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Do It Yourself Popcorn Ceiling Removal

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal
DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Popcorn ceilings used to be all the rage, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Applying this special popcorn texture to a drywall or plaster ceiling was a quick and simple way to hide cracks and imperfections in a ceiling without requiring any paint.

Unfortunately, it turned out that most of these ceilings contained toxic asbestos. People quickly turned away from using popcorn ceilings because of the danger, and by the 1990s they had fallen out of style. But today, people purchasing old houses still have to deal with popcorn ceiling.

Popcorn ceiling has a rough texture known for catching dust and cobwebs. It’s difficult to clean and difficult to maintain. It makes a room way too dark, a little too gloomy, and if you want to increase your home’s value, you need to remove it.

But getting rid of popcorn ceiling can be an absolute nightmare. Learning how to remove popcorn ceiling yourself is the best way to get rid of this ugly texture without spending any money. Today we’re going to learn the easiest way to get rid of popcorn ceiling, how to remove popcorn ceiling yourself, and if you should be worried about the dangers of asbestos.

What is the Easiest Way to Get Rid of Popcorn Ceiling?

The easiest way to get rid of popcorn ceiling is to scrape it off. This is the traditional method. With a water sprayer and a long putty knife, simply mist the ceiling and then scrape off the popcorn ceiling. It’s easy and only takes about 30 minutes.

If you want to learn how to remove popcorn ceiling the easy way, keep reading for our step-by-step instructions.

How Do You Hide a Popcorn Ceiling?

If you don’t have the time or motivation to cover up, scrape off, or deal with your popcorn ceiling but still want your house to look nice, you could always try to hide the popcorn ceiling. The best way to do this is through lighting. By making smart lighting decisions, you can take the attention off your ugly ceiling and showcase the rest of your house.

The way to do this is to avoid lights that aim upward at your ceiling. Instead, trying to use pot lights or standing lamps that point downward rather than upward. By casting light across the floor and other surfaces, the room will appear more spacious, and attention will be taken off the bumpy ceiling.

How Do You Remove a Popcorn Ceiling Without Scraping It?

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to get rid of popcorn ceiling without somehow removing the texture. However, there are clever ways to get the texture off the ceiling without climbing up and down a ladder with your scrapper and mud bucket.

For example, you could attach a long putty knife to the end of your shop vac, then scrape the popcorn ceiling off while sucking the loose material directly into your vacuum. This works really well. Though technically, you’re still scraping.

There are more ways to remove popcorn ceiling, though most of them involve covering or masking the popcorn ceiling rather than actually removing the texture.

How to Cover Popcorn Ceiling with Decorative Ceiling Tiles

Covering a popcorn ceiling using decorative ceiling tiles is a great way to avoid a lot of hard work. Instead of scraping off your popcorn ceiling, simply cover it with Styrofoam tiles to give the room a new lease on life.

Decorative ceiling tiles are very easy to install. Because these are normally made from Styrofoam, they can easily adhere to the already existing popcorn ceiling texture without much effort. A bottle of adhesive, a large stack of tiles, and a bit of patience can cover your ceiling in just a couple hours.

To cover your popcorn ceiling with decorative ceiling tiles, simply find the center of your ceiling, separate the ceiling into four quadrants using a chalk line, then start from the inside and work your way out while keeping the tiles uniform.

Use enough adhesive on the backs of the tiles so that some of it oozes into the cracks and crevices of the rough popcorn texture. When finished, be sure to add caulking to the thin gaps to create a seamless look.

How to Cover Popcorn Ceiling with Skim Coating

Another option is to skim coat your ceiling. Skim coating is when you apply a layer of drywall compound onto your popcorn ceiling and then let it dry. Sand the entire ceiling, add another layer of drywall compound – repeat the process. After two coats, you’ll notice the ceiling still appears textured, though it’s become far less noticeable and can now be painted.

Skim coating can also help with asbestos. If there’s asbestos in your ceiling and you don’t want to remove the texture yourself by scraping it, skim coating is the ideal alternative. The extra layers of drywall compound and paint will prevent asbestos from ever leaking into your home.

