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How to Cover Popcorn Ceiling

person-covering-popcorn-ceiling
Person Covering Popcorn Ceiling

Today we’re learning how to cover popcorn ceiling. If you’ve had enough of looking at your ugly, outdated ceiling, it’s time to freshen things up. Covering your popcorn ceiling is a great way to avoid a whole lot of work by removing it, and it’s also a good way to protect yourself from the possible asbestos that could be hiding inside the popcorn ceiling material.

All the methods we’ll talk about today are DIY. You can do them yourself with affordable material in as little as a few hours.

Can I Cover Popcorn Ceiling if it Has Asbestos?

Your popcorn ceiling may be contaminated with asbestos. White asbestos fibers were used in the mixture for the popcorn texture throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Asbestos is wildly hazardous to your health, it can cause respiratory diseases, and it should be avoided at all costs.

The good news about covering a popcorn ceiling is that most methods will save you from having to deal with asbestos. Covering a popcorn ceiling seals the asbestos behind a new layer of material, meaning that it can’t find any way into your lungs.

That said, if you find your popcorn ceiling is broken, crumbling, and not at all reliable, you need to check it for asbestos before removing it. It’s hard to cover popcorn ceiling if the texture is damaged or weak. If it turns out you do need to clear the popcorn ceiling and it has asbestos, you must hire a professional contractor who deals specially with asbestos.

Decorative Ceiling Tiles

Using decorative ceiling tiles is the easiest, fastest, and most affordable option for covering a popcorn ceiling. You can transform the ugly popcorn texture into any kind of decorative pattern you want using what is known as ceiling planks or ceiling tiles. You don’t need to do any scraping and they basically stick right onto your ceiling.

There are three main types of tiles available to give your home any kind of look you desire. All of the ceiling tiles can be easily installed, most of them are made of Styrofoam and will stick directly to your ceiling, and even the heavier ones come with easy clip-up options for quick install.

Natural Wood Finish: A natural wood ceiling can transform your home from a dreary dungeon into a cheerful and welcoming space. By using natural wood ceiling tiles, either in white or in a variety of grays and browns, you can quickly create a realistic wood-tiled roof to match any room.

Elegant Metals: Elegant metals are also available to cover up popcorn ceiling. If you really want to transform your house into an exquisite space that captures the brilliance a Victorian design, think about adding metal tiles in brass, steel, or copper. This is the fanciest solution and can seriously impress guests.

Just keep in mind that with metal tiles, installation can be a little trickier and will depend on your tile supplier.

Decorative Plaster: Decorative plaster ceiling tiles normally come in Styrofoam and can be stuck directly to your popcorn ceiling. There are dozens and dozens of different patterns to choose from, from plain white tiles to tiles with complex geometric designs. These tiles can make any room brighter, more spacious, and far more modern.

How to Install Decorative Ceiling Tiles

There are two ways you can install Styrofoam decorative ceiling tiles. You can either first remove all of the popcorn ceiling texture until all that remains is bare drywall or you can cover the popcorn ceiling with the tiles. We’re going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to cover popcorn ceiling without needing to remove it.

Before you start work, it’s important to understand that if your house was built in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, your ceiling may contain asbestos. This is not harmful unless you begin scraping off the texture, at which point the asbestos particles can get into your lungs.

If you’re worried about your ceiling containing asbestos, be sure to be very careful while installing the decorative ceiling tiles as to not scrape off any of the material. Popcorn ceilings are known for being unstable, so you really need to check just how solid the material is currently stuck to your ceiling.

Step 1: The first step is to determine just how strong your popcorn ceiling is. The texture must be strong enough to hold the decorative ceiling tiles without them falling off. To do this, press the ceiling firmly with your finger. If your ceiling crumbles at your touch, it needs to be removed instead of covered.

If your popcorn ceiling doesn’t crumble at your touch, go ahead and get the necessary to supplies to start step 2.

Step 2: The second step is to clean your ceiling. Your popcorn ceiling needs to be dry, completely free of dust, cleared of spider webs, and absent any kind of grease or grime. The texture is obviously going to be a bit bumpy, but so long as it’s free of dust and dirt, you’re good to go.

