advise as to how to repair these and how to replace the popcorn finish with flat plaster finish. Who or what type of service/contractor do we contact for estimates and to begin this project?

Sue Gausselin, Palos Heights

A. Too much moisture in the attic could cause the tape seams on the drywall of the ceiling to separate, said Dan Rapinchuk of Supreme On-site Services Inc. in Plainfield. It's also possible the drywall shifted somewhat because the house is settling or the drywall was not fastened securely, he said. A popcorn finish is known to be used sometimes to hide imperfect drywall installation. To remove the finish, you'll need to scrape it off by hand and you will need to use a razor knife to dig out the tape.

Prepare for the job first by testing for lead then covering the furniture and floors with plastic. Also, wear safety equipment such as a breathing mask. Once the tape and finish are removed, reinforce the drywall, if necessary with screws. Apply new tape and then skim coat, which is a process of spreading patching compound over the entire ceiling, letting it dry, then sanding. Skim coat as many times as necessary to get a smooth finish.

This is a complicated, time-consuming project that will likely require the expertise of a drywall contractor or a painter who works with drywall.

Remember to check for the possibility of moisture in the home, too, he said. An experienced roofer should be able to evaluate the air flow in the home and check for proper ventilation in the attic.

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Remodeling questions? E-mailyourplace@tribune.com.

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