DIY Remove Popcorn Ceiling

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DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Popcorn ceilings were popular to install before 1980 because they were cheap and easy to apply. Currently, many homeowners are removing their popcorn ceilings. There are many ways to do this without asking for professional help.

Let’s dive into the cost of popcorn ceiling removal and some DIY methods.

If you find the idea of removing your popcorn ceiling too much work and covering it too expensive, you could freshen it up with a coat of paint. For more info, stop by our guide on how to paint popcorn ceiling.

How To Tell If Your Popcorn Ceiling Has Asbestos?

Before removing any part of your popcorn ceiling, it’s important to check if asbestos is present.

Asbestos was commonly used in building material through the 1980s, so there could be between 1 and 10 percent asbestos within your popcorn texture. Luckily, there are ways you can diagnose this problem yourself.

Step one: Purchase an Asbestos Testing Kit. You can find one on Amazon.

Step two: Follow its instructions to remove a small sample of popcorn texture.

Step three: Mail the sample to a testing lab. You will receive a certificate with the results.

Step four: If there is no asbestos present, feel free to start any DIY projects! However, any level of asbestos should be removed by a professional.

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal Costs

Removing popcorn ceilings can be expensive. The national average cost for this process is between $900 to $2,500. However, there are some DIY options that will save you money.

The cost of popcorn removal depends on the size of your ceiling and the difficulty of removal. Hiring a professional may be easier, but many homeowners do not want to face those expenses.


Scraping can be one of the cheapest ways to remove popcorn texture. This is the most common choice for at-home renovations.

Popcorn scrapers cost around $20. To wet the popcorn texture, it’s handy to have a pump sprayer. These are only $10-$15.

Drop cloths are also inexpensive. You can find a 9′ x 12′ sheet for $11 at Home Depot.

Hire Vacuum Sander

If you choose to sand your popcorn ceilings, you have to be ready for the high expenses of this project. Drywall sanders cost around $1,000 to buy. To rent, they are $55 a day.

The grit is also expensive. For a 25 pack of grit, it can cost up to $80. Sanding the ceiling by hand would be cheaper, but more labor-intensive. 15 sheets of sandpaper are only $13.

Sanding works best after you scrape off the popcorn texture. Some people remove the popcorn ceiling with a sander, but it may not be effective on painted ceilings.

Drywall / Skim Coat

Using a skim coat or layer of drywall can be great in covering popcorn texture. Buying drywall can quickly become expensive and skim coating is the cheaper option.

A 4′ x 8′ drywall sheet costs around $9. Since you need multiple sheets to cover the ceiling, this won’t be cheap. Drywall lifts make the process much easier, but they cost $40 a day to rent. Adding drywall can also be a time-consuming and difficult process.

Skim coating is much cheaper and easier to do. At Home Depot, joint compound is $15. You won’t need many other expensive tools. A drywall taping knife is only $10.

DIY Painted (and Non-Painted) Popcorn Ceiling Removal

You can remove all popcorn ceilings, regardless of whether they have been painted. However, it is much more difficult to remove painted texture.

For easy removal, go through these first steps.

Step one: Remove all of the furniture.

Step two: Use painter’s plastic to cover the floor

Step three: Tape plastic to the edge of the ceiling.

If the ceiling is unpainted, you can use water to scrape the texture off the ceiling.

For painted ceilings, continue to these steps.

Step four: Make a mixture of one part vinegar to ten parts water.

Step five: Spray it onto the ceiling. Let it sit for a while.

Step six: Use a pole scraper to scrape off the texture.

Step seven: Consider using a wallpaper stripper or paint stripper.

DIY Dry / Wet Scraping of Popcorn Ceiling

Dry scraping is often labor-intensive and time-consuming. Especially if your popcorn ceiling is painted, it may be harder to remove.

Most people choose to add moisture before scraping. Often dry scraping will cause damage to the drywall underneath.

