Janet Combs

Janet Combs

A recent Planet Janet survey of the Grand Strand area, conducted extensively among the 11 people I know well enough to ask since I moved here a year ago, reveals that 78.9 percent of people love popcorn, whereas 99.7 percent of people hate popcorn ceilings.

Though this survey contains unrelated items — one popular snack food and one highly resilient wall-surfacing product — it’s important because the results are somewhat irrefutable and also provide an engaging opening to this week’s column.

I was not aware that the mention of popcorn ceilings could unleash such an emotional response from individuals in casual conversation. Actually, I was not really aware of popcorn ceilings in the first place, much less aware that I should have a strong opinion about them. Years of gazing up at them, neck cradled in a dental chair, or seeing them reflected in the yellow-tinged light of department store dressing-room mirrors, or spanning out overhead in sloped lecture halls or auditoriums have made me “un-see” them. I just thought of them as knobby ceilings, constellations of clinging crumbles. I accepted them, I bore them no malice, I did not seek to take them down with zealous fervor, like offensive Berlin walls in the world of décor.

Our fixer-upper has popcorn ceilings, and by “has popcorn ceilings,” I mean in every room where there is a ceiling, it is a popcorn ceiling. In the extensive hierarchy of home-improvement projects, our ceilings are paradoxically the lowest item on the list. And yet they desperately need repair, after years of unmitigated leaks stained and caused chunks of the popcorn to flake off. Re-coating them is just more economical than taking them down. Until this column becomes a popular weekly HGTV show aimed at the cranky 50-plus audience demographic, we’ve got to stick to our budget and deal with more critical improvement issues, such as our continued war with the woodpecker population of Pawleys Island vacationing in our cedar siding.

Plus, we own “the thing” that popcorns ceilings. I’m sure the “Popcorner” has a name, but it’s basically a hand-held trough that’s attached to a gun that’s attached to an air compressor hose.

The process is simple. First, drape your room with plastic — the Popcorner is a high-velocity shooter. Next, mix a dry powder with water into a gruel-y paste in a 5-gallon bucket, and let it sit until it becomes the proper consistency. When my husband dipped into it with a ladle to check, I said, “Please, sir, can I have some more?” with a convincing British accent. To understand this film reference, please stream the 1968 version of “Oliver!”

Now you are ready! You can use this industrial apparatus to shoot popcorn mix all over your ceiling — as well as everywhere in the adjacent room if you just make one simple mistake of hitting the trigger while attaching the air hose.

I know because I did this, and the apparatus discharged a torrent of oatmealish popcorn mix from the gun clear over into the adjacent room, where no drop cloths were deemed necessary. It also unleashed some colorful language from my husband. The only part I can repeat is, “This never should have happened.”

And yet it did, and there we were, and the air compressor was chugging along so I handed him the gun and we gamely carried on; he quickly coated the ceiling which took approximately five seconds. It took us about 50 times that, however, to wipe a million popcorn bits from the table, chairs, walls and floor in the next room. We are still finding them, a week later.

But the re-coated ceiling looks amazing, and all the holes where the former owner had suspended a coffin-like box of fluorescent lighting are forever gone. We will be hanging new pendant lights over our island and kitchen sink, and we will prepare ourselves a celebratory meal. Please send me your best popcorn appetizer recipes.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.