How to Remove Unpainted and Painted Popcorn Ceilings

Updated on April 16, 2019
GoTo Gal profile image

I love using my years of experience operating a small construction company to help guide people in completing their own DIY home projects.

Learn how to remove popcorn ceiling in the simplest and least expensive way possible!
Learn how to remove popcorn ceiling in the simplest and least expensive way possible!

Yes, popcorn ceilings can be removed after they have been painted. Removing the ceiling is much easier if it has never been painted, but it can be removed either way. Here are a few simple steps to quick and easy removal.

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Remove all furniture from the work area.
  2. Roll out plastic to cover the floor.
  3. Use painter's tape to tape more plastic along the edge of the ceiling.
  4. Use either tape or spray adhesive to attach the wall plastic to the floor.
  5. Place water in a spray container.
  6. Use a finisher's knife to scrape off the texture.
  7. Take time to clean up and let the ceiling dry out.
  8. Place some spackle on any damaged areas.
  9. Use a sanding pole to smooth any rough spots.

Step 1: Remove All Furniture From the Work Area

When you begin the process of removing popcorn ceilings, make sure you remove all furniture from the room. The last thing you want is paint (and possibly asbestos) landing all over your furniture. You'll also want plenty of space. This will make the process go smoother.

Step 2: Roll Out Plastic to Cover the Floor

You don't want your floor getting dirty while removing your popcorn ceiling. Putting down a plastic cover will protect your floors and make clean up easier. You also do not want to breathe in any of the resulting debris.

Step 3: Use Painter's Tape to Tape More Plastic Along the Edge

You'll want to protect your walls by letting plastic drape the walls.

Step 4: Use Either Tape or Spray Adhesive

Use either tape or spray adhesive to attach the wall plastic to the floor plastic. You are basically turning your room into a pool liner. Be sure to wrap any ceiling fans or light fixtures you don't want to clean later.

Step 5: Place Water in a Spray Container

You can use small spray bottles, but the simplest solution is a pump sprayer (see picture) which you can find at your local home improvement store. Spray an area of the ceiling until you see the popcorn turn a dull gray color. If the popcorn texture does not change colors, your ceiling has been painted. This requires addition steps to remove.

Step 6: Use a Finisher's Knife

Any width will do, but keep in mind that the wider the knife, the more area you cover with each scrape. Hold the knife flat against the ceiling and push away from you. Be careful not to gouge the drywall.

Step 7: Take Time to Clean Up and Let the Ceiling Dry Out

Simply pull the plastic off of each wall and roll the edges up as you head towards the door. By the time you get to the door, you should have a big ball of plastic and a clean room. Turn on ceiling fans or lights and let the ceiling have a few hours to dry.

Step 8: Place Some Spackle

If you made any gouges in the drywall as you were scraping, use a sanding sponge to sand the area lightly. Place some spackle (also known as drywall mud or drywall compound) on the damaged areas, and feather it out smooth with a finisher's knife. Take a look at your ceiling and touch up any uneven areas, such as nail heads or seams, that may need an extra coat of mud. Let dry, sand, and repeat if necessary.

Step 9: Use a Sanding Pole

If you are applying a new textured finish, such as stippling or knockdown, this sanding step may be skipped. Otherwise, using a sanding pole and some 120 grit sanding paper, lightly sand your entire ceiling for any rough spots. Your ceiling is now ready to paint.

Safety first! Popcorn ceilings built before 1978 may contain asbestos. If you are concerned about asbestos, have your ceiling tested before proceeding. Thoroughly wetting the popcorn should help keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. Make sure you wear an appropriate dust mask and safety glasses.

Tools for Removing Popcorn Ceiling

Average Price
Plastic cover/sheet
Finisher's knife
Sanding sponge
Painter's Tape
Spray Adhesive

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling That Has Been Painted

Don't despair, your painted popcorn ceilings can be scraped and brought up to date also. Begin by following steps one through four listed above.

There are a few things you can try as you go through the rest of the process:

  • Mix one part vinegar to ten parts water and spray it on the ceiling. The vinegar should help break down the paint.
  • Use a large pole-type scraper and more muscle. Wet the ceiling, scrape as much as possible, and then wet and scrape again. Only the areas where the liquid has penetrated through the paint will scrape away easily.
  • Use wallpaper stripper or other paint strippers (though some are quite toxic).

Another safety tip! As the "popcorn" begins to fall, the plastic may become slippery. Use rolled-out rosin paper if you need help keeping your balance.

Extra Tools for a Painted Popcorn Ceiling

Average Price
Spray bottle
Pole scraper

What Is the Point of Popcorn Ceiling?

It was standard for bedroom and residential hallway ceilings because of its bright, white appearance, ability to hide imperfections, and acoustics. However, when asbestos was banned in ceiling treatments by the Clean Air Act of 1978 in the United States, popcorn ceilings fell out of favor in much of the country. Suddenly, there was pressure to fix damaged areas and remove asbestos, rather than just covering up the problem.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Popcorn Ceiling?

