What is Artex and Checking it for Asbestos
Artex is a water–based covering, usually used to decorate ceilings, and generally brought to a textured finish with the use of a brush or comb.
Some older artex, typically before 1987, may contain asbestos and it is extremely unwise to sand down or scrape without seeking the advice of an asbestos specialist as this can potentially damage your health. If you have grave concerns you should Contact your local council for help with this.
The first thing that you need to do if you have even the smallest suspicion that there is asbestos present is confirm it either way. Traditionally to do this you would have had to call out a professional to come in and test it.
This is still applicable for some kinds of asbestos, read the project we indicated above for more about this. You can find a professional asbestos removal firm here.
With Artex, it is possible to conduct the test yourself if you are careful. There are test kits that are available which come with all the necessary protective clothing to keep you safe while you take the sample which is then send to a lab for analysis. When the results are confirmed they get in touch and let you know. You can buy one of these test kits here.
Regular DIY Doctor reader, Steve, made a great point. Having been a fully qualified asbestos surveyor and been responsible for the asbestos management at one of the largest housing associations in the UK we feel he was offering excellent advice with real hands on experience.
You should follow the test procedure for sampling textured coatings (Artex) as stated in the kit instructions. However, it has been proven that the asbestos content of a bag of textured coating could settle to the bottom of the bag before mixing and application and therefore, unless the whole bag was mixed at the same time, could result in some areas of a ceiling could containing asbestos when others do not. It is recommended that samples are taken from 4 or 5 places across the ceiling and not just one. These samples can be mixed in the sample bag and analysed as one sample.
Additionally, if there is any evidence that the textured coating in other rooms is different (eg different pattern, texture or thickness) then these should be sampled separately as they may not have been applied at the same time or from the same batch.
Removing Artex With a Steamer
Once confirmed that the artex is 100% safe and can be removed safely with no risk there are several ways this can be done. Firstly it can be “steamed” off using a wallpaper steamer. This can be a very messy and also very slow process. It cannot be done at speed or with the steam plate left in one area too long…if it is, there is a possibility of damaging the ceiling or wall behind it and also the risk that the artex will liquefy and run everywhere.
If done carefully and with some care steaming will enable you to soak and strip without damaging either yourself or the surface you are working on. Place the steamer plate on the surface for several seconds at a time, testing very frequently with a hand held scraper to monitor how soft it is getting and then scraping off once soft enough to do so.
Removing Artex using Eco Solutions X–Tex
One of the quickest and easiest ways that we have found to remove artex is with this amazing product. Simply paint over the artex, on a horizontal or vertical surface, and scrape off when softened.
X–tex is a British products that has been design and is made here in the United Kingdom.
X–Tex is great for removing textured coatings, like Artex and Polytex, which were popular a few years ago. It is a safe products as it doesn’t create dust from asbestos which can be harmful. It is made by Eco Solutions using advanced “science not solvents” approach it is water based product.
It is important to note that some plaster-type coatings can contain asbestos fibres. These will typically be coating manufactured in the 1980’s or before, and the content will be minimal (0.000004% VOC content, as certified by independent laboratory testing). For more information about Asbestos and how to work with it safely have a look at our asbestos project.
X-Tex product Features – The product has the following attributes:
- It is water based – therefore it is non toxic, non flammable and will not create solvent fumes
- It is pH neutral – therefore it is no caustic and will not cause skin burns
- Works on all surfaces
- There are no risk and safety phrases (R & S)
- Grand Winner Dulux Select Decorator 2011 and Multiple award winning decorator Wayne de Wet endorsed
If it simply a textures coating you’re trying to remove it will only take 15–30 minutes. For coatings that have been painted over with several layers of paint you might have to leave around an hour. If there are numerous layers of coatings and paint then it may take a little longer, possibly overnight.
If you would like to purchase X-Tex then please check it out in our very own store:
We also recently reviewed this product so if you would like to know how well it did and what we thought of it when we put it through it’s paces, check out our reivew here.
