How to remove a popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings were a very popular design trend during the 1960s and 70s. However, many people living in homes of that era don’t like the way textured ceilings look, and want to get rid of them. It really dates the house and makes can be scraped off really easily.  When I build a custom home or remodel a  home my clients  usually choose  a Monterrey knock down texture or light orange peel.

Removing the popcorn is fairly simple, but it is very time consuming and VERY messy. Most importantly, the popcorn might contain asbestos, in which case you’re usually better off just leaving it in place.

So, if you want to remove that popcorn ceiling, the first thing you need to do is find out if it contains asbestos. (It’s important to note that not all popcorn ceilings contain asbestos).

How to check for asbestos in your popcorn ceiling:

  • Using a spray bottle with water, moisten (don’t soak) about three small areas in different parts of your ceiling. Scrape about a 2 sq. inch patch from each area into individual plastic bags with a small putty knife. Take these samples to a lab that can determine if there is any asbestos in the samples or get an Asbestos Test Kit– Google your local area for labs that will test for asbestos.
  • If there is any asbestos, experts recommend you do not try to remove the popcorn yourself. Either have it removed professionally or cover it with a new drywall ceiling.

If there is no asbestos in your ceiling:

Once the lab has assured you the popcorn ceiling doesn’t have any asbestos, now the fun part starts:

  • Remove all the furniture the room if possible, or cover it with waterproof plastic sheets. Spread plastic sheets or tarps on the floor to protect it.  Dust will get all over everything if you don’t properly protect it.
  • Put on a long sleeved shirt, wear a hat and make sure your eyes are covered. Safety goggles with sides are best.
  • Use at spray bottle and water to moisten an area of 2 to 3 square feet. Alternatively, you could us a paint roller dipped in water. The objective is to wet the popcorn enough to soften it and make it “easy” to scrape off without soaking the ceiling above.
  • Once a section has softened, use an 8 or 10 inch taping or putty knife to scrape the popcorn off the ceiling.
  • Move across the ceiling, section by section, moistening and scraping until all the popcorn is gone.
  • Once the popcorn has been removed, some sanding may be required before the new texture is sprayed. You will probably have to Spackle some sections of the ceiling, some maybe more than once, to get it as smooth as you would like.  After the texture has dried and you are satisfied with the new look, you now ready to paint.

A Couple of Pointers

  • Putting too much water on the popcorn could cause water spots on the underlying ceiling drywall, something that can be just as unattractive as the original popcorn texture.
  • Try not to catch the corners of the taping knife. This can create holes in the ceiling that will need to be repaired.

An alternative method to wetting and scraping would be to use a sander and dry sand the popcorn. While this technique would probably work, it would create all kinds of drywall dust (a very fine powder) that would spread throughout your house, and probably rule this method out as a viable option.

Rather than going to the trouble of either wetting/scraping or sanding, a third alternative would be to simply install a new drywall ceiling over the popcorn. You would lose about 1″ of ceiling height but it might be the most hassle-free way of getting rid of that popcorn ceiling.

After the popcorn has been removed, you will probably need to have some areas taped, floated and then textured.  If you have never used a sprayer before, I recommend you call a professional.  Otherwise, you will have to go through this entire process again.  We do this almost every time we do a home remodel or a room addition in San Antonio, Texas.  If you have any questions, please call Rhino Design Build, LLC.

Happy scrapping!!!