Can Popcorn Ceilings Be Removed After They Have Been Painted?

Updated on December 8, 2015

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.

Pump Sprayer

Pump sprayer to wet popcorn ceiling
Pump sprayer to wet popcorn ceiling

Removing Unpainted Popcorn Ceilings

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 so that it drapes the walls.

4. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Drywall Finisher Knife

Drywall knife to scrape popcorn ceiling
Drywall knife to scrape popcorn ceiling

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.

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.

8. 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.

9. If you are applying a new textured finish, such as stippling or knockdown, this sanding step may be skipped. But 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.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling That Has Been Painted

Don't despair, your popcorn ceilings can be scraped and brought up to date also. Begin by following steps 1) through 4) 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).

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.

Using a Sprayer and Scraper to Remove "Popcorn"

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        17 months 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

        val 

        2 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

        Christina 

        4 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

        Jeff 

        5 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 

        6 years ago from Edmonds,WA

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

      • RussellLHuey profile image

        RussellLHuey 

        6 years ago

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

      • AllSuretyBonds profile image

        AllSuretyBonds 

        7 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

        Eve 

        8 years ago

        Thank you! I would try that.

      • GoTo Gal profile imageAUTHOR

        GoTo Gal 

        8 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

        Eve 

        8 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 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        My husband has done this before. Great tips!

      • GoTo Gal profile imageAUTHOR

        GoTo Gal 

        8 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

        ConversantLeaders 

        8 years ago from Virtual USA

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

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)