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Why is Popcorn Ceiling a Thing? Everything You Need to Know

a-new-popcorn-ceiling
A New Popcorn Ceiling

If you live in an old house and have found yourself sitting on your couch, staring up at your popcorn ceiling and wondering just why in the world it’s there, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to learn why popcorn ceiling is a thing, just who invented this stuff in the first place, and why people stopped using it.

We’re also going to take a look at some important information regarding popcorn ceilings, what the benefits of adding a popcorn ceiling to your house are, and the differences between popcorn ceiling and smooth ceiling.

What is Popcorn Ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling is a type of finishing material used on the ceilings of bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, and basements. The finishing material used is generally some kind of Styrofoam, polystyrene, or other cardboard-related material. Sometimes, the popcorn mixture is a hodgepodge of different ingredients.

This is what a popcorn ceiling is made out of. The popcorn ceiling mixture is then sprayed onto a ceiling, where it dries and takes on a rugged, rough, and popcorn-like texture. Popcorn ceiling is a replacement for a normal, painted ceiling with its own pros and cons.

Why is Popcorn Ceiling a Thing?

Popcorn ceiling is a thing because in the early 20th century, it seemed like a good idea. Popcorn ceiling can also be called stucco ceiling, and you’ve probably noticed that looks exactly the same as the stucco finish found on the outside of a lot of old houses.

Popcorn ceiling appeared in the late 1930s but reached its peak in the 1970s. It was handy as a way to cover up poorly crafted ceilings, as well as blemishes, chips, and holes that can’t be covered with paint. It’s also a thing because it was far more inexpensive than painting a ceiling the normal way.

Popcorn ceiling also helped to mute noises. It has great sound-dampening properties. Once it became all the rage, it was really hard to get rid of. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that it was seen as outdated.

Why Was Popcorn Ceiling Invented?

Popcorn ceiling was invented as a way to keep noise down, to cover up seams, tape marks, and other ugly markings on wallboard ceilings, and as a cost-effective method of finishing ceilings inside houses.

Why Don’t People Use Popcorn Ceiling Anymore?

The main reason people stopped using popcorn ceilings is that health concerns rose over asbestos. Up until 1977, a lot of popcorn ceiling mixtures contained asbestos. This is because a lot of the stuff was made out of chalk and wallboard compound and white asbestos fibers. Even after asbestos was banned, there were still health concerns over it being inside of new mixtures, and a gradual decline in use turned into a complete shun of popcorn ceilings.

Which is Better: Popcorn Ceiling vs Smooth Ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings are great for a few things. They’re cheaper to make, they dampen sound better, they look nostalgic, and they add some character to a room. Popcorn ceilings are faster to put up, they’re a bit easier to replace, and they’re more fun to install.

On the other hand, you can always make a smooth ceiling too. A smooth ceiling makes any room appear a lot more elegant. A smooth ceiling also works to reflect natural light, making your house brighter on sunny days. Then you have the illusion effect, in which a smooth ceiling raises the height of the room. It doesn’t physically make the room taller, but it does make rooms appear more spacious.

In the end, it’s really going to be your choice whether you prefer popcorn ceiling or smooth ceiling. If you don’t mind your house looking a bit retro, or if you’re actually into the retro trend, popcorn ceiling is definitely the way to go. If you prefer living in a space that more closely resembles a dungeon and is darker and quieter, a popcorn ceiling might be better for you.

Is Popcorn Ceiling Easy to Do?

The actual painting process is easier when applying any textured ceiling. Popcorn ceiling doesn’t involve nearly as much preparation as a smooth ceiling does. The only thing you really need to do is clean and prime your ceiling before applying the popcorn texture. Plus, you can purchase the popcorn texture as a dry mixture and then mix it yourself using water.

The only tools you need for applying a popcorn ceiling are a hopper gun and a compressor. You can use an ordinary compressor or you can rent one. Just remember that you will need to use more than one coat to get the ideal texture and for the popcorn ceiling to last through the years.

On another note, you always want to make sure that you wait at least one night between coats, otherwise spraying a thick coat onto a coat that hasn’t dried yet could pull both of them off of the ceiling and give you more work to do.

Is a Popcorn Ceiling Easier than Painting?

