Artex Help Guide
Table of contents
Artex Ltd is an English based manufacturer that began establishing itself in 1935. In the UK it is probably best remembered for its powders that were extensively used as home decorative solutions for walls and ceilings.
The UK was very heavily using Artex products during the early 1960’s onwards right through to the early 2000’s as an internal decorative room finish. In fact, Artex can still be found in retail outlets selling this textured wall and ceiling coating today, but its days have been numbered, it was a fad of the 70’s because it was an incredibly cheap as well as an extremely attractive decorative finish to use in any type of domestic dwelling. Its attraction, however, has run the extent of its life and home owners in their droves now look to remove all forms of Artex and instead, personal taste has now embraced a huge variety of designs and materials that do radically change the entire feel and atmosphere of every room of the house.
Can you Plaster Over Artex?
There are many different ways of dealing with interior surface coatings, but the short answer is: yes, you can plaster over Artex, or any other products designed to work in a similar way. There’s a knack to it, and you’ll need to be aware of any potential risks from asbestos before you start plastering – but we’ve got all the information you need in this Artex Help Guide to successfully and safely replaster Artex.
The textured effect of Artex and similar products was extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s in the UK, and many homes dating from this period or beforehand have it in one or more rooms. It was especially common as a ceiling decoration, though it was occasionally used on walls as well. With changing trends in house design, the textured look has given way to smooth, sleek surfaces which look clean and tidy, so it’s little surprise that many homeowners are now looking to modernise their decor.
The crucial element of any interior renovation involving Artex is understanding the nature of the material you’re dealing with and how to avoid any potential damage to health whilst you plaster over it. This is especially important because, until 1984, all Artex branded coatings contained white asbestos to help reinforce them, and some other brands continued to use asbestos until 1999 when the practice was banned. Any ceilings or walls which have Artex dating back from before the late 1990, or even from the first few years of the 21st century, are likely to contain asbestos.
One final thought regarding plastering over Artex rather than removing it. Is the covering in good order and is it likely to remain undisturbed once it has been plastered over? If so then it is possible to safely cover it over. However, if it is in a deteriorated state, or is likely to be disturbed by any works after you have covered over the Artex then it would be better to simply remove it.
How to Plaster Over Artex that Contains Asbestos
If the Artex is in good condition – that is to say, it isn’t wet, fraying or crumbling in any way – then you or your plasterer can proceed safely. If you see any of these signs though, you should get a specialist in to remove the coating – asbestos is classed as a hazardous subject and even the smallest amounts of dust or fibres can cause health issues years down the line.
For Artex that has a pattern with a low profile, which is to say not too much texture (think swirls, whorls or a tree bark pattern), it is possible to seal and fill it using a PVA glue mix. To do this, buy a large tub of PVA from your local builder’s merchant or DIY store and mix it with cold water in a 1:1 ratio (equal parts glue and water). This can then be applied to the Artex and allowed to dry fully before another layer is applied. Under no circumstances should you sand or scrape down a textured wall coating that may contain asbestos.
It is recommended to do 2-3 coats of your glue mix to fill in as many of the dimples as possible. Then a final skim coat of plaster can be applied as normal.
If your Artex has a pronounced texture such as stippling, the above method of infilling with the PVA mix can work, but sometimes the texture still stands proud. In this instance, your only alternative (other than paying for the Artex to be professionally removed by someone specialising in asbestos removal) is to install drylining plasterboard.
This essentially creates a completely new ceiling by sticking pre-fabricated plasterboard panels to your current ceiling using a special adhesive. It does mean that the new ceiling will be a small degree lower that it was originally, but it is quick and easy to install, and the plasterboard can then be skimmed and painted over. This is one of the easiest ways of plastering Artex that contains asbestos. However, if you have already installed plaster based corner coving in the ceiling to wall joint then you’ll need to think how to approach the idea, and whether the coving needs to come down?
How to Plaster Over Artex that Does Not Contain Asbestos
If your ceiling was decorated after the year 2005, the material is not likely to contain asbestos. This significantly reduces the risks to you or your plasterer but does not always mean the process of covering up that texture is any easier.
Your options for plastering over non-hazardous Artex are the same as for asbestos-containing Artex – you can paint over the surface with a couple of layers of PVA and water in the ratio 1:1 or install a new plasterboard ceiling or wall. You can also remove the Artex completely, though this is definitely the most costly and time-consuming process.
If you are set on removing it, Artex Ltd sell a product that aids in removing Artex from walls and ceilings, which gets applied to the coating in question and then left for anything between 15-60 minutes. It essentially softens the Artex which can then be scraped off – but again, this is only an option for non-asbestos Artex.
It’s important to note that the PVA glue process doesn’t just fill in the texture, giving you a smoother surface to apply a skim of plaster. Artex coatings are highly absorbent, meaning that without sealing it first using the glue mix, you run the risk of your new plaster drying before there is time to properly spread or smooth it – not the kind of look you want for your newly remodelled room!
Does Artex Contain Asbestos?
The answer to this is that it is very likely that the Artex used to cover your ceiling contains Asbestos, however a little detective work will give you a definite yes or no.
It also depends on whether the textured coating on your walls or ceiling is actually Artex (which is the most popular UK brand of textured coating) or a different product that does the same thing. Genuine Artex stopped using asbestos in 1984, while other manufacturers continued using it until it was banned in 1999, with some of the product still sold into the early 2000s.
