Person Scraping Ceiling Texture Off

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Made Easy

Morgan McBride4-Minute Read
February 26, 2021

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There are a few things that instantly date a home, and popcorn ceilings are definitely one of them. This textured ceiling can easily look dark, dirty or dusty. Popcorn ceiling removal can be intimidating but it’s a totally DIY-able project. Here’s everything you need to know before diving into this project.

Considerations Before Starting

Before committing to removing your popcorn ceilings, it’s essential to test for asbestos and other health hazards. Asbestos was banned in 1977, so if your home was built after that, it’s unlikely that the popcorn contains it. However, you can purchase test kits that make it easy to be certain.

If your ceiling tests positive for asbestos, you’ll want to have it professionally removed. Attempting to DIY that project could create a health hazard for yourself and anyone who lives in or visits your home.

Finally, you need to pick the right time to do this project. The length of time that it takes will depend on the size of your room and how many people you have to help with the project, but it can take a couple people 2 full days to remove popcorn ceilings in one standard-sized bedroom. This is not the kind of project that you want to leave half-done, due to the big mess that it makes, so be sure to select a time frame when you can devote a lot of hours to the work.

What You Need To Remove Textured Ceilings

You don’t need many fancy tools to remove popcorn ceilings. To complete this project, you’ll need:

  • Popcorn ceiling scraper with extension pole
  • Ladders tall enough to comfortably reach the ceiling
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Drop cloths or protective coverings for the floor and any furniture that can’t be moved
  • Sander or sanding block
  • Paint brush and roller
  • Ceiling paint and primer

How To Remove Popcorn Ceilings

Removing popcorn ceiling texture isn’t particularly difficult, but it is messy and time consuming. Here’s how to do it yourself.

Step 1. Clear A Path

Removing ceiling texture makes a huge mess. Ideally, remove all furniture from the room. If there is furniture that you can’t remove, push it to the center of the room. If you have a ceiling light fixture, you’ll want to remove that, too. Cover all remaining furniture with protective drop cloths. Cover any air conditioning vents to avoid dust getting into your HVAC system. Cover electrical outlets with child-safe plugs or painter’s tape to keep them clean, too.

Step 2. Protect The Room

Scraping the popcorn is going to put a lot of fine particles in the air. You will want to cover the floors with drop cloths. You can use single-use plastic, heavy-duty tarps, or drop cloths. You can choose to use painter’s tape to affix drop cloths to cover the walls, too. Most hardware stores sell single-use plastic drop cloths with painter’s tape already attached on one side. You don’t have to cover the walls, but it does make for easier clean-up.

Step 3. Wet The Popcorn

Use a sprayer to wet your popcorn. This softens the texture and makes it easier to remove. It’s best to only wet the amount that you can scrape in about 5 minutes. You will be wetting, then scraping, then wetting and scraping over and over again. You can use a trigger sprayer, but it’s often easier to use a lawn sprayer. Some people add white vinegar or fabric softener to the water, but plain water works just fine. Don’t overspray and soak the ceiling, just spray enough so that it can easily scrape off.

Step 4. Scrape Away

Use the scraper on an extension pole to scrape off the wet texture. You’ll be surprised that you don’t have to apply too much pressure. Don’t push too hard up into the ceiling or you risk damaging the drywall. Instead focus on smoothly pushing horizontally. Once you get the hang of it, it is really very satisfying. Scrape the wet ceiling then spray the next section and scrape it off. Repeat until your ceiling is clean.

Step 5. Sand, Prime And Paint

Once the scraping is complete, you’ll want to cover up any newly exposed damaged ceiling. You’ll want to use a sander or sanding block to smooth down any rough spots. Major holes or exposed drywall tape might need new mudding. Once that has been applied, sand smooth. Then, coat the entire ceiling with ceiling paint. You can use a primer and paint in one for the quickest application.

Step 6. Clean Up

Cleaning up is definitely a major task when dealing with popcorn ceilings. First, you’ll want to remove any drop cloths or tarps and shake them into a trash can. Then, take a rag or cloth and wipe down each wall and all surfaces such as windowsills or the top of light switches and outlets. Finally, vacuum. You might want to use a shop vac to get any large pieces before following up with your household vacuum.

How To Remove Texture From Walls

Some wall textures can be scraped in the same way as textured ceilings. However, if the walls have been painted, the dried paint prevents the texture from coming off with water. They will likely need to be skim coated with a drywall compound before sanding, priming and painting.

Alternatives To Removal

There are a few alternatives to covering up a popcorn ceiling. Many contractors will recommend hanging new drywall. The material costs are much higher than scraping, but an experienced crew can hang drywall quickly and therefore it often costs less to hire out overall compared to the long scraping process.

You can also cover a ceiling with a fun focal feature. Beadboard, shiplap, tongue and groove planks are all options. Take into consideration the adding of additional weight to the drywall if going this route. Be sure to nail into studs and use construction adhesive for extra security.

The Bottom Line

Removing popcorn ceilings is a lot of work. However, it’s an inexpensive project that can add a lot of resale value to your home’s property value. It has been estimated that a $200,000 home can increase in value by $2,500 by removing the textured ceilings. If you’re OK with sweat equity, this project may be for you.

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Morgan McBride

Morgan McBride is a DIY-lover and home decor enthusiast living in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been blogging at alongside her husband since 2012, where they empower their readers to craft their current home into their dream home through the power of DIY.