Thursday, 8 October 2015

How to remove Artex - revisited

They say there’s a special place in Hell that’s reserved for people who bring unimaginable pain and suffering to humanity as a whole or sections thereof.
And while I’m not suggesting for a moment that such a spot should be held open for the man who invented Artex, he should at the very least be hog-tied naked to a rotisserie over the Lake of Fire and fed nothing but celery and slugs for the rest of eternity.

His invention does, however, feature in Hell’s special place for VIPs where, if you head in to the Hitler Wing, down the Gaddafi Corridor and in to the Nothing But Jedward Room you will find Cosby’s Endless Ceiling of Artex Swirls which must be cleared every day by special guests chosen via a raffle hosted once every millennia by Lucifer himself.
There you will find permanent residents Pol Pot and Jimmy Savile arm wrestling over who gets the only scraper while Idi Amin bypasses all of that juvenile nonsense by simply using his fingernails and teeth.


The Living Room with five days to go
If these walls could talk they'd just swear a lot
Not being the most engaging of activities, your mind wanders when you’re scraping Artex and because of the way my own mind is wired-up it tends to go around in very tight circles of ridiculousness, giving rise to scenarios like that above. Inside my head is not a pleasant place to be when faced with such tedium.
This is what I’ve been doing over the past few weeks, you see, which should explain why I haven’t exactly been in a blogging mood. I’ve been closer to a killing mood, truth be told, although I have resisted the temptation – partly helped by a lack of visitors to The Lodge (the postman and binman don’t count because we need them).


You may remember that the last post I did was about whether or not I needed to remove the terrible stuff from the Living Room ceiling, given the unidentified residue that was being left behind on the lime plaster. I had started the process of scrapingandscrapingandscraping but it wasn’t exactly filling me with joy so I decided to stop while we got advice from someone in-the-know in case I was wasting my time and the whole thing had to come down. Instead I filled my days with the delights of scraping glued-on wallpaper from the walls and ceiling of the World’s Smallest Bathroom™, chiselling yet more gypsum off the walls of Bedroom 1 and planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs on the verge outside the gates with Dawn.


The right tools for the job
Anything but Artex-scraping.

But if there’s one thing that putting off the inevitable has taught me, it’s that you can’t put off the inevitable.
So having been advised by the lime plasterer we’re probably going to hire at the end of this week that the bluey/white residue beneath the Artex was probably mostly original lime wash (and besides, the Artex was better in a bin bag than on the ceiling no matter what it was), I still spent an embarrassing amount of time hoping it would scrape itself, which it didn’t.

So here’s my guide to banishing Artex from your homestead, carefully put together to help those of you who have stumbled in here while Googling for a magic bullet:


You will need

  • A scraper - I used a mix of a pallet knife, long-handled wallpaper scraper and a chisel for the really stubborn bits, of which there were a lot
  • A whetstone to periodically sharpen the above (a smooth brick face will also do the job)
  • A respirator with filters designed to catch microscopic fibres – DO NOT SKIP THIS BECAUSE OLD ARTEX CONTAINS WHITE ASBESTOS THAT YOU WILL BE SENDING IN TO THE AIR THAT YOU’RE BREATHING!
  • Overalls (wash them separately and take care to avoid breathing in the dust as you stuff them in the washing machine… back in days of yore many wives of dockers who were working with asbestos died of asbestosis because of this very reason)
  • Stepladders or a raised work platform so you can wander about a little bit and stretch your legs
  • A hat
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Masking tape to seal the gaps around the doors to prevent dust from travelling through the house
  • A vacuum cleaner - preferably a high-powered large-capacity builders' one, not your best Dyson
  • Biscuits and a bottle of Coke so you don't have to leave the taped-up room
  • An empty bottle to pee in for the same reason... ladies could always take a bucket in, I suppose, or do it out of the window - depending on your upbringing
  • Decent music - I used the teamrock.com app on my iPhone (remember a charger!) because it's sweary, loud and distracting
  • Coffee and porridge before you start give you surprising amounts of energy (seriously)


The technique

  • Spend one afternoon hacking at the Artex with your weapon of choice while inventing new blasphemic words and looking for excuses to stop
  • Spend the following day nursing the RSI in your shoulder while claiming a day off
  • Spend at least two weeks avoiding the whole thing and telling everyone you meet that scraping Artex is “a bastard pig of a job”
  • Spend one further week psyching yourself up to tame that bastard pig
  • Realise that nobody else is stupid enough to offer help, so get on with it
  • Climb ladders
  • Scrape
  • Scrape
  • Scrape
  • …ad infinitum for many, many days

All-in-all, discounting the lengthy periods of procrastination, it took maybe a week of 10-hour days for me to get everything off the Living Room ceiling and by the time I was finished I was hallucinating and could hear voices telling me to do bad things. Fortunately I didn’t have any energy left to act on them, but I didn't really have the energy to blog about it either.

As much of a relief as finishing that room was (the last square meter is the worst bit) I couldn’t lie down and rest because, as I've mentioned before, the job is all part of getting two rooms ready so we can move in to the house from the shed before we die of hypothermia.

Which meant I had one more ceiling to do - Bedroom 1.


Bedroom 1 was a lonely place to be for three solid days


Fortunately, the Artex on that ceiling must have been mixed differently because rather than come off in microscopic flakes, this wasn't stuck so solidly and much of it fell to the floor in chunks - actual chunks! - which made the job easier. Not easy, but easier at least.

This particular ceiling also featured fewer cracks, so after three more long days (I went on until after 10pm for the final push) I was left with an Artex-free ceiling which had far fewer missing bits. In fact about half of the holes that were there were caused by a subtle mix of furious rage and over-enthusiasm rather than a poor work surface.

The idea now is to widen all of the cracks on both ceilings a little bit and fill them with pre-mixed lime putty before lime-washing/painting the lot, effectively bringing them back from the dead. Widening the cracks will likely be another arduous task, mind, but at least it'll be the beginning of the end of that particular job.

And what a bastard pig of a job it was.

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