Popcorn ceilings were all the rage in the 60’s and 70’s. And while they’ve fallen out of vogue, unfortunately, they’re not extinct. Luckily, popcorn ceilings are relatively easy to remove. With a little elbow grease and the steps below, you can easily replace your popcorn ceiling (or of course, hire someone to help) with something that’s more your style.


Step 1: Prep


Asbestos Abatement
Clean out the Room

Unless you want another DIY project picking popcorn out of seat cushions after you’re done with the ceiling, remove all furniture and light fixtures from the room.

Cover The Room

Close all vents and cover any outlets or your door frames with plastic, then lay out a painters drop cloth with waterproof backing or sheets of plastic. If you use plastic, overlap and tape the sheets together and then to the wall. Popcorn gets everywhere, so this step will help ensure the cleanup isn’t a project of its own.

Prep for Hazards

Many popcorn ceilings were applied pre-1979 and may contain asbestos. Have a professional come by or scrape off a sample to mail to a testing company because if your ceiling has even 1% asbestos, it must legally be removed by a professional.

If your ceiling is painted, it’s not so much a hazard as a burden. Painted ceilings don’t come off as easily since the paint prevents water from being absorbed. Test by spraying some of the ceiling with water. If it’s absorbed, you’re good to go! If it’s not, you’ll have to use a paint stripper or call in a professional.

Add a Fan

Removing the texture will create a lot of dust, so it’s important to place a fan in the room, preferably in a window. This will increase ventilation and keep dust down. Be sure to also wear a mask or respirator and safety glasses to protect yourself.


Step 2: Removal


plastering man hand sanding the plaster in white wall



Wet the Ceiling

Using a portable hand-sprayer (called a Hudson sprayer), soak down 3’x3’ portions of your ceiling. Wait a minute, then spray it again. The goal is to saturate the porous popcorn texture without getting it so wet that it damages the drywall underneath. By working in small portions, you reduce the risk of water damage.

Scrape off the Popcorn 

Ten to fifteen minutes after you saturate the ceiling, begin scraping it off with a texture scraper, putty knife or drywall knife. It should take a little elbow grease, but if it doesn’t come off easily, soak the area again. Be careful not to apply too much pressure and damage the drywall underneath.

**Hint: attach a refuse bag to the scraper so that the debris falls into it and you can place larger chunks inside. This makes cleanup easier later.

Sand the Ceiling

With a sanding pole and screen, smooth any rough parts or remaining popcorn on the ceiling. This step also preps the ceiling for any finishes you use.

Gather up any Remaining Debris

To prevent any dust getting into you new finish, throw out any remaining popcorn on the floor and vacuum the cloth or sweep the plastic.


Step 3: Refinish Your Ceiling


Man painting his ceiling white


Apply Joint Compound (optional)

After you remove the popcorn finish, you may find that your drywall looks thin or patchy. Consider applying one or more coats of drywall mud to smooth it out.

Add Skim Coat (optional)

For the absolute best result you can get, we highly recommend applying and sanding down a layer of skim coat for a flawless finish.

Add Another Texture (optional)

Just because popcorn ceilings aren’t for you doesn’t mean you should give up texture entirely. You may want to consider another texture. There are many materials, like sand, that you can add to paint as well as special texture paints you can apply with techniques.

Prime and Paint

You have a gorgeous new canvas to play with, and now you can finally achieve the ceiling of your dreams. Applaud yourself for your hard work and enjoy the result for years to come.


About the Author:

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