A water-based decorative covering, artex is usually used on ceilings or walls in order to apply a pattern. While was undoubtedly considered pleasing to the eye during the peak of its popularity, the downside of artex is that the product often contains traces of asbestos – something that is hugely dangerous for people to breathe in.
If you have recently moved into an older property and are unsure when the artex ceiling or walls were installed, or you simply wish to change the aesthetic design to something more to your personal taste, you may wish to consider remove any existing artex from your property.
How Do I Know if My Artex Contains Asbestos?
Asbestos is not identifiable by sight or smell due to the fibres being so small, so the only way to be certain is via laboratory testing. If you have recently purchased your home the surveyor should have investigated this while they inspected the property and advised your accordingly, and obviously if you are renting then this is the responsibility of your landlord.
If you would like further testing, contact a professional company that specialises in asbestos removal to survey your walls and ceiling for a fee who will be able to set your mind at rest – your local council may be able to advise further if you cannot find a private vendor.
How to Remove Artex from a Wall or Ceiling
If you decide to do this yourself, please ensure that asbestos is not a concern before you start the process of removing artex – failing to do so is potentially hugely dangerous. Once you have confirmed that you are safe to proceed, then read on.
Removing Artex with Steam
Using a steamer is the most labour intensive and time consuming way to remove artex. You’ll need a lot of patience, as it will involve moving very slowly and steadily – if you leave your steamer in one place too long you risk damaging the wall behind the coating. If you are happy to take this route however, all you’ll need to do is dampen the artex with your steamer and remove it with a handheld scraper.
Removing Artex with an External Product
If you’re looking for a faster solution to your artex removal, you can use a water-based coating remover such as X-Tex. You’ll just need to paint the substance over the wall or ceiling that is coated with artex, leave it to dry for 30-60 minutes (possibly slightly longer if the surface is covered by several coats of paint), and peel away the artex.
This is faster and significantly less messy than using steam, and a coating remover can be purchased from any reputable DIY retailer.
Do I Have to Remove Artex?
No – you can plaster over artex if that is your preference. If this is what you decide to do, however, it is particularly important that you have had the wall or ceiling surveyed and cleared of any suspicion of asbestos; this process involve standing very close to the surface for a prolonged period, and thus if there is asbestos in the surface you will not be able to avoid breathing it in at great personal risk to your health. What’s more, you will not be permitted to cover an artex surface that has been proven to contain asbestos.
How to Plaster Over Artex
Take a scraper and sander to your wall or ceiling so the surface is as smooth as possible, then dilute a PVA adhesive (this can be purchased from a DIY shop) with water to a 50/50 ratio and cover the area with two coats of the mixture. It’s important that you ensure you have covered every square inch of the surface, otherwise your plaster will set inconsistently.
Once you’re ready to start plastering, coat everything in the room with dust covers (plastering can be a messy business) and begin by skimming plaster across the surface.
There’s no need to get it perfect first time as you will need to apply at least two coats and you can worry about getting the entire wall or ceiling smooth at the end of the process.
Gradually cover the entire area, taking your time (plastering can be very difficult to rectify if you make a mistake – if you find the plaster setting before you are ready, splash a little water on it to dampen the surface and allow a little more pliability) until eventually you have a smooth, clean wall or ceiling coated in plaster.
Once this is complete, you may be tempted to rush out and paint your wall or ceiling immediately – resist that urge, and refer to our guide on Painting Over Plaster before applying any decorative colouring to your surface.
Is Artex Still Popular?
Artex had its heyday in the 1970s, which is why it’s recommended that if you move into a property with artex walls or ceilings it’s highly advisable to get the surfaces checked for asbestos. It is still available today, but not particularly popular as an aesthetic choice among most homeowners.
Where Do I Go to Have My Artex Tested for Asbestos?
The internet will be able to offer all kinds of nearby private companies that specialise in this task, or ask your local council for advice.
If Asbestos is So Dangerous, Why is it Found in Artex?
Up until around the mid-1980s, asbestos was used to harden artex. It has never been officially outlawed, so if an artex wall or ceiling was installed after this date it is not a guarantee that it will be asbestos-free.
My Artex is Cracking. What Should I Do?
Certainly don’t ignore it. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but remember the asbestos concerns. Seal these cracks up with PVA or scrim tape in the short term, but you should really look into getting the artex removed.
Can I Remove Artex Myself?
Yes, as long as it has been passed as safe from asbestos and you are comfortable doing so. Alternatively, any tradesperson will happily take on the job for you.
Is it Easy to Remove Artex?
It can take quite some time, as you will have to be patient and steady in the process – this is not something you’ll want to hurry. Use an external coating remover is certainly less work that a steamer.
Is Plastering Over Artex Faster and Cheaper Than Removing it First?
That depends on whether you do the job yourself or hire a tradesperson, and whether the surface can be plastered over – if it contains asbestos, this will not be an option. It may be worth seeking the opinion of a professional before you commit to a decision.
I’ll Keep My Artex Surfaces and Paint Over Them – What Should I Use?
Use a matte emulsion paint. You’ll probably find that you need about three coats