The first thing you’ll need to discover is how long ago the textured coating was placed on the ceiling. It was a very common component in this type of textured covering during the 1970s, 80, and 90s so there is a high chance that you’ll find its presence if the ceiling was coated during that time. Asbestos was banned from manufacture in the UK in 1999 so the chances of having Asbestos present does reduce in ceilings coated after this time. This doesn’t totally eliminate the risk if your ceiling dates back to the early 2000s as there would have been a large quantity of products still on the market that had been manufactured before the ban was introduced. It is also worth noting that, whilst the UK banned its use in manufacture in 1999, other countries followed a different timeline so it is possible that Asbestos could have been present in products that were imported into the UK after 1999.
If it is not possible to determine the age of your Artex ceiling another way to check whether there is Asbestos present is to take a sample of the coating which can be sent away to test it. There are also companies that can come to you to carry out a test if you’d prefer this. As with any contact with a harmful material you should make sure that you protect yourself and others whilst you gather the sample.
To be safe, we’d say that any textured coatings applied before 2005 are likely to contain asbestos, and, if you can’t determine whether it does or not, you should treat them as if they do.
However, it’s important to note that asbestos isn’t automatically harmful. Artex coatings that are in good condition, and aren’t crumbling, fraying or damp do not pose any risk unless they become damaged or disturbed. If you have Artex, or other brands of textured coating, on your ceiling or walls, and it is still in good condition, it will not cause you any issues by remaining in place.
Whilst care needs to be taken when handling any material that contains Asbestos it is worth noting that the amount of this harmful material is very small with most textured coatings containing less than 4%.
Just be aware that if it is likely to contain asbestos, you should avoid installing any fittings e.g. sockets, picture hooks, curtain rails or light fittings that require you to drill into the Artex, as this will damage the asbestos and produce dust which even in the smallest quantities can cause significant health problems. If you want to install something on a wall or ceiling that has asbestos in the textured coating, use non-permanent methods such as Command hooks to avoid further risk.
How to Get Rid of an Artex Ceiling
Once you have determined whether or not your Artex ceiling contains Asbestos, you can make a plan to remove it. This job is a whole lot simpler if there are no harmful materials present but it is still possible to remove the offending textured coating.
Let’s tackle the non-Asbestos version first; Whilst messy and hard work you can scrape and sand down the textured coating until you have a smooth surface, this can be helped along by using a steamer. This job is not for the faint hearted as it can be hard work and extremely messy AND, should only be attempted after the presence of Asbestos has been eliminated as the process will disturb the harmful fibres that are a risk to health.
A less messy and intrusive way of dealing with an unwanted Artex ceiling is to simply plasterboard over it. This method has the advantage of being suitable to textured coatings with or without Asbestos in it as you are less likely to disturb the coating sufficiently to risk making the harmful fibres airborne. Of course this doesn’t get rid of an Artex ceiling it just hides it, so you still have a potentially hazardous surface on your ceiling which cause you problems in the future.
Getting rid of a textured coated ceiling that you have confirmed contains Asbestos gets trickier. You can go down the DIY route, but it is not recommended due to the risks to your health that are involved. It’s also not the cheap option that you might think as you have to wear the correct protective clothing to safeguard yourself, the waste must be properly bagged and disposed of correctly and it is recommended that you use a special H-class vacuum to clean the area to prevent the fibres from getting into the air.
A better solution is to leave it to the experts to get rid of it for you.
Does Artex Devalue a House?
Judging by the amount of interest we receive for our Artex Removal service on a monthly basis we’d say the answer was an undoubted yes.
However, the notion that the presence of Artex in a house for sale would make buyers consider a lower value has also been polled and a whopping 41% said that they would offer a lower price based on its presence. The amount is often directly related to the cost of removal and re-decoration.
Both textured coatings such as Artex and wood chip wall paper were popular trends in home decoration in the 70s, 80s and into the early 1990s, however that has now been superseded by plain smooth walls and sharp lines and any texturing of walls or ceilings are looked upon as dated and cheap.
Put aside the dangers of the Artex possibly containing Asbestos, something not everyone will be aware of, it would appear that there’s a significant amount of people who would be put off a property simply by what the walls and ceilings looked like, and the consideration of the cost involved in rectifying the issue.
Do Artex Ceilings Put Buyers Off?
It seems and sounds like this is the case that, Artex finished ceilings do put buyers off. We work directly with a number of local estate agents who regularly use some of our services and they have mentioned to us in passing that Artex finished properties can be a very, slow sell. The more Artex, the slower the sale. Property owners who are thinking of putting their property up for sale arrange for the agent to visit the property and agents seeing Artex will often mention the possibility of a slow sale at the time.
Maybe it’s an age related issue, older property buyers who were in the property sector in the heyday of Artex’s popularity will know of its prominence but also know of its disadvantages too and younger aged buyers knowing of neither may simply not like the finished look of its textured surface.
There are of course people on the lookout for a change of property within their lives but will go out of their way to make sure that they do not end up being the buyer of a property that has used asbestos-related products within its build or subsequent latter changes.
The End of Asbestos May be in Sight?
After the UK has embraced the use of asbestos for over 150 years for a massive range of purposes and knowing, that asbestos was and still is a seriously dangerous material to ask people to work with, Parliamentary Parties are now pushing for all buildings and structures that have used asbestos in their makeup or structure, to be made completely free of asbestos by the year 2062. It is estimated that there are currently 300,000 commercial building using asbestos and an unaccounted number of domestic and residential properties that have either been built using asbestos materials in their construction or had asbestos related materials used during renovation work.
The Work and Pensions Committee have published a full report that highlights how, despite being banned for more than 20 years, asbestos is still the greatest killer in the UK’s workforce year in, year out!