What Causes a Popcorn Ceiling To Crack, Peel, Bubble or Fall Off?

peeling popcorn ceiling in bathroom

Popcorn ceilings were popular decades ago, but many people avoid applying them in their homes today.

Although they are inexpensive to install, many popcorn ceilings tend to crack, peel, bubble, or fall off with age. If you have a home with a popcorn ceiling, chances are that you have experienced some of these problems.

Ceiling damage can be frustrating to deal with, but there are many options available to you. Let’s discuss what causes damage to a popcorn ceiling and what steps you can take to repair it yourself.

To extend the life of your popcorn ceiling, why not paint it? Learn how in our guide to the best way to paint popcorn ceiling.

What Causes a Popcorn Ceiling To Fall Off?


When a popcorn ceiling starts to fall off, the problem is most likely moisture.

If you live in an area with high humidity, your popcorn ceilings could be affected. There will be more moisture in the air, traveling upwards to the ceiling. Popcorn ceilings last the longest in a dry environment. Any moisture build-up will affect the ability of the popcorn spray to stick to the drywall.

High moisture areas of your house like kitchens and bathrooms can create problems for your ceilings. Although popcorn ceilings are seldom installed in these rooms, moisture from hot showers, dishwashers, or cooking may travel to other rooms and cause water damage.

One way to prevent this is to install fans and vent systems. It’s important to properly air out high-moisture rooms to allow your popcorn ceilings to last a long time.

Also see: What is Under Your Popcorn Ceiling?

Water Leaks

If there is a leak in your upstairs neighbor’s bathroom, it could be a serious problem for your ceiling. Once there is a lot of water accumulation throughout your ceiling, the popcorn ceiling spray will start to fall off.

This can be a serious problem if the leak isn’t caught right away. You can save the majority of your ceiling if you can identify where the leak is coming from (hopefully not around a stud) and stop it from spreading further. If there is extensive damage, it might be necessary to completely remove the popcorn ceiling and replace the drywall.

Poor Installation

Popcorn ceilings need to be applied to smooth drywall with no dust. During the installation process, the drywall is fully sanded and cleaned. The popcorn ceiling is then sprayed over this surface, adhering to the drywall.

It’s important to apply the popcorn ceiling properly to avoid any pieces falling off later on. If there was dust remaining on the drywall before the popcorn ceiling was sprayed, the mixture won’t adhere properly to the drywall. The popcorn ceiling won’t stay as long as it should.

If this is the case, you may have to replace the entire popcorn ceiling. Although this is an expensive renovation, proper installation will prevent future damage.

What Causes a Popcorn Ceiling To Peel/Flake?

High Humidity

Certain rooms of your home will have a higher humidity which can cause problems for popcorn ceilings. Kitchens, bathrooms, and garages will have more moisture in the air and may weaken the popcorn ceiling’s adherence.

Popcorn ceilings usually aren’t installed in rooms with high moisture. Warm showers create steam that travels to the ceiling. Over time, popcorn ceilings in bathrooms will peel and flake because of consistent moisture.

Likewise, kitchens with popcorn ceilings may face problems. When a homeowner uses a cooktop stove, warm air is pushed toward the ceiling. Because warmer air rises, it may get trapped in the house if there isn’t proper ventilation. Constant contact with humidity does not bode well for popcorn ceilings.

When a popcorn ceiling is applied, it is sprayed onto the drywall. With high amounts of humidity over a long period, bits of the ceiling may peel or flake. This can be easily fixed, but you may want to consider removing popcorn ceilings from rooms like kitchens or bathrooms.

Many people are forced to remove the popcorn ceilings in high moisture areas of their homes. Although this is costly, it may save you the hassle of many small repairs.

What Causes a Popcorn Ceiling To Crack?

When you see a crack in your ceiling, it can be very concerning. Although it can seem like an indication of serious structural damage, cracks are usually caused by either natural settling or moisture.

Natural Settling

Buildings all go through normal wear and tear over the years. With older buildings, it is common to find small cracks in the ceilings, walls, or even the floors. The foundation of houses settles over time. When this natural settling happens, it can cause some cracks to form.

This is a normal process, but it may be a good idea to have it inspected by a professional. Older popcorn ceilings may contain hidden dangerous like asbestos, so even natural cracks could become a serious problem.

