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The Wall Covering Of Nightmares

May 31, 2008
The bane of all decorator's careers has to be the dreaded wall covering of that dreaded plaster substitute so well known to man - Artex. There was a trend some years ago to cover every immovable surface in this stuff and fashion it into positively dangerous points. This would then be used to snag every item of clothing you had and, in the summer, you could get quite a good exfoliation going just passing someone in the hall and rubbing up against this lethal wall covering. In fact, those that used to pride themselves on a good sworly pattern have often been responsible for taking out the eyes of small children on the points.

Of course, it had its advantages. Dodgy plasterwork would be disguised and if you really couldn't be bothered to remove all of your old wallpaper, just trowel straight over it with this stuff. Nothing shows when you use this as a wall covering, including good taste and common sense.

If you are considering buying a property at the moment, take a good look around. If you are being shown around by the owner and he has a slicked comb-over and an anorak, beware. Check out the wall coverings, check out the ceilings and poke the plasterwork. Any sign of a dodgy wall covering and make your excuses to leave because this stuff is a nightmare to get rid of.

Think you can improve it with a lick of paint? Think again. You will have dips and grooves and swirls enough to make you sick and every one of these anomalies will collect dust and look dull and just plain horrible. The only solution to this dreaded type of wall covering is to get rid of it, either by removal or cover up.

Any of this stuff that was applied pre-1970's could possibly contain asbestos and cannot be removed by anyone less than an expert. You cannot even scrape off the rough points to make it less dangerous as this will release dangerous substances into the air. If you have non-asbestos Artex on your walls and you try to remove it - good luck. It has to be steamed off and this is a slow and arduous task and makes one hell of a mess.

Once it is off, you will often find cracked plasterwork that will need either extensive repairs or, more likely, removing also and you will have to start from scratch with new plasterwork.

The best thing to do is not buy a house with this sin of a wall covering in the beginning. However, if you do find yourself unable to resist a property simply because of the previous owner's choice of wall covering the simplest solution is to cover it over.

There are specialist products on the market that will skim over the dreaded stuff a treat and can be trowled to a smooth, plaster like finish. This is probably the best idea. If not, you can scrape off the pointy bits (providing there is no asbestos present) and use normal plaster to skim over the surface and create a more sensible and sane wall covering.

If you find yourself in the situation of having to deal with this wall covering, there are support groups available that will be with you every step of the way. They can provide first aid advice for the times you make accidental contact with the sharp stuff and offer counselling sessions and workshops on how to cope with the hideousness of it all.
About the Author
Interior design expert Catherine Harvey looks at how to get rid of dreaded wall coverings in order to spruce up the home.
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