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How to Cover a Popcorn Ceiling With Plaster

Virginia got rid of the popcorn on every ceiling in her house— about 2000 square feet of ceilings—with this plaster method.

Learn how to plaster over popcorn ceiling with this easy-to-follow guide that includes FAQs and photos.

Learn how to plaster over popcorn ceiling with this easy-to-follow guide that includes FAQs and photos.

How to Get Rid of an Ugly Popcorn Ceiling

Homeowners can cover over popcorn ceiling with plaster. I give step-by-step directions on how. I'm an over-50 female homeowner, and I managed to cover all the over 2000 square feet of popcorn ceiling in our house by myself. If I can do it, you can too.

Why Use This Method?

Popcorn ceilings are ugly–or at least unfashionable. They make a house look dated. We’ve wanted to get rid of ours ever since we moved into our 1972 home. How? Scraping off the popcorn and re-plastering is one way, but our popcorn ceiling is painted and scraping didn’t work. Besides, we were worried about asbestos.

The Idea: I had been thinking about trying to use plaster on our ceilings ever since I plastered over wallpaper in our bathrooms. I searched the Internet and found nothing about this method (which is why I decided to post this information for other people). Finally, I decided to try using plaster on the ceiling of our garage as a test. That went all right and the plaster stayed up, so next, I tried our smallest bathroom area (about 9 feet square).

I figured if it went wrong it wouldn't be too much of a problem to fix and that if it worked in this area, which had the most humidity in the house because it was a shower area with no windows, it would work anywhere. With trepidation, I put the plaster on and then waited. It worked beautifully!

The Results: It took a few days to dry from grey to white. After about two or three weeks, I painted it and waited a bit more to see if there would be any problems. I checked every day but there was no cracking or peeling, even though the shower was used by our four girls. That convinced me it would work and I started on the project of doing our whole house. Over time, I have covered about 2000 square feet of ceilings with this plaster method.

10 Years Later: I finished our ceilings over 10 years ago and now and we have had no problems with them. I have decided I preferred the white ceilings over beige or other colors, so I plan to repaint them, but that is the only maintenance I've had to do.

Before and After

Our original popcorn ceiling.

Our original popcorn ceiling.

Plastered ceiling (from a different part of the house).

Plastered ceiling (from a different part of the house).

Pros and Cons of Plastering Rather Than Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Pros of Plastering:

  • Less messy than removing the plaster.
  • You don't have to take furniture out of the room (just cover it with a tarp).
  • Can be done slowly and in stages (I worked while my kids were at school).
  • Inexpensive (under $50 of plaster for an 8 x 10 bedroom).
  • One person can do the job alone.
  • Different looks can be achieved depending on the amount of plaster applied and the angle of the plaster knife.
  • Hand-plastered ceilings give a home an upscale look.

Cons of Plastering:

  • Time-consuming job for one person.
  • Requires a lot of repetitive motion (I irritated my carpal tunnel symptoms and had to take breaks).
  • The hand-plastered look might not go with all home styles.

Tools and Materials

  1. Joint Compound (Pre-Mixed, All Purpose or Lightweight)
  2. 4 to 6-inch Drywall Joint Knife
  3. Tray or bucket
  4. Stepladder
  5. Plastic for covering floor and furniture
  6. Painter's tape or masking tape
  7. Paper Towels and Water (for clean-up)

How to Plaster Over Popcorn

1. Prepare the room: Cover furniture and floor with plastic cloths. No matter how careful you are, you are bound to drop some globs of plaster as you work. These can be wiped up easily but are messy.

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You don’t want to try to get them out of carpet or a couch, so cover up or move it out of the way. Take off the covers of any vents in the room. This can be a good time to spray paint these and make them look new before you put them back.

2. Prepare your materials: Put your joint compound in a plastering tray or small bucket. Start in a corner of the room. Dip your knife into the joint compound and lift up a chunk (about ½ a cup). Note: You might want to practice on a board first before you start on the ceiling.

3. Get started plastering: Starting at the least noticed edge of the ceiling (for example, near the door), press the compound down and then drag the knife across the ceiling at about a 45-degree angle. Press enough compound in to cover the popcorn. Lift the knife and keep on pressing the compound down across the ceiling until it is all about a ¼ inch thick.

Some of the plaster may drop across the sides and fall (which is why you needed to cover the floor!). As you do this more, you will get better at knowing how to move the knife to catch the dropping compound.