Step 3: Now you need to find the center of your ceiling. This is the most important part of the entire job. You want to stretch two chalk strings diagonally across the ceiling from one corner to the other. The “X” where these two strings meet is going to be the exact center of your room. This is where you need to start.

Start at the “X” in the center of your ceiling and then draw two lines across your ceiling to divide it into four squares, also using the chalk lines. Just think about cutting an apple pie into four pieces. Divide the room into four even sections.

Once you have your center marked and your quadrants drawn, it’s time to start putting the tiles on the ceiling.

Step 4: You need to apply the recommended adhesive to your tiles. It’s important that you ensure there is enough adhesive goo stuck to the underside of the tiles to ooze in between the bumps of the popcorn ceiling. This could take some trial and error, and you might need to put up three or four tiles before you get it right.

Place globs of the adhesive solution near the corners of the tile, in its center, and spread more out with at least 2 or 3 inches between globs. Just make sure that you don’t put the adhesive too close to the edges, otherwise it will spill over and make a mess.

Step 5: The final major step is to install the very first tile. Take your first tile with the adhesive on its back and set it inside one of the center corners of your four quadrants. It doesn’t really matter which one. Place the tile firmly in the center corner and make sure that aligns with the lines you drew for your quadrants. Everything needs to fit perfectly.

When placing the tile, you need proper adhesion. Make sure that you press the tile onto the ceiling with enough force to spread the adhesive while pushing the adhesive into the bumps of the popcorn texture.

Step 6: Continue installing tiles in parallel rows and keep the edges as close as possible. The tiles should spread out evenly in your quadrants so long as you’re following the lines, and when you reach the perimeter of the room, you will need to begin cutting tiles to properly fit along the edges.

Step 7: The last step is to use a caulking gun at the seams of each tile to seal the gaps and create a seamless appearance. All your Styrofoam decorative tiles should be sealed with caulking in the exact same way that you would apply gout to ceramic tiles in your bathroom.

After you’ve sealed all your tiles and everything looks great, you’re done.

Covering a Popcorn Ceiling with Wood Planks

Covering a popcorn ceiling with wooden planks is very similar to covering a popcorn ceiling with Styrofoam tiles. The wood used is thin, it’s not very expensive, and you can get any kind of wood to match your home. Putting up wood planks can be a little more challenging than Styrofoam tiles, but it adds a certain atmosphere that a lot of people enjoy. It definitely looks a whole lot better than popcorn ceiling.

How to Install Wood Planks Over Popcorn Ceiling

Step 1: The first step is to find which way the ceiling joists run. Do this using a stud finder and then mark the joists on the ceiling using a chalk line. This will make it easier when you’re placing your nails.

Planks are going to be tongue and groove for the easiest installation. Each wooden plank should easily fold into another. Just keep in mind that because these wooden planks are so thin, some of them may come warped and you’ll probably have a small stack by the end of the day to return to the store.  

Step 2: You want to start on one side of the room. Take your first plank and add a liquid adhesive to the bottom, then place the tongue side of your plank against the wall and nail it in place to the joist. Just be sure that it fits properly before nailing it, otherwise you’ll end up with too many unused pieces with nail holes in them.

The first plank is the easiest. Once you have your plank nailed to your popcorn ceiling, you can begin moving across the room following the joist. This means your planks will make a + sign overlapping the joist. This is much easier for nailing them to the ceiling.

Step 3: Continue fitting wooden planks together as you move across the room, using nails and your adhesive. If you’re worried about nail marks, don’t be. You will never see the nail marks in the finished product.

Of course, you will always need to trim the wooden planks when you get to the end of the room and to the other side of the wall. This is easy as using a table saw to cut them to form.

Step 4: By the time you’ve covered the entire ceiling with wooden planks, the old popcorn texture will be gone. Because all the planks are nailed and glued in place, there’s no risk of them coming down and no risk of popcorn texture falling through the cracks.

Before finishing up, make sure that you caulk around the edges where the planks push up against the crown molding. You may also have to fill in some seams where you had to cut planks to make them fit.

Afterwards, feel free to paint or finish the wooden tiles in whichever way you prefer, or leave them as is.

