Preparation of the Room for Acoustic Removal

Like a scene from the movie E.T. your entire room will be wrapped in plastic creating a containment vessel for the acoustic-popcorn as it is removed from the ceiling. Some people attempt to scrap the acoustic dry or to remove it without masking the entire room. This is a very bad idea and I guarantee that no matter how powerful that shop vacuum you have is you will be cleaning up the mess for days to come.

Masking the room is simple but even if you have some experience doing so I would recommend that you not skip this section. There are some tips and tricks you may find useful. A word of warning; not doing this task correctly can result in a huge mess or worse, damage to your home or belongings. Don’t try to cut corners, take your time, make certain your job is secure and use good quality masking tape.

Materials and Tools Needed:

  • 2” wide white masking tape. 1-2 rolls per room depending upon size. Tape is expensive but do not try to save a buck here. Get a good quality tape. I recommend tape from Shurtape Technologies. It sticks well and does not separate as quickly as cheap tape when wet.
  • 1 12’ wide roll .75 mil thickness polyethylene sheeting. Don’t try to skimp and save a few bucks here either by using drop cloths. This type of sheeting can be found at most major home improvement centers in 200 ft or 400 ft rolls for $35-$55. It is not recommended to use thicker plastic as the weight will pull it loose from the masking tape or sometimes even pull the masking tape down with it. This can lead to a huge clean up mess or damage especially in an occupied home.
  • Screwdrivers to remove light fixtures and possibly ceiling fans if any.
  • Pliers to remove plant hooks if any
  • Razor knife for cutting the plastic sheeting.
  • Ladders. Typically a 2 ft step ladder is all that is needed in a normal room with 8 ft ceilings however we have removed ceilings as tall as 35 feet that required scissor lifts. Use your judgment but be certain to only use a good quality, stable ladder. Think safety, you will be working in what essentially is a wet plastic bubble.
  • Drywall paper tape and a heavy duty staple gun such as an Arrow brand that uses T-50 type staples. These items are only needed if your walls are wall papered or printed drywall.
  • Optional, a throw away jump painters jump suit.

Start by removing any fragile items such as knickknacks and top heavy items such as table lamps, torch lamps or vases. Glass top tables should also be removed for safety reasons. Most furniture can be worked around so the object here is to remove items the plastic might nock over or that would be easily broken. Move all couches and other furniture against the walls. Turn off the HVAC system or tape over any floor vents. If the system should turn on while the room is masked and blow the plastic from underneath it will act as a giant balloon and can quite possibly be pulled down from the walls. 

Roll out a layer of the plastic sheeting along the length of the room. This layer is intended to cover the floor of your room. If your room is more than 12 ft wide between the furniture use additional plastic. .75 mil sheeting is very thin but durable however if you are overly protective you can use an additional layer, doubling the thickness. A second layer is highly advisable in rooms that have hardwood or laminate floors because even a small amount of water seepage that would be easily cleaned up on carpet or tile can damage some wood or laminate floors.

The plastic will come off the roll folded and you will need to spread it open. Now tape the four corners down to the floor. On hardwood floors if you are not certain of the finish type it is sometimes best to leave the plastic floating on the floor and not tape it at all or cut your plastic large enough to reach the walls and tape the plastic to the bottom of the wall or the baseboard. All we are trying to accomplish here is to ‘tack’ the plastic into place so it doesn’t move around while we hang our walls. It is better to leave it float than pull the finish off of your floor with the tape during the clean up process.

Dealing with Wallpaper

If your walls have wallpaper or some other type of non standard finish such as drywall that has been printed with a paneling or wall paper look alike finish (very common in mobile homes) you will want to follow these steps. If your walls are a normal wall texture or smooth painted finish you can skip to the next heading, Taping off the Walls for Hanging Plastic.

Using a roll of drywall paper tape and the stapler, staple a piece of paper tape to the wall about every 10”-12”. Put your staples in horizontally except in corners where you will want to staple vertically. This is just my opinion based upon experience but they seem to hold much better this way. Paper tape has a slight fold in the center that creates a crown. Apply so the crown is out. This will help prevent the top edge from naturally curling out creating a crevice for debris to fall behind the plastic.

