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Q.Several of my customers have “popcorn” ceilings that are old and dirty. Is there any way of painting them short of spray-painting?

A.Dan Greenough, a painting and finishing contractor in the San Francisco Bay area, responds: I always spray-paint popcorn — or blown-on acoustic — ceilings. When you roll them, the material breaks loose and clogs the roller.

If you have to roll them, look for a special textured foam roller cover designed for acoustic ceilings. These covers have slits and cross-hatchings that allow the foam to better conform to the irregular ceiling surface. The idea is to apply the paint with the least possible pressure to prevent the ceiling material from breaking loose.

Cutting in the corners can also be tricky. If you try to cut in with a brush, you will have to work hard to avoid lap marks. It may be faster to mask the walls and roll right up to the edge.

It will take several coats of paint on the entire ceiling to produce an even finish. Be advised that the water in the paint will wet the popcorn surface, causing it to roll off with the roller. Apply the first coat and allow it to dry thoroughly before you try to backroll or apply additional coats.

One reason people often want to repaint acoustic ceiling is to hide water stains caused by plumbing or roof leaks. But those stains are water soluble and will telegraph through new paint. To prevent that, always use several coats of a shellac primer to lock in the stain and prevent it from bleeding through.

While you’re at the paint store, inquire about ceiling paints that are engineered especially for acoustic ceilings. Such paints have less resin density than standard smooth-wall paints and will help maintain the acoustic qualities of the rough, textured surface.