Goodbye Plaster Star Ceiling!

How many days did your leftovers last? So much turkey and green bean casserole! Not enough pumpkin pie. Holidays and family gatherings always make me miss the Hubs even more. My Little Men were with their Dad and his family which makes for an even tougher holiday without their sweet laughter and faces at the table. Fortunately, I have incredible family and friends that keep my heart and my wine glass full. For them, I am eternally thankful.

The next morning I found myself and Hugo with a quiet house and so much free time! What to do, what to do? Let me first take you back to last Saturday when I got this text message from my Mom:


Now let me take you back to July and tell you about the conversation Hubs and I had while he was home on a visit.

“Babe, we have too much stuff.” “Agreed, we really need to go through this stuff and get rid of a lot of it.”

Phone rings, I answer.

“Hi Mom.”  “Hi, listen I’m thinking of getting rid of the piano.”  “What!? You can’t get rid of the piano!”  “I was hoping you’d say that, so I’m going to have it shipped out to you this fall when we move.” “Oh okay, thanks Mom! We’ll talk more later.”  “Okay, love you! Bye!”  “Love you too, bye!”

Back to Hubs.

“What was that about?”  “Oh, Mom is going to send us the piano I learned to play on! We can get the boys lessons, it’s going to be great!”  “Didn’t we just say…never mind.”

Now that you’re filled in. The piano will arrive in about a week from now. What a great way to jump start the flooring project! I really don’t want to move that piano once it’s in place and tuned.  That puts the foyer into a holding pattern while I prep the front room for new floors.  Alright Hugo, let’s do this! We have four whole days!!!

Carpets came up!

That’s the Hubs on FaceTime and that weird shadow in the middle is from the light…not from a Hugo potty training accident.

So many staples to pull up and so many nails to hammer back down, but I did it! I put the carpets in the basement for when we get around to finishing the basement, carpets are crazy heavy! They are in great condition: only a year old and we’re hardly walked on because they sat in the front room where no one ever goes. Wish I could say the same for the living room.

I stood back and admired my work.  Then like a sucker punch out of no where…the ceiling attacked my home renovation soul!  Why 1980s?  Why did you feel that plaster stars would be a good idea?!  So distracting, so hard to work with if you have a repair to the ceiling and just…ugh!

Wait…all I have beneath me is sub-floor and gravity is tricky when it comes to plaster on overhead surfaces…soooo…YES! Now is the perfect time to start the PLASTER STAR ERADICATION!  img_2476

How does one eat a whale? One bite at a time.  How does one eradicate all of the plaster stars? One room at a time.

How I Removed the Textured Plaster Ceiling

This may or may not be the right way, but it worked for me!

Tools Needed:

Step 1)  Remove all artwork and curtains. Fill the sprayer with hot water and spray the ceiling in 3′ x 4img_2483‘ sections.  Spray until water drips from the ceiling.  Not like a torrential downpour, more like a light Spring rain.  You should be able to squish the plaster if you push on it.

Step 2)  In tight corners or near the wall, use the 4″ plaster knife, use the 12″ knife otherwise.  Set the knife at roughly a 45 degree offset to the ceiling and begin scraping!  Try to avoid gouging the drywall.  If you do gouge the drywall, don’t panic, just use your finger and run it the opposite direction of the gouge to put the paper back in place.  There is enough wet plaster remaining to act as glue.  After a few sections, you’ll find your sweet spot.  The goal is to get to the plaster only of off the dry wall; if you see brown paper you’re scraping too hard.  Also, know that there is drywall tape near the walls joints and butt joints of the drywall boards.  I know that I’ll be putting up crown molding, so I left about a 2″ border around the ceiling so that I could avoid damaging the tape.  The drywall boards were taped and then mudded, so you shouldn’t get to that tape, if you do, you’re scraping too hard.  Simmer down, I know…these stars are aggravating, but don’t take it out on the drywall!

Step 3)  Immediately jump off our your step stool and start sweeping up the wet plaster.  If you don’t, you’ll end up with plaster stars on your floor – even more disturbing than they are when on your ceiling.  Also wipe of your walls.  Then move your step stool a few feet and repeat steps 1-3 until you’ve removed all of the stars!!!

Starlight, starbright, last plaster star I see on my ceiling tonight!

Step 4)  Good job on all that scraping!  Your triceps will burn, but you got a work out in img_2498while getting rid of your ugly ceiling, yay you!  Now grab that mud pan, fill it 2/3 of the way with the joint compound and mix in about 2/3 cup of water.  I found the mud right out of the bucket to be a little too thick, adding water helps to make it easier to apply.  REMEMBER: rinse off your tools immediately after you use them, you don’t want to have to chip off dried plaster off of your favorite mixing spoon. 

Step 5)  Use your 12″ knife and load it with a little more mud than you think you’ll need, then at about a 30 degree offset from the ceiling, slather that mud on your smooth ceiling!  If you can frost a cake, you can mud a ceiling.  Try to minimize lines and try to keep the amount of mud the same with each pass.  I highly recommend getting on YouTube and watching a few of the pros apply the mud.  The pros go really fast, but having a visual of how it’s done helped me with my confidence and skill.  Again, after a few sections, you’ll find your sweet spot.  Once the mud dries, you can always go back and sand down any imperfections, but the less sanding, the better.  Now, take some Motrin, drink some water, stretch and go to bed.  You’ll hurt in the morning.img_2517Step 6)  Prep your room and yourself for sanding.  Dust mitigation is key.  Use some plastic sheeting to cover any doorways that lead to other rooms and cover your face and eyes.  Grab your hand sander and 150 sandpaper.  Then start lightly sanding the ceiling in wide motions.  You’ll start seeing some imperfections as you sand, or at least I did, don’t worry though you can come back to those.  Once everything is sanded leave the room and get some fresh air.  Oh and go check yourself out in the mirror, I got a good laugh.

See the vacuum streak in the dust?  Yes…plastic sheeting is necessary.

Step 7)  Now is a good time to go back and fix any spots you saw while sanding.  Use your 4″ knife and some more mud and carefully reapply some more mud.  Again, let dry and sand to smooth out any lines.  Just know, you will not get it perfect, if you do PLEASE send me a note and tell me how you did it! 

Step 8)  Once you feel it’s as good as it will get, prep for paint!  I unscrewed my push broom handle from the head and screwed the handle to the paint roller.  Most brooms will unscrew and fit a roller, don’t spend the money on the extender.  I used Olympic flat ceiling paint and primer and was pretty impressed by the coverage and quality given the awesome price.  The flat finish will hide an blunders you may not have caught, or maybe purposely left because you were channeling your inner Michelangelo-painting-the-Sistine-Chapel.  I completed two coats and in the morning light of the next day, I was all too pleased with myself.


And just like that, I had a smooth, crisp, white ceiling!  I now know why the 1980s thought these plaster stars would be a good idea, a smooth ceiling is a lot of work!  Plaster splotches would be way easier.  But…I did it! and am super happy about it!  Now about those floors, yes, they will now be installed.IMG_2532

A few end notes:

  1. Total Cost: ~$200
  2. Biggest Lesson Learned: There is a LOT of dust when sanding drywall mud!  Proper PPE and plastic sheeting are key!
  3. Best Tip:  Clean as you go!  So much easier to clean small sections rather than the whole room.
  4. Most Favorite Part:  Finding the sweet spot with the 12″ blade and watching the plaster stars fall in sheets to the floor.



2 thoughts on “Goodbye Plaster Star Ceiling!

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