How to Cover Popcorn Ceiling Tiles with Wooden Planks

Covering a popcorn ceiling with wooden planks is a great idea. Wooden planks are thin, they give your home a natural look, and they can be installed in just a few hours. Wooden planks are also wildly affordable and come in a wide variety of different colors and patterns.

To install wooden planks over a popcorn ceiling texture, your first step is to mark the joists along the ceiling. Then, you want to install the wooden planks along the joists from one end of the ceiling to the other. You’re going to use adhesive on the backs of the planks and nail them to the joists to be extra secure. Follow the joists from one side of the room to the other, shaving planks where necessary.

Keep in mind that wooden planks are normally tongue in groove, meaning they fit together very easily. It could take a bit of trial and error to get them set properly, but it’s no different from adding flooring planks to a new floor.

How to Cover Popcorn Ceiling with Drywall

If you want a completely fresh start but don’t want to scrape off your popcorn ceiling, adding a new layer of drywall is your best bet. You can use drywall either 1/4”, 3/8” or 1/2”. Simply screwing the new drywall into the ceiling joists will give you a brand-new ceiling. The layer of drywall will keep any possible asbestos contained and hide the ugly popcorn ceiling – and nobody will know the difference.

Plus, adding a new layer of drywall gives you a free layer of insulation on your ceiling. You can even add another layer of insulation between the old popcorn texture and the new drywall. Once the drywall is in place, it’s easy to add a layer of primer and paint. This is the best, most affordable, and easiest option to hide a popcorn ceiling.

Is There a Tool to Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

To remove popcorn ceiling, you will normally use a 4” putty knife. These are readily available and work well when scraping off large sections of your popcorn ceiling. You will also use a mud bucket to catch the wet popcorn texture as you peel it off. These are the best tools for the job.

That said, you can purchase a specially designed popcorn ceiling scraper that’s 12 inches long and better for completing larger jobs. You can also pick up a specialized popcorn ceiling removal bucket that works with the special scraper. If you have a lot of ceiling to remove, these specialized tools could be your best bet. They’re both available online or at most local hardware stores.

How to Test Popcorn Ceiling for Asbestos

If your popcorn ceiling was installed between the 1960s and 1980s, there is a high probability that it contains asbestos. Asbestos is known for causing all kinds of respiratory problems, including things like lung cancer. Before you dare begin removing popcorn ceiling yourself, you need to test your ceiling for asbestos.

So, how do you test a popcorn ceiling for asbestos? The best route is to contact your local health department and see if they can help you get a sample tested. Your local health department will have a lab that can complete the test. All you need is to contact them, then send a sample in a small sample.

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling with Asbestos

Unfortunately, you cannot remove popcorn ceiling with asbestos by yourself. It’s far too dangerous and you don’t want to risk the health of yourself or your family. If you tested your popcorn ceiling for asbestos and it came back positive, you now have two options for getting rid of your popcorn ceiling.

The first option is to hire an asbestos contractor who specializes in the safe removal of this toxic substance. The contractor is definitely going to be more expensive, but they will get the asbestos out of your house safely. Plus, you won’t actually have to do any work!

The second option is covering your popcorn ceiling with a new layer of drywall to contain the asbestos. A new layer of drywall can easily be fitted directly to your popcorn ceiling and there is no risk of asbestos leaking out and causing health problems.

You can also cover the popcorn ceiling with decorative ceiling tiles or wooden planks.

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling DIY

Complete a Scrape Test

The first step to removing your popcorn ceiling is to do a quick scrape test. Before you go through the trouble of preparing the room, purchasing the tools, and buckling down for a long job, you need to check just how hard it’s going to be to get the popcorn ceiling texture off your ceiling.

To do this, try scraping a small piece of ceiling off to see how easy it is. If the texture doesn’t come off easily by scraping it dry, try soaking a small section with water and then seeing if it peels off with a utility knife or a drywall knife.

If your scrape test is a failure, meaning that the popcorn ceiling texture didn’t scrape off easily while wet, chances are your ceiling has been painted over in the past and that it could be a serious job trying to get the texture off.

At this point, you’ll need to decide whether to complete a difficult scraping job or simply hide your popcorn ceiling some other way, such as decorative tiles or with a new coat of paint.