Unlike installing a popcorn ceiling, a smooth ceiling requires loads of prep work. All cracks, holes, and minor blemishes need to be fixed or filled before you can even begin to touch the ceiling. You also need to sand your ceiling, you need to use a base coat to cover all the repairs, then you need to wait until the base coat is dry to apply the skim coat. This of course is a thin coat of plaster.

The final step when creating a smooth ceiling is to apply your chosen color. At the end of the day, it takes significantly more time to go this route. And besides, it’s definitely a lot more fun spraying your ceiling with the popcorn mixture rather than breaking your back using a paintbrush and paint roller.

How to Repair a Popcorn Ceiling

The first thing you should know is that popcorn ceilings can indeed be repaired. In fact, it’s actually easier to repair a popcorn ceiling than it is to repair a painted ceiling.

The only issue with a popcorn ceiling is that it’s a bit technical. If you happen to get a hole in your popcorn ceiling, it’s not like you can just cover it up with paint. If there’s a big chunk of popcorn missing from your ceiling, your whole room is going to look ridiculous.

If a hole does emerge in your popcorn ceiling, there could be a problem that has nothing to do with the textured surface at all. The problem could be above your ceiling. This is something you’ll need to check before you start repairing. The problem could be much bigger than just a bit of crumbling popcorn.

To repair your popcorn ceiling, follow these steps:

The first thing to do is to scrape the damaged area. You want to create a small square about an inch beyond where the damage has occurred. After this, you’ll need to sand down the area to make it smooth like it was before you put the popcorn ceiling on in the first place.

Once you have sanded the ceiling, give it a quick wipe with a damp cloth. You then need to apply stain blocker. This will help keep your ceiling in good shape and prevent the popcorn ceiling from falling apart again. After all this is done, leave the ceiling for a night and let it dry.

The next step is to patch up your popcorn ceiling. You can always purchase a patch product from your local hardware store. When applying, always be sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, you should only apply a single coat at a time. Be sure that the first coat has dried completely before adding a second coat.

But here’s the real bummer about patching a popcorn ceiling. Even if you do a marvelous job of fixing it, it’s probably never going to look the same again. Even if it does kind of match, you’ll always be able to see the little patch that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of your ceiling. This can be a huge drag every time you walk into the room.

How to Maintain a Popcorn Ceiling

Maintenance is critical when you have a popcorn ceiling. A popcorn ceiling is going to be difficult to maintain because of its rough texture. Not to mention that foreign objects like to attach themselves to the bumps on the ceiling and the crevices, making it a huge pain to take care of.

The most notorious things that get stuck to a popcorn ceiling include cobwebs and dust. Spiders absolutely love crawling around on the bumpy ceiling and they love making their webs up there. And because of all the uneven crevices, dirt and dust easily get stuck on your ceiling, making your room pretty dirty.

One of the easiest ways to clean your popcorn ceiling is with a feather duster. You literally have to dust your ceiling to keep it clean and this is a huge deal breaker for some people. Also, you can attach the brush to your vacuum and vacuum all the dirt and debris off your popcorn ceiling. This can be a huge pain in the neck.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t clean your popcorn ceiling with a cloth or towel, and you shouldn’t rub it very hard, otherwise the texture can crack and fall off and then you have a whole different problem on your hands.

Final Thoughts

Popcorn ceilings can be great. They look cool, they’re reminiscent of an older time, they’re easy to apply, and they don’t cost a fortune. However, they can be troublesome to repair, they make rooms feel smaller and more cramped, and they aren’t nearly as elegant as a smooth, painted ceiling.

Plus, smooth ceilings are significantly easier to clean. Smooth ceilings are less attractive to spiders. Dust and dirt don’t get stuck on them. The paint itself is specially designed to be resistant to moisture, meaning it’s going to last longer.

In the end, popcorn ceilings can be fun and useful, but in modern times, the smooth ceiling is really the way to go.

Resources:

What Is The Point Of Popcorn Ceiling?

Vermiculite ceiling (popcorn ceiling)

Popcorn vs Smooth Ceiling – Pros, Cons, Comparisons and Costs

Popcorn ceiling – Wikipedia

  • 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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