Plastering Over Artex
Artex can also be plastered over (See our project on skim plastering) Firstly make absolutely sure that there are no flaking or loose sections of the artex, or indeed ceiling/wall. Then remove all obviously "high spots" of artex, where the stipples hang down. You can do this using a hand scraper or wall scraper and if you want to go the extra step you can also sand it down and get it as flat as possible as this will further aid in the final finish and also the ease in which it can be plastered over. Again, before you do this, please, please ensure that the artex you are working on does not contain any asbestos. If you are unsure, get it checked out before you start!!
The wall or ceiling can then be painted with a coat of PVA adhesive, which can be bought in gallon containers from the builder’s merchants or larger DIY stores.
Dilute the PVA at 1 to 1 with water and stir well. Paint this on the ceiling/wall with a large emulsion brush. This can be left to dry, which will only take about an hour. Make sure you have covered the entire surface. Untouched areas will produce plastered areas that will be hard almost as soon as the plaster touches them!
We suggest two coats of this pva solution will give an excellent seal to the ceiling. Artex is very pourus indeed and “skim”plaster goes hard very quickly. The pva will not only help the adhesion of the plaster, but it will dramatically slow down the rate of moisture absorption, giving you more time to “work” the surface.
It is a good idea to wear an old pair of rubber gloves when dealing with plaster. It is not good for your skin! Place dust sheets everywhere and be careful where you stand. If wet plaster gets on your shoes, before you know it the house is covered. If you are attempting a ceiling try and get hold of a couple of milk crates, they are just the right height, and very stable when upturned.
Skim plaster is bought in bags of 25kg (Smaller bags can be bought for patching) and the mixing instructions are on the bag. Mix to a creamy consistency using an electric drill on slow speed and a “paddle” attachment that can be bought at most diy stores. Apply to the ceiling/wall using a hand held board (hawk) and a plasterers trowel. No more than two trowels full should be placed on the hawk, then cut into a small section of this with the trowel held at 90 degrees to the hawk. Tilt the hawk towards you while pushing and “scooping” the trowel and plaster away. Once you have the plaster on the trowel, spread it evenly on the surface. Do not attempt to smooth it at this stage.
Before attempting the above, we suggest you first mix up an eggcup full of skim. Place this on an off cut of some kind that you have prepared with some pva. Spread it out and mark the time it takes to go firm but not hard. This is the point at which skim can be made smooth and the trowel marks will disappear.
Once skim is hard the only way of smoothing it is by sanding. As with all of our projects, the money spent on practice is a tiny amount compared to the amount it takes to put a job right that has gone wrong. “Stop end” beads can be purchased from stores. These are galvanised or stainless beads, which can be fixed to the surface and allow you to divide your plastering area into smaller, more manageable sections. Their flat top gives you an edge to work to and finishes flush with the surface of the plaster. When decorated they are not visible.
Start smoothing where you started skimming, you will have to repeat this procedure over the surface two or three times to get it absolutely smooth. When the plaster gets quite hard, you can spray or flick a brush with some water on the surface, this will give you an extra couple of minutes to work the surface.
Use a half-inch, wet (water), soft paintbrush to define corners and the abutment of the plastered surface to any other. Wipe any mess on non-pourus surfaces with a wet cloth, take up the lumps etc and it will dry to a fine dust. This can be wiped again and will go. Leave any mess on pourus surfaces until the lumps are dry and then pick them off.
The most important things to remember are:
- Do not attempt to put too much plaster on either hawk or trowel
- Spread the plaster to a ceiling not directly above your face
- Get a covering on that is uniform in thickness (no more than 5mm) so the whole area goes firm at the same time
- Do not attempt too large an area at once or mix too great an amount
- Wash your tools & buckets down regularly and especially between mixes
- It is impossible to get plaster smooth on its first application to the ceiling. Do not attempt to do this. Get an area covered uniformly and wait until it starts to get firm. Then it can be smoothed
- Plastering is very hard work indeed. Mostly because of the speed it has to be carried out at & also because it involves a lot of body movement. Please make sure you have divided the room onto manageable areas. You really do only want to do this once
For an absolute novice we would suggest that a ceiling area of 2m x 2m is the maximum that should be attempted in one go and a wall area of 2.4m x 2.5m. As we have mentioned above, it is always a good idea to practice before you attempt the real things. This can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
For information on how to strip ordinary and non-textured paint, visit our Stripping Paint project.