Are your ceilings covered in a texture that just screams “outdated?” What you’re probably seeing is Artex. While Artex was popular decades ago, modern interior design trends have shifted towards smooth, texture-free surfaces. Perhaps you’re looking to modernize that ceiling by going over it with smooth plaster. Can it be done?
You can plaster over Artex. In fact, it’s one of the best and easiest ways to rid a home of Artex, especially if you’re looking to do it yourself. If plastering over Artex, it all comes down to the proper preparation in order to see the best results.
Think you’re ready to rid your home of Artex? Read on to learn everything you need to know about Artex and how to effectively plaster over it to update your home’s interior. Even if you’re completely new to the do-it-yourself lifestyle, stick with us, and you’ll be confident to take on this project in no time.
What is Artex and Why Is it on My Ceiling?
Artex is a texturing substance that was popularized in the 1960s through the 1990s. It’s most commonly seen on ceilings but can be found on walls, too. Most commonly, the texture is rough, almost harsh to the touch, or contains a more pleasant and soft pattern.
It was popularized during this time due to interior design trends focusing on texture, including walls and ceilings. Nowadays, the trend has swung in the opposite direction, with a preference towards minimalism and smooth surfaces.
While Artex is a trademarked name in the United Kingdom, nicknames and slang terms such as “popcorn ceilings” have been popularized to refer to this texture. Many other companies manufacture similar products.
How does Artex Differ from Plaster?
While plaster is sometimes mistaken for Artex, they are certainly not one and the same. Artex and similar products specifically aimed at adding texture to ceilings and walls, whereas plaster is a more multi-purpose and widespread product used in many different construction applications. The purpose of plaster is most often for a smooth surface.
Artex was popularized by builders decades ago because the texture allowed for a finished look without having to adhere to the perfect application of smooth plaster. In other words, Artex helps hide mistakes and let contractors move faster.
Is Artex a Hazard in the Home?
One of the biggest concerns associated with textured interiors is asbestos, which is rightfully so. Some Artex may contain asbestos, but it also may not. The use of asbestos in building materials was popular throughout the 1960s through the 1990s but banned in 1999 due to the discovered health risks of the substance.
While asbestos was banned for use, many homes and home features that contain asbestos still remain intact today, unless the feature was remodeled.
In short, as long as the textures remain intact, unharmed, and undamaged, asbestos should not be a concern when it comes to Artex and other textured interior surfaces.
That being said, if you plan to remove the texture rather than plaster over it, we do recommend taking necessary safety precautions to protect yourself by sampling your Artex first. Asbestos self-sampling kits are available from many companies, but you may also choose to hire a sampling team.
How do I Plaster Over Artex?
While there are slightly different techniques for plastering over Artex, the basic steps remain the same. All you need is some basic materials, some time, and some patience, as it can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
Here are some basic materials you will need for plastering over Artex. You can find these at any general hardware store.
- Drop cloths or plastic sheets (to prevent making a mess on your floors!)
- PVA or bonding seal
- Emulsion brush (ideally large, to make the job go quicker!)
- Plasterer’s trowel and hawk
- Skim plaster
Preparing to Plaster Over Artex
Before you actually start the plastering, it’s critical to properly prepare the surface to receive the plaster. Your preparation will determine the success of your finished product, so don’t skip this step!
- First and foremost, put down your drop cloth or plastic sheet to protect your floors.
- Then, clean the surface you plan on plastering over with water and a rag to remove any dust or scum that may have accumulated.
- Dilute your PVA to a 1:1 PVA to water solution.
- Then, coat and seal the surface with bonding or PVA if you want to plaster the same-day.
If you’re not as crunched for time, you can also apply a coat of pre-grit, but it will take 24 hours to dry before you can move on to the next step. This is a critical step, as the base coat will help the plaster bond to the ceiling and achieve the solid, smooth finish you desire.
Once you’ve completed either of these preparation steps, you’re ready to start plastering!
Once your prep coat is dry, follow the instructions on your plaster and mix to a smooth consistency. This can be done either by hand or by using a drill with a paddle attachment if you have one. (But if you’re not so stocked in the arsenal with your DIY tools yet, it will take just a little more muscle to achieve the consistency needed for the plaster).
Using your trowel and hawk, apply the plaster to the Artex surface. Here’s the proper technique to achieve the smooth coat you desire:
- Fill your hawk with 1-2 full trowels of plaster.
- Using the trowel, cut into a small part of the mix while angled at 90 degrees to the hawk.
- Scoop and push the trowel away from your body while simultaneously tilting the hawk towards your body.
- While doing step 3, spread the plaster evenly across your Artex surface.
At this point, you don’t need to worry about ensuring an even coat. You still need to apply a second coat, and you want to apply all the plaster before smoothing any surfaces for the finishing touches. Apply your second coat once the first is dry.
Once the second coat is starting to solidify but is not completely hardened, it’s time to start smoothing your plaster. Using a clean trowel, smooth the plaster by applying gentle pressure and long, gentle strokes. For edges and tough spots, you can smooth these surfaces by using a soft and wet flat paintbrush. We recommend about ½ inch.
During the plastering process, if the surface becomes too hard but isn’t yet fully dry, you can use the spray bottle to spray some water on it to loosen the plaster in order to make it easier to work with.
Once the plaster is dry (wait 24 hours), you can wipe it clean with a damp cloth. If you have any imperfections once the plaster has hardened, the only way to achieve a smooth surface is by sanding or repeating the plastering process.
Alternatives to Plastering over Artex
If you’re still not feeling confident about plastering over your Artex surfaces, there are other methods you can explore to rid your home of unwanted textured surfaces. These methods include:
- Scraping and Sanding
- Covering with Plasterboard
- Wet Plaster over
- Steam, Scrape, and Sand
- Eco Solutions X-Tex
To find the best solution for you depends on many factors, including the exact composition of your surface and how long it’s been there.
If you choose to explore any of these options as opposed to choosing the DIY plaster method, we do recommend hiring a contractor to assess your situation, especially since scraping Artex could be a harmful process, as described above.
Best of luck with your DIY project!