How to Drywall Sand a Popcorn Ceiling

guy sanding textured ceiling

As popcorn ceilings are becoming less popular, homeowners are deciding to remove them. Many people do not consider using a sander, and instead, decide to scrape off the texture.

Sanders can be used to flatten texture, especially wood surfaces, but can this process get rid of popcorn ceilings?

Let’s dive into whether sanding can effectively remove popcorn texture and how you can perform this process at home.

Can You Sand Down Popcorn Ceilings and Walls?

Although you can use a sander during the process of popcorn ceiling removal, it is not the most effective way and will often not work on painted texture. It can be convenient, but the proper tools are often expensive.


You can use drywall sanders to wear down popcorn ceiling texture. Start with a coarser grit and work your way to a finer grit. Most popcorn texture will be gone by the end of this method, but sanding may not be as effective on painted popcorn ceilings.

Sanding might not leave a perfectly smooth finish, but you can easily apply a skim coat and a layer of paint to flatten the texture. Often the new texture is more pleasing than the popcorn ceiling.


Sanding is also possible for removing popcorn wall texture. You can use a coarse-grit sander across the entire wall to eliminate the popcorn coating. If the texture remains, use a finer grit to even out any rough areas.

You can also use a joint compound to even out the surface after sanding. Let it dry, sand it once again, and add a layer of primer and paint. This can be very effective in achieving smooth walls.

Also see: Do Popcorn Ceilings Cause Dust?

Can You Sand a Painted Popcorn Ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling texture is usually painted. Because of this, sanding will not be as effective on most popcorn ceilings.

Sanding does not work as well on latex paint. Sanders often fail in properly removing the painted texture and can gum up. However, if you have a ceiling with little to no coats of paint, you may be able to sand your ceiling.

A good way to check whether your ceiling can be sanded is to try to scrape off the texture with your hand. If the texture falls off fairly easily, you can probably use a sander. You can also do this with a dry scraper.

Sanding vs Scraping

When homeowners start to remove their popcorn ceilings, they usually attempt the scraping method. For this, you don’t have to buy an expensive sander. The materials needed for scraping are much cheaper.

Scraping is a simple process that most people can do themselves. It doesn’t require any extensive knowledge. It is also much more effective. Even if your popcorn texture is painted, scraping will work.

There are some benefits to sanding, though. The process can be cleaner and won’t create as much mess. During sanding, you don’t have to moisten the texture, so you won’t have to deal with clumps of wet popcorn texture in your home.

If you have a vacuum attachment to your sander, there could be little to no mess at all. The vacuum will catch all the falling dust.

However, sanding doesn’t always work. Scraping is the most popular method of removing popcorn texture because it is very effective. A drywall sander will do a poor job of wearing down popcorn ceilings that have several coats of paint.

Machine To Sand Popcorn Ceiling

Sanding a ceiling by hand is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but thankfully there are tools that you can use to make this experience easier. Drywall sanders, vacuum sanders, and rotary sanders can remove popcorn ceilings quickly and easily.

Drywall Sander

You can easily remove popcorn texture with a drywall sander. This tool has a flexible sanding head and a long arm that allow you to reach the ceiling without too much effort.

The downside to drywall sanders is their price. The Planex Easy Drywall Sander costs $1,058 and most homeowners aren’t going to continually use it. Although a drywall sander is convenient to use, it would be less expensive to scrape the popcorn texture.

Vacuum Sander

It’s best to find a sander with a vacuum attachment. Throughout the process of removing popcorn texture, debris will fall to the ground and cover your furniture. A vacuum sander ensures that your home remains dust-free.

Falling dust could not only be messy but also cause health concerns. When you are sanding, the dust could irritate your eyes, dry out your skin, or cause problems for your respiratory system. With a vacuum sander, the vacuum collects dust as you go.

Rotary Sander

Like other sanders, rotary sanders have a round pad that removes debris and smooths surfaces. However, rotary sanders don’t vibrate. The pad moves quickly in a circular motion and removes material more aggressively.

Rotary sanders have high removal rates. They can do a better job of removing stubborn popcorn texture, but it could leave more scratches on the surface.

What is the Cost To Sand Popcorn Ceiling?

Sanders can be expensive to buy or rent. Many people choose to scrape off their popcorn ceilings because it is a much cheaper process.

Drywall sanders cost $55 per day to rent, or $1,000 to buy. Popcorn ceiling scrapers are only $20. Sanding may be a more convenient process, but not many homeowners think that it is worth the expense.

The grit isn’t cheap, too. A 25 pack of grit on Amazon costs about $80. For a one-time job, the costs may outweigh the benefits.

For a professional to remove the popcorn ceilings, it can cost anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. Since sanding expenses are close to this, it might be a better option to hire a professional. This would also take pressure off the homeowner to be responsible for this project.

Popcorn Ceiling Sander With Vacuum Rental

If you’re not looking to purchase a drywall sander, you can rent one. This process is as simple as going to your nearest Home Depot.

At Home Depot, different prices are depending on how long you plan to keep the sander. They will charge $39 for 4 hours, $55 per day, $220 per week, or $660 for 4 weeks.

Make sure that before you sign a rental agreement, you know exactly when you’ll be performing this work. The price adds up quickly the longer you keep the sander. It would be best to take one day to sand the entire ceiling. This way, you are cutting down on the expense of renting.

Since sanders are expensive, many homeowners cut down on costs by scraping off the popcorn ceiling and then sanding the surface by hand. A pack of 15 sheets of sandpaper only costs $13 at Home Depot.

What Grit Do You Use To Sand Popcorn Ceiling or Wall?

The sanding grit depends on what popcorn ceilings you have. If the texture is already painted, use a coarse grit. You should generally start with a grit that is between 36 and 60 and work your way to 100. Starting with a coarser grit and moving to finer grit will make sure to get rid of popcorn texture without damaging the ceiling.

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That Kilted Guy, a home improvement professional, uses 25 grit to sand popcorn ceilings. He likes to use a very aggressive grit to get the job done.

You might find that even coarse grit cannot sand a painted popcorn ceiling. If this occurs, you may have to choose a different removal method.

How To Sand a Popcorn Ceiling

Step one: Cover the walls and floor with plastic drop cloths.

Step two: Scrape the most textured parts with a putty knife. This will make it easier to sand off the popcorn ceiling.

Step three: Find the right grit level put it on the base of a drywall sander. Make sure it is properly aligned.

Step four: Turn on the sander and test a small section of the ceiling. Adjust the grit as needed.

Step five: Sand the entire ceiling using moderate pressure. Make sure that you are wearing protective eyewear and a dust mask. If you don’t have a vacuum attachment, ensure that the room is well-ventilated.

Step six: Skim coat the ceiling. Although some people skip this step, it can be crucial in creating a flat surface for the paint.

Step seven: Prime and paint the ceiling.

The sander may not fully smooth out the popcorn ceiling, but it will create a more aesthetic texture. If the popcorn texture was painted a few times, the sander may not remove it. When this happens, you may have to consider scraping off the texture.

Final Thoughts

Homeowners seem to have mixed feelings about using a sander to completely remove popcorn texture. Some professionals mention that it may not be effective in tackling ceilings that have a few coats of paint. Others claim that it is a much better option than scraping.

It can be much more expensive and may not be incredibly effective. Other options may be more worthwhile. However, sanding does not create much mess and can be a less time-consuming project.

Whatever option you choose, make sure that you are checking your ceiling for asbestos or mold before performing any at-home renovations!

  • 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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