What’s Under a Popcorn Ceiling?

Under the Popcorn Ceiling

Have you ever wondered what’s under popcorn ceiling? Underneath the popcorn-like texture you will find a completely normal ceiling. This means drywall. If you scrape the paint or wallpaper off your walls, you will find drywall. If you scrape or remove the popcorn ceiling from your ceiling, you will also find drywall.

This is because when popcorn ceiling is sprayed on, it’s sprayed directly onto a smooth layer of drywall. The drywall is installed, all the dust is removed, the drywall is sanded to make it completely smooth, and then the popcorn ceiling mixture is sprayed on using a special type of gun.

However, someone may have painted the ceiling first. This means that if you remove your popcorn ceiling, you might find an old layer of paint and primer. You also might find yellow stains underneath the popcorn ceiling, which can be the result of the old owners of the house smoking heavily.

Alternatively, you could find cracks and imperfections in your ceiling. There may even be holes in the drywall underneath the texture. Popcorn ceiling was a handy way to cover up damage done to a ceiling without having to use paint or patches.

Why Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

If you want to remove your popcorn ceiling and are trying to find a good excuse to do so, there are plenty. If your house was built before the 1990s, there’s always a chance that it could contain asbestos. This is obviously a huge motivator to get rid of that old popcorn ceiling.

But there are other bonuses to replacing your popcorn ceiling as well.

Getting Rid of Asbestos

Getting rid of asbestos is the primary reason people remove their popcorn ceilings. Even though the use of asbestos was banned in the late 1970s, it was continuously used in popcorn ceiling mixtures for at least another few years. This means even up to the 1990s, a ceiling could have been made with asbestos.

Asbestos is hazardous to your health. If you inhale asbestos fibers, you could suffer damage to your lungs and even develop a respiratory disease. It is very dangerous, and if your popcorn ceiling has been damaged or is falling off due to moisture, it absolutely must be removed.

Better Lighting

Popcorn ceiling makes a room feel darker. It also makes a room feel cozy, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of natural lighting. The bumpy surface of the popcorn ceiling causes light to bounce off it and create shadows inside of any space. If you want a brighter and more inviting atmosphere, the popcorn ceiling has got to go.

Of course, you could always combat the shadows with better lighting inside the room. Table and floor lamps are best when dealing with a popcorn ceiling. But if you want full lighting, it’s time to ditch the old look and go with an ordinary painted ceiling.

More Space & More Modern

Not only does a popcorn ceiling make a room darker and more shadowy, but it also makes it seem smaller. By removing the popcorn ceiling and going with a modern color of paint, you will get more light, the room will appear larger, and the space won’t look so outdated.

This goes not only for popcorn ceiling but for any kind of textured ceiling. A fresh coat of paint on your ceiling will open up the space and bring you into the 21st century.

Less Maintenance

Popcorn ceilings are a huge hassle to maintain. They catch dust like crazy. If you don’t want a dusty ceiling full cobwebs, you need to ditch the texture and moved to smooth paint.

Instead of having to clean your ceiling every month with a feather duster, simply take off the popcorn texture and put on a coat of paint. You’ll save yourself tons of time and stress on maintenance. You also won’t risk dust constantly falling on your furniture or hanging in the air because it’s been stuck to the ceiling.

Also, popcorn ceiling won’t last forever. Even if you maintain it diligently, it will eventually start to disintegrate. When your popcorn ceiling does begin to disintegrate, and if it happens to be filled with asbestos, you are going to have toxic flecks falling from the ceiling onto your floors, into your hair, and maybe even into your lungs.

How to Hide a Popcorn Ceiling

If you’re not interested in removing the texture of your popcorn ceiling completely, you can go a different route and hide it. There are a few different methods for hiding popcorn ceiling instead of going through all the trouble of carving it off.

By hiding a popcorn ceiling that contains dangerous asbestos, you will essentially be containing the asbestos so that it’s not dangerous any longer. By hiding a popcorn ceiling, you’re also trapping the asbestos where it can’t get you.