Taping off the Walls for Hanging Plastic

Using your ladder and a roll of 2” tape go around the perimeter of the room applying firm pressure to about 1/3 of the tape at the top edge of the wall. This will leave the bottom edge hanging free for the plastic to be slipped under. If the full width of the tape happens to stick to the wall don’t worry about it and just keep moving. Try to use a continuous strip of tape but if you should have to tear the tape be certain to overlap 8”-10” when restarting.

On inside corners push the tape down to the wall firmly about 6” in both directions from the corner. On outside corners fold the tape in half as you apply it so that on the bottom half the sticky side is out.

You should now have a strip of tape around the top of the wall that runs the entire room and we can move on to hanging the walls.

Hanging the Walls

Roll out a piece of plastic running roughly the length of the walls in your room. The easiest way to do this is stand the roll up and roll it on its edge while walking the perimeter of the room and unrolling as you go.

When doing multiple rooms we simply continue from one room to the next looping down under doorways. A moderate sized house can be done with a single continuous length of plastic making the hanging job just a bit easier. The easiest way to do this is roll out a room then hang it before continuing on to the next room repeating the process thru ought the house.

After rolling out the first room spread open ½ of the plastic sheeting. Take the now exposed edge starting a bit to the left of the entry door and push it under the tape and press down firmly. Continue this process around the entire room making sure to leave just a bit of slack in the plastic at the inside corners and an extra 1 ½ to 2 ft at outside corners, possibly more depending upon the high of the ceiling and the width of the furniture against the wall in this area if any. At inside corners and other areas that the tape is completely pressed down to the wall use masking tape to attach the plastic to the tape on the wall. If in doubt, use more tape to make certain the plastic is well attached.

On outside corners leave a loop hanging free with the extra plastic you rolled out above. Tape this extra plastic along the edge sealing the open area. This prevents the plastic from being pulled too tight at the corners which can cause it to fall.

After you have went around the entire room and reached the door you started from you can either go to the middle of the door and loop under the door frame to start the next room or if only working on one room cut the plastic. You should end up with an overlapped section at the door way allowing entry and exit but keeping the debris in the room contained.

If your walls have nicotine or grease build up from cooking that prevents the tape from sticking well or if your walls are smooth with semi-gloss paint you may opt at this point to use a couple of staples in each corner to help hold the plastic. Put your staples thru the tape, not just the plastic because if you staple thru the plastic only they will do little if any good.

If the plastic and tape are going to let loose the inside corners are almost always the failure point. Grab a corner about halfway down the wall and lightly tug, if it comes loose it will not stand up to the weight of the wet acoustic. Staple at the corners close to the ceiling and you should be fine.

Attach the Walls to the Floor

Walk around the room spreading open the second half of the plastic. Most will have probably already opened from its own weight depending upon how tight it was rolled during the manufacture process. Tape the bottom edge to the plastic on the floor using extra tape in corners or any areas that appear to be stressed from wrapping around furniture and other items in the room. All areas of your room should now be covered and taped except for the ceiling.

Add a Second Floor

After your walls are securely taped to the floor it is generally a good idea to lay a second piece of plastic down as a secondary floor. This piece should be tacked in place with masking tape in the corners and possibly a few areas down the length of the room. Its purpose is to allow removal of the majority of the acoustic that is scraped from the ceiling without removing all of the masking in the room. Although you will still have some of the acoustic mess in the room it will make repairing any joints and recoating nails holes much easier. Wet acoustic tends to clump up on your shoes making walking difficult and even dangerous. This method helps to eliminate that problem.

Entry/Exit Path

Roll out plastic approximately 3ft wide to use as runners from the room you are working to an exterior door. After removing the ceiling you will want to be able to leave the room and get outside to rinse yourself off with the garden house because you will be covered in acoustic material. We typically run paths out to our trucks so that we can move around freely without leaving foot prints and trails of popcorn.