We finally dealt with the popcorn ceiling in the living room last weekend. It was the messiest, most exhausting project to date. We started by covering all the walls in 3 mil poly and the floor in 4 mil. We then sprayed the entire ceiling with water using a hand pump garden sprayer. While we let it soak in for about 20 minutes, we put on tyvek suits, goggles, and respirators. We then started scraping. It took 7.5 hours, and many gallons of water. In the end, we wound up with a giant dropcloth full of popcorn ceiling debris that looked like a giant haggis and weighed about 200 lbs. For anyone thinking about attempting to remove a popcorn ceiling, here are a couple things that will help. 1. Have a small sample of the texture tested for asbestos. I have read online that some popcorn ceiling texture contains asbestos and some doesn't. We had ours tested and it did not. 2. Fill up garbage bags with the popcorn material as you go. The popcorn texture soaks up an insane amount of water and becomes extremely heavy.
Before - popcorn texture with no central fixture (beautiful 80's track lighting though)
With most of the popcorn texture gone, we noticed a suspicious looking patch in the center of the ceiling.
As hoped, it turned out to be the original electrical box for the central fixture. The whole thing was just filled with plaster, including the wires.
Once the plaster was gone, I had to figure out how to get power back to the fixture. My hope was that the mystery switch that did nothing near our front door was the answer. This is the inside of the mystery switch. I found that the disconnected black and white rubber/cloth wiring in the lower left of the picture below led to the ceiling box. Incidentally, I still have no idea what the red wire in this box does. I was able to reconnect the old wires and found that they did go to the ceiling box and that it had power! I still find it bizarre that someone would plaster over a central electrical box in their living room, but I guess I find the track lighting pretty strange too. I am looking forward to putting the fixture up. It is the one on the left in the picture below. We got really lucky and found it on craigslist. It exactly matches the original dining room fixture. If anyone is looking for similar polychrome fixtures, this website has a great selection, though they aren't cheap.