How to Paint Over a Popcorn Ceiling

If you’re tired of looking at your popcorn ceiling, you might want to cover it up by freshening it up. Instead of ripping the popcorn ceiling down and going through all that trouble, it can be easier to apply a fresh coat of paint to improve lighting in the room, to make your home feel new and exciting, and to keep the parts of the popcorn ceiling that you enjoy.

Popcorn ceilings are handy for offering noise reduction and some people still prefer the look of a popcorn ceiling over wooden planks or metallic or Styrofoam tiles. Plus, painting over a popcorn ceiling will help keep you away from asbestos and all the trouble that can bring.

To paint over your popcorn ceiling, follow these very easy steps:

Step 1: You need to prep your room. Trying to paint the uneven texture of a popcorn ceiling is going to be messy. It’s a good idea to tape plastic sheets around the walls and to cover the floors with a special cloth for paint. Plus, you need to cover all ceiling fixtures using plastic and tape. Cover everything that you don’t want paint getting on.

Step 2: Be sure that you equip yourself with a mask and protective eyeglasses before starting this next step. You need to scrape off a thin layer of popcorn surface from each edge of the ceiling. This means all four sides. Scrape off about ¼ of an inch. This is to let you better paint the edges of the ceiling. You’ll never notice the missing texture.

However, if you’re worried about asbestos in the ceiling, you’d better ignore this step altogether. Don’t risk exposing your lungs to asbestos particles.

Step 3: Now that you have prepared the room for paint and scraped a thin layer of texture from the edges, it’s time to clean the entire ceiling. We recommend using some kind of duster or a vacuum with a special brush attachment to get every last speck of dust from all the nooks on the ceiling.

You want to really clean the popcorn ceiling, otherwise it will be a nightmare to paint. You absolutely don’t want to be painting on a thin layer of dust.

Step 4: It’s time to paint. When purchasing your paint, keep in mind that it will require more paint to finish a textured surface than an ordinary surface. In fact, it could take twice as much to paint your popcorn ceiling as it would to paint a flat ceiling.

You want to start along the edges. Paint the edges of the ceiling with an angled brush. Then work your way inside. It’s important that you never soak the popcorn texture with the paint. If the texture gets wet, it may peel or fall off completely. Paint in thin coats and then move on.

Of course, you will likely need a second or even third coat of paint. Just take your time and be careful of the fragile popcorn texture.

The best tool for painting a popcorn ceiling is a long roller that can absorb plenty of paint. You don’t want a small roller with a roller pan. Instead, try a bucket with a screen on it so that you can load your roller with paint and make single passes along the ceiling. This is the best way not to soak the popcorn texture.

Also, after you soak your roller in paint, make only one pass in one direction. You don’t want to go down one way and then up the other. This can cause some parts of your ceiling to become too wet.

Step 5: Allow each coat of paint to dry before adding another. After the second or third coat, when the ceiling appears uniform and looks amazing, you’re done.

Final Thoughts

Covering up a popcorn ceiling is easy. It can be done in a day and you can do it any way you want. Styrofoam tiles are easy and require very little preparation. Wooden planks are a bit tougher but give a more natural appearance to your room. Metal tiles take a bit more work still and require more tools but can turn your house into a palace. And finally, painting over your popcorn ceiling can breathe new life into an old room.

There are still other DIY methods for covering your popcorn ceiling. You can cover your popcorn ceiling using a new layer of drywall, you can frame a drop-down ceiling and lose a few inches in the room, or you can remove the popcorn texture altogether.

Resources:

Cover Popcorn Ceilings | Ceilings | Armstrong Residential (armstrongceilings.com)

Styrofoam Ceiling Tiles Installation (decorativeceilingtiles.net)

Cover Popcorn Ceiling | New Ceiling Tiles | Decorative Ceiling Tiles

How to Paint Popcorn Ceiling – Bob Vila

How to plank a popcorn ceiling the easy way with wood planks (edithandevelynvintage.com)

  • Gregory A Seely
  • Gregory A Seely

    Greg is a self taught home renovator and writer for RenoViso. His shares his experiences with Southern Living, Traditional Home and other publications.

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