Prepare the Room

The first step to physically removing popcorn ceiling is to prepare whichever room you’re working in for a massive mess. Removing popcorn ceiling involves spraying water and your room is going to get dirty. We highly recommend covering the floor completely with plastic drop cloths.

It’s important that you don’t use canvas drop cloth because water is able to soak through to your floor. It’s also easier to clean with plastic, since when the job is over you can ball everything up and throw it in the trash. Be sure that you also cover your walls with plastic and that you remove all the furniture.

But not just the furniture. You are also going to need to remove light fixtures and ceiling fans. If you happen to have recessed lights, remove those too and then stuff paper inside the holes to keep the wires inside dry while removing your popcorn ceiling. Don’t forget to turn the breaker off first!

Wet the Popcorn Ceiling

Now that your room is completely covered and nothing is exposed except for the popcorn ceiling itself, it’s time to start removing the texture. The first thing you want to do is use something like a garden pump sprayer to lightly mist the ceiling. Mist the entire ceiling and let the water soak into the texture for at least 15 minutes.

Be sure that you only mist gently. If you saturate the ceiling with too much water, you might accidentally ruin the drywall underneath the texture. Not only does the water help to make scraping easier, but it also prevents huge clouds of dust from forming while you scrape off the popcorn texture. Wetting the ceiling is very important.

If after 15 minutes the texture hasn’t softened, spray it again and wait another 10 or 15 minutes. If the texture still hasn’t become soft by then, you’re going to be in for a rough job. At this point, we recommend lightly scraping the entire ceiling and then trying to spray it again to soften it up.

One way or another, the popcorn ceiling is coming off!

Scraping Off the Texture

To effectively scrape off the popcorn ceiling texture, the best tool is going to be either a putty knife or a drywall taping knife. But before you get started, we highly recommend rounding off the corners of your tool.

Sharp corners can accidentally stab into your ceiling and leave you with an even bigger mess to clean up at the end. If you have sharp edges on your putty knife, you will definitely end up accidentally gouging your ceiling! This will mean a lot of patching before paint.

You can easily round off the corners of your scraper using a sander, file, or electric grinder.

It’s also important that you try to catch as much mess as possible before it hits the floor. Use something like a mud pan to catch wet popcorn ceiling as you scrape it off. This will help clean up go a lot faster. You can also clean off your scraper with the mud pan as it becomes stuck with wet popcorn texture.

For the actual scraping itself, you want to focus on small sections at a time. Try spraying a small section, maybe 5 feet x 5 feet, and then using your scraping tool to gently remove the texture. The wet texture should theoretically peel off without needing to use much force.

If for whatever reason the popcorn ceiling is stubborn and doesn’t want to come off, you might want to consider giving up and simply covering it over with new drywall. If you end up ripping your drywall trying to get the texture off, you’ll need to replace the whole ceiling anyway.

The Finishing Touches

Once you have effectively scraped off the popcorn ceiling texture on your ceiling, it’s time to add some finishing touches. There are probably going to be tiny gouges, little dings, and a bunch of small imperfections in the exposed drywall. Some may have been made by you while scraping the texture off and some may have been there already.

Before you can prep your ceiling to be painted, you need to smooth the drywall. You can do this using a sander. Make sure that you sand the entire ceiling until it’s smooth and ready for paint.

Of course, you may encounter some unexpected problems. The drywall could already be damaged in some areas. This means you’ll need to apply drywall compound and let it dry overnight. Once the ceiling is smooth and sanded, it’s time to prime the ceiling and cover with a quality latex paint.

Final Thoughts

Removing popcorn ceiling can be a huge pain in the neck. But if you’re tired of looking at your popcorn ceiling and want it replaced, it can be done. You can remove popcorn ceiling yourself by either covering, masking, or scraping. You can remove the popcorn ceiling altogether or cover it with a new layer of drywall or something more decorative.

Of course, always be careful of asbestos and be sure to work safely.

Resources

How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings – The Home Depot

How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings in 5 Simple Steps | Architectural Digest

This Simple Trick Removes Popcorn Ceilings Without The Mess (countryliving.com)

Cover Popcorn Ceiling | New Ceiling Tiles | Decorative Ceiling Tiles

How to Cover or Insulate Over a Popcorn Ceiling (thespruce.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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