In general, contractors charge per square foot for removal of popcorn ceilings. On average, the cost is between $1 per square foot and $2 per square foot. The average homeowner spends around $1,565 to remove the texture from the ceiling.

Why You Should Remove It Yourself

The removal process isn't very difficult and removing the popcorn texture yourself will cost only a fraction of the price of hiring a contractor. However, if there is any danger from asbestos, for your own safety., the area should be removed by a contractor.

If All Else Fails

If all else fails, or you are concerned about asbestos in the popcorn, laminate over the existing popcorn with a 1/4" layer of new drywall, or some decorative 2 x 2 ceiling panels from Armstrong or USG.

Should You Buy a Home With a Popcorn Ceiling?

Whether or not you buy a house with popcorn ceiling really depends on your tastes and the cost of the home. Removing popcorn can be expensive through an outside source. These ceilings run the risk of containing asbestos, but this is a risk associated with all older homes. It's likely that a home with popcorn ceiling is safe, but the bumps can be a turn off when decorating.

Testing a Popcorn Ceiling for Asbestos

Unfortunately, you can't tell if a ceiling contains asbestos unless you test it. You can't tell by looking at it with your naked eye. Identification requires a microscope and a trained eye. You will need to obtain a sample of the ceiling and send that sample to a laboratory. It might cost you $50 or so to get the sample tested.

  • Wear a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) mask for protection
  • Wear gloves to avoid contact with the sample.
  • Fill a spray bottle with a teaspoon of soap and 16 ounces of water.
  • Spray a small area to dampen the ceiling.
  • Use a sharp razor-blade knife, cut out a sample and seal it in the container.
  • Mail your sample to the lab and wait about a week for the results.

Is It Dangerous to Have Popcorn Ceiling?

Whether or not it's dangerous to have popcorn ceiling depends on if the popcorn is simply covering up asbestos. Inhaled in large quantities, asbestos fibers can cause lung disease, scarring of the lungs and lung cancer. However, not all popcorn ceilings contain asbestos. Moreover, if left undisturbed or contained, asbestos is not dangerous, but many people still don't want it present in their home.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        John McQ 

        21 months ago from Tampa

        Don't even think about removing a popcorn ceiling yourself, call a pro call -

      • profile image

        3 years ago

        "If you are concerned about asbestos"? Holy shit! Anyone not concerned about asbestos is an idiot, putting themselves, their family, and future residents of the property at serious risk of an aggressive, deadly disease. This site is promoting casual DIY in a situation where professional asbestos abatement should be a serious consideration.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        any idea how to remove popcorn ceiling that was primed with an oil based paint? Does the vinegar and water solution work on it?

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        this is great info-i'm in the middle of doing a ceiling that hasn't been painted-and i was wondering how hard it is going to be to do the ones that have been painted; sigh... i have to say it has been, (knock on wood), really easier than i thought it would be to do-i'm using a method i saw during my searches-using a spray bottle, wallpaper scraper, and a paint roller pan-holding it up as i scrape/what doesn't go in my eyes-pretty much has went in the pan!!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        I scraped before I applied the water to knock down the bumps then I soaked it down with the water I waited about 10 min. After some vigorous scraping I got it down to the sheet rock

      • Charles Webb-it profile image

        Charles Webb-it 

        8 years ago from Edmonds,WA

        awesome video good! not so much. LOL just kidding thanks fr the upload

      • RussellLHuey profile image


        8 years ago

        New to me that water and vinegar are useful here.Great information.

      • AllSuretyBonds profile image


        9 years ago

        Great Hub. I agree that removing popcorn ceilings is much easier if it hasn't been painted before. Your steps that you have mentioned are very organized and easy to follow.

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        Thank you! I would try that.

      • GoTo Gal profile imageAUTHOR

        GoTo Gal 

        10 years ago from South Carolina

        Eve, I just finished a small ceiling that had been painted and wouldn't budge. I used a tool called a 5 in 1, (look in the paint department) if your ceiling is a large one I recommend a flat head shovel or spade to scrape. Use the scraper to knock the popcorn bumps off. Then spray with water. Knocking the bumps off will allow the water mixture to penetrate underneath the texture. Scrape again, re-wet and keep scraping.

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        I removed all the popcorn in the 2nd floor of my house but in the first one it looks like it has been painted; I have tried the wet-wait-scrape method but doesn't work, I tried it with vinegar, another time with soap and no results!

        Any idea?

      • habee profile image

        Holle Abee 

        10 years ago from Georgia

        My husband has done this before. Great tips!

      • GoTo Gal profile imageAUTHOR

        GoTo Gal 

        10 years ago from South Carolina

        You will definitely feel it in your biceps and your neck. Also the up and down the ladder is a great workout for the thighs and buns.

      • ConversantLeaders profile image


        10 years ago from Virtual USA

        Did not realize vinegar and water was so effective. Looks like this would also be an effective workout.


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