Step one: Place drop cloths on the floor and use painter’s plastic to cover the walls. Remove light fixtures and turn the power off.

Step two: Spray the ceiling with water. You can use a pump sprayer or an airless sprayer to make this easier.

Step three: Scrape off the popcorn texture. Keep your scraper flat to the ceiling to avoid damaging the drywall. Be sure to wear protective eyewear and a dust mask.

DIY With Water and Vinegar

A mixture of vinegar and water can effectively break down popcorn texture, making it easier to remove.

Step one: Mix white vinegar and water and pour it into a spray bottle. You can also use window cleaner because it has the same ingredients.

Step two: Spray the mixture onto the ceiling. Let it absorb into the ceiling.

Step three: Scrape off the popcorn texture.

DIY Skim Coat Popcorn Ceiling

If you don’t want to scrape off the texture, you can also cover it with a skim coating.

Step one: Apply joint compound to the popcorn ceiling using a 14-inch drywall taping knife. The joint compound should be fairly thick, so don’t mix too much water into it.

Step two: Smooth out the skim coat. Use your drywall knife in multiple directions so that it is as smooth as possible.

Step three: Scrape away any unwanted texture before your second coat of joint compound.

Step four: Apply a second skim coat and let it dry for 24 hours.

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal With Scraper and Shop Vac

Scraping popcorn texture can be a messy process. If you want to have less wet texture to clean off the floor, you can attach a shop vac to your scraper. This will make the process more manageable.

Step one: Tape a 6-inch scraper onto the hose of a shop vac.

Step two: Cover all surfaces with drop cloths.

Step three: Wet the popcorn texture with water.

Step four: Scrape the popcorn texture, allowing the shop vac to collect the debris. Clean the filter of the shop vac regularly.

Step five: Use a smaller scraper for the areas close to the walls.

Add a New Layer of Sheet Rock (Over Lay)

Another way to avoid removing popcorn texture is by adding a layer of drywall, or sheetrock.

Step one: Remove light fixtures and extend them using a mud ring. Turn off the power.

Step two: Mark the joists on the ceiling using a stud finder.

Step three: Lay sheets of drywall on the ceiling, making sure to align them with the ceiling joists. Stagger the seams between sheets because four corners together will make a weak joint.

Step four: Screw the drywall sheets into the ceiling joists.

Step five: Apply joint compound and drywall tape to the seams between sheets and between the walls and ceiling.

Step six: Add a layer of paint.

What To Do After Removing Popcorn Ceiling?

After you remove the popcorn texture, you might be worried that the ceiling looks too rough to paint. Don’t worry, there are a few ways to fix this.

Scraping popcorn texture commonly creates some damage to the drywall. You can simply apply joint compound to these areas, sand the ceiling, and apply primer and paint.

Some homeowners decide to create texture with the drywall compound. This can hide imperfections in the ceiling but will look nicer than popcorn texture.

You can also do a skim coat over the entire ceiling or use decorative ceiling tiles. These would both effectively hide damage to the drywall after scraping off popcorn ceilings.

How To Smooth Ceiling After Removing Popcorn

There might be gouges in the drywall after scraping off the popcorn texture. You can repair this by applying joint compound to these areas. This will smooth out any imperfections.

Step one: Use a drywall knife to apply joint compound to any unwanted texture.

Step two: Sand down the ceiling. You can do this by hand or with a sander.

Step three: Apply a coat of primer.

Step four: Paint the ceiling.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on removing your popcorn ceilings, there are many options available to you. The best inexpensive options are scraping and skim coating.

Scraping is the most common removal method but often creates a big mess in your home. Adding a skim coat avoids removing the popcorn ceiling and provides a more appealing texture. Either of these methods can be very effective in eliminating popcorn texture without being expensive.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to carefully check for asbestos before performing your DIY removal. Airborne asbestos is incredibly harmful, but you won’t have to worry about this if you own a modern home.

  • 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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