What to do with "cake icing" ceiling?

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What can we do with our ceiling? It is plaster/sheetrock compound swirled and looks similar to what might be found on a cake. The big problem is the '70s radiant heat wiring that is more or less embedded in or just under that nasty looking "frosting." Has anyone got any thoughts or maybe dealt with a similar situation?
  5 answers
  • Lavende Lavende on Nov 03, 2014
    You can have the old ceiling texture scraped off (or get a kit from home depot if you're a DIY-er), then retexture with an orange peel or someting more modern. It might be the opportunity to remove or update the wires while you're up there.
  • Christen Hopkins Christen Hopkins on Nov 03, 2014
    We had the same thing in our house @Bob Schudel except our plaster fell in a section and ripped out the wiring - not replaceable today as you can imagine. We ended up hiring an electrician to cut the power to the rest of the ceiling, installed a mini split as a heat source and then we dry walled over the top of the plaster for rest of the ceiling. It was a big and messy project but using a mini split over the radiant heat is saving us lots of money and the ceilings aren't ugly anymore. Good luck!
    • Bob766046 Bob766046 on Nov 03, 2014
      @Christen Hopkins thanks, even though our heat in the living room is not working at present. It is our only reasonable option so I cannot do anything to interfere with it.
  • That swirl finish can be a bit of a chore to remove. The radiant heat system behind the texture should be ok when you remove the surface as its deep into the surface and not embedded into the texture finish. This of course is assuming its was installed correctly, To start take a palm sander and carefully while someone is using a shop vacuum sand some of the finish flat. Your doing this to assure that the texture does not contain the wires for the radiant heat system. If you end up down to the drywall paper without hitting any wires, do another 12 inch area else where just in case you missed something. You can turn on the heat and feel for the hot spots to assure your testing the area where the wires may be located. But sand only when the heat is off for safety. Once you have tested a few areas and found that your not hitting any wires. Go to the local big box rental store or local rental shop and rent a drywall sanding wand. This pole sander is powdered by a small electrical motor that spins the sand paper much like a grinder would. It has a cover that goes over the sanding unit that connects to the wand and then to a vacuum. If they rent the vacuum with the unit get it. Do not rely on the shop vacuum you own if you do have one. Carefully moving the sander around the ceiling you will make quick work of the texture surface. Be sure to use lots of drop cloths and be sure to mask off the doors and anything you do not want to get dusty, This incudes walls as well. Its a bit of a project, but in a few hours your ceiling should be pretty smooth. Where you did some learning in the beginning, you will most likely have a few digs in the surface. Simply re-spackle those areas, sand smooth and paint.
  • Bob766046 Bob766046 on Nov 03, 2014
    Thanks. So foar it sounds like the most viable option other than to wet and scape it. Both sound very messy.
    • @Bobs Wet scraping is reserved for popcorn type ceilings. From what I understand you have a pattern type finish. Using the sander with the proper vacuum is not all that bad mess wise, but it does take a bit of getting used to holding it on the ceiling. During the learning phase you will have a bunch of dust blow out from around the shroud as you begin. Once you get the hang of it, its really pretty clean job. But the dust is really fine and its faster to spend the time masking everything off in a real thin plastic tarp then dusting for hours in every nook and cranny. Also another note, If you have any air ducts in the room, be sure to tape them closed even if your not running the system.
  • PattyV PattyV on Nov 17, 2014
    Depending on what style decor your house it, I would just put sheets of beadboard up or get ceiling panels (there are different styles to choose from) to put up.
    • Bob766046 Bob766046 on Nov 18, 2014
      @PattyV Thanks but we can't put anything over the ceiling, the radiant electric heat is in/on the ceiling just under the texture.