How to Remove Unpainted and Painted Popcorn Ceilings
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
- Remove all furniture from the work area.
- Roll out plastic to cover the floor.
- Use painter's tape to tape more plastic along the edge of the ceiling.
- Use either tape or spray adhesive to attach the wall plastic to the floor.
- Place water in a spray container.
- Use a finisher's knife to scrape off the texture.
- Take time to clean up and let the ceiling dry out.
- Place some spackle on any damaged areas.
- 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
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
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.