Removing Popcorn Ceilings

One of the first things I knew I wanted to tackle on this house was the popcorn texture on the ceilings throughout the house. Seriously folks, what the heck were they thinking? Who thought popcorn ceilings were cool? Oh ya….the 80’s did.

This stuff is bad news for home owners. Popcorn ceilings darken rooms, add shadows, collect cobwebs and dust like you wouldn’t believe, and are pretty much all around anything but pleasant to have around. And hey, you have the added joy of knowing that if your home is older, you may also have the added possibility of asbestos making up part of your popcorn ceiling.

So what’s a girl to do?

At first, I considered hiring a company to remove my popcorn ceiling. But after the huge sticker shock of that (thousands for just downstairs), I decided to see if it was something I could tackle myself. Happily, I found many videos that showed other people removing theirs so thought I would give it a shot.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Testing for Asbestos

I can’t even begin to talk about this unless I at least give you a fair warning that before you even consider taking yours down that you get a sample kit from Amazon and send in a sample to test for asbestos. It’s so easy and very inexpensive to do, you have no excuse not to unless you know without a doubt that you don’t have it in your ceiling. I tend to believe in erring on the side of caution, so why not.

Once you’ve got the all clear from that, you’re good to go. Now let me blow your mind on just how freaking simple this was.

Tools Needed:

Most of the items above you can get from your local Home Depot or Lowes, but hey I’m an online shopping girl, so I’ll give the Amazon links when I can.

If you need to protect your walls and floors, you will want to start at the seam of the wall and ceiling and tape up the plastic sheeting along the walls and the floor. This will make cleanup a breeze and you can just roll it all up when you’re done. As for me, we were removing the carpet and painting anyway, so we didn’t do any taping. Mess everywhere but easy cleanup with the carpet removal.

Fill your garden sprayer with water and pump it until it’s got plenty of pressure built up. I read some other tutorials that said you needed warm water, but mine was cold and didn’t seem to have an issue.

Spray the ceiling pretty generously. No really…spray it generously. If you don’t use enough water, it won’t soften enough and will be harder to remove. Let it soak for about 5-10 minutes to let it really absorb the water.

Removing popcorn ceiling

Test a small area before starting to make sure it’s wet enough and then gently run your scraper along the ceiling being careful not to damage the drywall under it. If you got it wet enough, it will come off like butter. Be careful around the edges. They are taped and you will rip the tape badly if you aren’t careful. I patched a lot of this in the first room before I learned my lesson. Don’t  be me!

Removing popcorn ceiling

I am here to tell you, as this stuff comes down, it’s like heaven. The difference, even unpainted and unfinished is so significant. It’s a beautiful thing to see it gone.

After all the popcorn ceiling is removed, take the rest of the day off and relax. Let it dry completely before moving on to patching and sanding.

Before bothering with sanding, go ahead and fix any marks you have may have made in the removal or other issues you might find. Big marks and spots of damage are best just to smooth out with some drywall mud up front. After doing that you’re ready to sand.

Popeye ArmsUse a sander on a pole to smooth your ceilings. It’s so much easier than climbing up and down a ladder constantly. You may need to get up there and really dig in on some heavy sanding spots but for the overall area, the pole works perfect. No matter which option you go with…expect Popeye the Sailor arms at the end of this.

I was lucky that when I took my popcorn ceiling down, whoever built my house wasn’t completely lazy. For the most part it was taped correctly and fairly patched and sanded properly. We only had to do a bit of light sanding and minor patching, except one area that had previous water damage that we decided to cut out and replace the drywall.

While working on sanding, it’s going to be messy. I had so much dust in my hair, I looked like an old lady. Yes, I’m pretty sure I know what I will look like when I’m 80 years old now. Cool right? No, not cool.

While you may think you’re too cool to wear a face mask or maybe you’re just doing a small area and don’t think it’s a big deal, I still suggest it. Once you start sanding with the pole extension, it’s going to get dusty. It’s going to get in your eyes as it falls and in your lungs. Maybe it’s not asbestos but even drywall sand isn’t good to breathe. See this face below…that’s the face of someone happy to have had a face mask on and protective eyewear supplied by his momma.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Once you’re happy with the smooth ceiling and have given it a good wipe down with a handheld broom, it’s time to paint. Oh yes, this is where the sparkle starts to happen. You’re going to want to choose a primer and paint separately or go with an all in one. I used Zinsser Paint and Primer Ceiling Paint and it fit the bill perfectly.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal

While it claims to be one-coat coverage, I didn’t find that to be the case. Okay, so I’m picky. After one coat my family all said it was fine, but I could see spots where it wasn’t and I’m a perfectionist. It would have bugged me every day for the rest of my life, so I went ahead and did 2 coats.

The paint we used was thick and application was super easy because it goes on a very faint pink color and dries white. When it comes time for the second coat, you’ll see why this is so awesome. With the pink you know what areas you’ve gone over and which areas you haven’t. Working with white is not like other colors. It’s really hard to tell where you’ve been.

Once the paint dries, it’s time to install your lights and take a step back and enjoy your handy work. Excellent job!


Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.