Painting Over a Popcorn Ceiling

One of the easiest ways to hide a popcorn ceiling is by painting over it. Start by brushing all the dust off the ceiling with a brush or a feather duster. Once the dust is all gone, you can apply a special stain blocking sealing primer. This will prevent any stains from bleeding through the paint. Once the primer is dry, simply use a thick roller or even a paint sprayer to completely cover your popcorn ceiling.

The one thing you need to remember is that you need a significant amount of paint to fill all the grooves and bumps. The texture is incredibly uneven, so you need to fill all the spaces to create a smooth-looking ceiling. Even if the texture is ripe with asbestos, having a solid coat of paint over everything will keep the asbestos at bay.

Hiding Popcorn Ceiling with Tiles

If you want to truly get rid of the popcorn ceiling, try hiding it with specialized panels or tiles. You can actually install rigid foam tiles, additional drywall panels, or even thin wood planking over the texture. These panels are extremely light and can either be screwed through the popcorn texture or stuck to it using adhesive.

Another thing you can do that’s not quite so popular is install a drop ceiling. However, if you do this, you’re going to lose a significant amount of space, so it’s only recommended for ceilings that are at least eight feet. A drop ceiling is basically a new ceiling built just a few inches below the one that’s already there. You’ll need a bit of framing knowhow to complete this job properly.

Removing Your Popcorn Ceiling

The final option for dealing with an unwanted popcorn ceiling is to remove it altogether. If you don’t want to hide the ceiling and simply want it gone, you’re going to need to scrape the texture off the ceiling and start from scratch.

This can be a long and tedious process, and if there is asbestos involved, it can even be hazardous. To remove your popcorn ceiling, always check for asbestos first before you start work. The actual process of removing the popcorn ceiling is quite simple and can be done with a large putty knife and a bit of patience.

Do All Popcorn Ceilings Have Asbestos?

Not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos. You can still install a new popcorn ceiling that won’t have asbestos. Any popcorn ceilings installed after the 1990s are probably safe. However, if your home was built between the 1930s and the 1980s, there is a pretty solid chance that your ceiling contains asbestos.

The only way to know for sure is to check your ceiling for asbestos. This is as easy as hiring someone to come in and take a sample. If your ceiling does contain asbestos, it’s recommended that you replace it immediately.

Does Glitter Popcorn Ceiling Contain Asbestos?

Popcorn ceilings that have been painted or sprinkled with glitter have the same likelihood of containing asbestos as all other textured ceilings. Glitter ceilings are significantly less common than normal ones, but you still might find them in older houses.

What is glitter popcorn ceiling? Well, someone had the great idea of adding gold or silver metal flakes to an already textured ceiling, but it never really caught on. Considering how old most houses are that have glitter popcorn ceilings, you can bet the texture was probably made using asbestos materials.

Why is Popcorn Ceiling Bad?

Popcorn ceiling isn’t necessarily bad. Popcorn ceiling was actually very popular until people found out that the mixture contained asbestos fibers and was toxic. By the time homebuyers realized the dangers of popcorn ceiling, it didn’t matter that the use of asbestos had been banned. The stigma surrounding this type of ceiling was already there and its popularity declined steadily through the 1990s until it became outdated and unwanted.

Still, popcorn ceiling can be bad for a few reasons. It makes a room dark, it can be a hassle to maintain, and it has a certain retro look that a lot of people these days don’t appreciate.

On the other hand, popcorn ceiling is good for a few reasons. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to do, and it is great at blocking out noise. Popcorn ceiling works as a natural insulator, dampening sounds from the upper floors or from other rooms.

Final Thoughts

Removing popcorn ceiling can be a great idea. It’s an excellent way to open up a room, to bring in more light, and to update your home. When you remove the layer of texture from your ceiling, you can find anything from a totally normal layer of drywall to a busted and broken ceiling stained with years of cigarette smoke. It’s a bit of a gamble, but definitely a great investment in your home.


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  • 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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  • popcorn ceiling falling off
    Have you ever wondered what’s under popcorn ceiling? Underneath the popcorn-like texture you will find…
    Have you ever wondered what’s under popcorn ceiling? Underneath the popcorn-like texture you will find…
    Have you ever wondered what’s under popcorn ceiling? Underneath the popcorn-like texture you will find…
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