Popcorn belongs in a movie theatre bucket drenched in butter, not on a ceiling. Cottage Cheese? Well let’s just say it’s something I never want to see in large quantities when I look up. Whoever came up with the idea of spray-on textured ceilings was a lazy contractor…and the marketing guru that decided to pass the product off for its acoustic properties was a creative genius. Unless you have a large empty room with hard floors, there is no need for an “acoustic” ceiling…and in that case you should just buy a rug and some soft furniture and get over it. Somehow though, this bumpy, crumbly, nasty substance was applied to every ceiling in the house we just bought. All my wife and I can figure is that people must have thought this stuff was really groovy in the 70s to want to apply it to a bathroom and a kitchen. I can just imagine how much cooking steam and pee vapors have been absorbed into those curds. MMMmmm…
As you can probably guess by now, Ames and I would eradicate the entire world of popcorn ceilings if we could. For now though, we’re just planning on tackling the entire house. We only moved in about two weeks ago, but we’ve already cleared the curds from the office, guest bedroom and our master bedroom. Through our experiences so far, and the little bit of preparatory research we did before getting started, I think we’ve got a pretty good method established for removing the corn.
Note: Asbestos was used in some sprayed coatings for ceilings from 1935-1978 and can cause Mesothelioma & Asbestosis. It’s a good idea to have a sample tested by an NVLAP approved testing center before getting started.
- Contractors/Masking Paper
- Pump Sprayer
- Sanding Respirator Masks
- Safety Goggles
- Wall Scraper or Trowel
- Joint Compound or Drywall Patch
- Putty Knife
- Pole Sander and Sanding Screen
Remove all furniture from the room and lay down the Contractors/Masking Paper being sure to overlap each strip by 4-5 inches. This will allow for easier cleanup later. Turn off the breaker to the room and remove all ceiling light and fan fixtures.
Using a pump sprayer, wet a 5-6 foot square section of popcorn being careful not to get too much water on the walls. Wait a couple minutes before getting started to allow the water to soak into the textured ceiling.
Using a wall scraper or trowel (non-serated side), start scraping off the texture. It should come off in sheets, although on a ceiling where the there is a lot of patching and joint compound, this will not be quite as easy. In our guest bedroom (which we tackled last weekend), the ceiling under the popcorn was literally covered in joint compound, tape, and drywall patches…which can make this part of the job a nightmare.
Done with that section already? Time to wet another section, and start the process again…and again, until it’s done.
Once most of the texture had been scraped down to the joint compound and wallboard, you’ll want to use a pole sander to knock down the rough spots in the ceiling. Be sure to sand the entire surface, getting it as smooth as possible.
In my opinion, this is the hardest and messiest part of the whole process…unless you have a nightmare ceiling like our guest bedroom. In that case, it parallels the scraping process.
Once you’re done sanding (and the dust has settled), you’ll want to come back with joint compound and a putty knife to fill in any gouges, rough spots, and nail holes that might have opened up during the scraping and sanding. Let those patches dry for at least 30 minutes, and then give them a light sanding again with the pole sander to ensure that you have a smooth surface to paint later.
That’s it! Isn’t it beautiful?…oh wait…cleanup. As you can see, when you’re done, you basically have your entire ceiling…on the floor.
The Contractors Paper is a real time saver at this point if you’ve done it right. You just roll it up tight and put it in a garbage bag. We found that about 3 tight rolls will fit in a standard garbage bag.
Here’s what the same corner of the master bedroom looked like after a couple coats of paint on the ceiling and the walls. Ahh…smooth ceilings. Perhaps it isn’t worth the effort for some, but as much as Amy and I hate popcorn ceilings, it was worth it.
Update: There is a LOT of information to be learned from the comments on this post, and while reading all of the comments would be great…it is a lot of reading. To help those of you coming to this resource for the first time, I’ve marked some of the more helpful comments with a little thumbs up symbol. It brightens my day to hear that I’ve helped someone remove another popcorn ceiling from the earth, but it makes me even happier to see those people passing on their tips and tricks to future visitors. This post wouldn’t be the same without your information. Thanks to all of you and best of luck! -Jason