Moisture Damage

Moisture damage is the most common cause of popcorn ceiling damage. Any leaks from the roof or upstairs neighbors may cause damage to your ceiling. Moisture buildup weakens the structure of a ceiling, which could create cracks.

When water damage occurs, it’s important to find the source of the moisture. If you permanently prevent more moisture buildup, you can then easily fix the crack in the popcorn ceiling.

What Causes a Popcorn Ceiling To Bubble?

Moisture Buildup

If a bubble starts forming in your ceiling, it’s caused by a buildup of moisture.

Water damage may not always present itself through water stains, cracks, or mold growth. You may notice that your ceiling is swelling in a specific spot. This is usually a sign that water is collecting underneath the drywall or paint.

Popcorn ceilings were designed to disguise any cosmetic issues on your ceiling, so it can be hard to notice when bubbles start to form. Once you see swelling in your ceiling, make sure to fix the problem immediately. Water bubbles can cause the ceiling to collapse in the damaged area if not properly fixed.

There are a few simple steps you can take to repair a ceiling bubble.

First, find a bucket and place it on the floor underneath the damaged area. Then poke a hole in the bubble, allowing the water to drain.

Lastly, you’ll need to identify the cause of the damage and call a contractor. Although you can perform a few DIY fixes, water damage can be a serious problem if gone unchecked. A contractor will help prevent any extensive damage to your ceiling.

How To Repair Your Ceiling

There are a few ways to repair your popcorn ceiling without professional help. However, it is important to note that popcorn ceilings that have been installed before 1979 may contain asbestos. If you have an older home, make sure to have your ceiling checked for asbestos before you make any DIY repairs.

Homax has a variety of ways to repair a popcorn ceiling. You can use a patch, a spray, or a roll-on texture to fix any damage. Any of these techniques are simple to do by yourself, but make sure to properly check the directions for each material.

Homax Popcorn Ceiling Patch

Step one: Use a drop cloth to cover the floor underneath the damaged area of the ceiling.

Step two: Use a putty knife to scrape off the damaged part of the ceiling. Water damage will cause the popcorn texture to loosely adhere, so this should be an easy process.

Step three: Prime the exposed drywall.

Step four: Stir the popcorn ceiling patch mixture to make sure that the binding material is mixed with the popcorn material.

Step five: Spread the mixture on the exposed ceiling with a putty knife.

Step six: Ensure that there are no air gaps by blending the mixture with the old ceiling. The applied patch should not be too thick. Allow it to fully dry.

Step seven: If the popcorn ceiling patch does not blend well with the rest of the ceiling, paint the patch and then double paint the entire ceiling.

Homax Popcorn Ceiling Spray

A great way to repair a stained or damaged popcorn ceiling is Homax Popcorn Ceiling Spray. You won’t need to worry about a big mess or strong odor. It is easy to apply and can be done by yourself. You’ll simply need to buy a can of this spray at the nearest Home Depot.

Step one: Cover walls, carpet, and furniture to avoid overspray.

Step two: Scrape the old, stained popcorn ceiling away.

Step three: Prime the surface of the drywall.

Step four: Shake the can and hold the spray nozzle 12-14 inches from the ceiling. Spray short bursts across the surface.

Using a Roller

Homax also makes a roll-on texture which is an easy finish to apply for repairing any damages in ceiling texture. It fully dries in 24 hours and does not have a strong odor. Here are the steps you can take to use a roll-on popcorn texture:

Step one: Scrape off the damaged popcorn ceiling.

Step two: Make sure your surface is clean, dry, and primed.

Step three: For easy application, thin the texture with water. For a five-gallon bucket, use one pint of water. Use a stir stick to mix the texture until it is smooth and uniform.

Step four: Use a heavy nap roller, 4-inch paintbrush, or trowel to apply the texture. Homax recommends that the thickness should be no thicker than 1/8 inch. If the texture is too thick, cracking may occur. Let fully dry.

Step five: Paint the surface with semi-gloss paint. Two coats of paint will properly prevent moisture buildup.

Final Thoughts

When problems with your popcorn ceiling occur, it can be a frustrating experience. You may notice that your ceiling starts to crack, peel, bubble, or fall off over time. This usually happens because of water damage, but there are a few simple ways to perform repairs yourself.

Most of the problems with popcorn ceilings can be fixed with materials you can find at Home Depot. Before you do this, make sure to find the source of any water leaks and have your ceiling checked for asbestos. Your house may need professional repair if there is extensive damage.

  • 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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