Popcorn Ceiling Removal

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.

Materials Needed:

  • 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
  • Ladder

Getting Started

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.

Getting Messy

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

201 comments on “Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Justin P. says:

> I can just imagine how much cooking steam and pee
> vapors have been absorbed into those curds

Dude, that is just gross. Seriously though, you forgot to mention poopoo vapors.

Whatever you do with your ceilings/floors/walls/cabinets, somebody (new home owner or renter) will come along in 40-50 years and say “WTF is this crap, these people must have been insane!”. Guaranteed.

Ray says:

I too hate popcorn ceilings but Amy and I just didn’t bother taking it off any of our ceilings. Could be because she was pregnant when we moved! That and the fact that we immediately started removing hideous, flowery wallpaper from the kitchen and guest bathroom. I love that picture of you absolutely covered in dust. Fond memories from sanding the bathroom… (Whatever!) And what are those unexplained marks on Amy’s legs in the second to last picture? Beating your wife? Do I need to report you? 🙂

If it weren’t for our two girls in the house, I’d start working on removing the popcorn from our living room ceiling. I have hope! It can be done! But it’s a tall ceiling and I’m entirely sure how to go about it besides working from a ladder. Isn’t your living room ceiling tall too? How’d you do it?

Actually Ray, we’ve found that “flowery wallpaper” is much more difficult to tackle than scraping popcorn. We’ve heard all the tips and tricks: use a scorer, fabric softener and/or detergent to loosen the glue…it’s still a pain in the butt. Amy’s been working on de-wallpapering the bathroom during this last week before school started.

We definitely had to use a ladder to work on the popcorn. In all of the pictures where we’re close the the ceiling, we’re on a ladder…which is where the marks on Amy’s legs came from. The aluminum on the ladder seems to rub off on you when it gets wet.

As far as the living room ceiling goes… We really want to remove the popcorn there too, but I’m sure we’re going to need to rent some scaffolding to get up that high. I wonder how much THAT is going to cost.

Ray says:

I wish I had known earlier that you were struggling with the wallpaper. I got a very handy tip from friends of ours that lived down the street from where we were moving in: warm water and vinegar. Just mix the two together in equal amounts. Voila! Instant wallpaper remover that beats the pants off all the other solvents, gels, etc. that you can buy. Trust me. Amy and I know… Sometimes you end up having to peel the top layer of wallpaper off first, leaving the paper backing to be sprayed again. Once it’s good and soaked in water/vinegar, it’s relatively easy to peel it off the wall as if it were never glued on. Yeah, you have to deal with the odor while you’re spraying, but isn’t that better than scoring and ripping, tearing the drywall, patching, then sanding? 🙂

mary says:

Hey jason, i’m scraping the popcorn off my kitchen ceiling at this very moment! What about the areas with lots of tape and joint compound (like your guest room)? How did you prepare those thick areas for painting?

thanks, mary

For most of the ceilings we’ve done so far, the joint compound and taping have been restricted to the joints of the drywall. In the guest bedroom they had done some patching and the joint compound was EVERYWHERE. Those areas are the worst…for our guest room it required a lot of sanding and spackling. We’re planning on tacking our kitchen soon too. Hopefully it’s not as bad as the guest bedroom was.

christy says:

Hi Jason, I found you on google (cool) when I typed in ‘Popcorn Ceiling Orlando’. I just bought a house in Orlando and need to get that stuff off of the ceilings! My husband is trying to talk me into doing it ourselves, so I sent him your story. I will let you know who we hire!:) Thanks for sharing!

That’s funny! Well, we’re a little too far away from Orlando to hire, but good luck! 🙂

Julie says:

I found a lot of good info. on this site! Thanks! I do have a question for you though. Some of the other sites I visited talked about the “popcorn” spray having asbestos in it. Did you guys send some of yours off to have it tested?

George says:

I also have tons of the dreaded popcorn. I want a knockdown texture instead, so I thought “why not just texture over the existing popcorn and save a few dozen steps?” So…I’ve embarked upon manually applying joint compound over the popcorn and I’ve been having great success. It’s a little tedious, but it’s a LOT cleaner than scraping. My house is old enough to have the asbestos, and the popcorn has been painted making removal especially tough (and dusty).

I did talk about asbestos testing. It’s the third paragraph in italics. To answer your questions, we didn’t have our ceilings tested. Our house was built around the time those materials were banned, so we took the risk of assuming we would be OK to remove it ourselves. I do not recommend assuming anything but the worst. Hypocritically speaking, get it tested.

George: That’s interesting about doing a knockdown over the popcorn. After all the work we did in our guest bedroom, we may end up doing a knockdown texture over the ceiling there because it’s still not as smooth as we’d like it to be.

Tony Nicholson says:

and to think realestate people proudly display these crappy looking ceilings as an asset to the house. Good on you two for tackling it and going on to inspire us. however was the barff on your ceiling painted? i understand that it is almost impossible to remove if painted. another thing we discovered when building a previous house was the drywalling cost for smooth ceilings comes to about a third more and well worth it. a good realestate person will admit that it does increase the value of the house. the reason so many houses from the 70’s have popcorn ceiling is that the drywallers did’nt take the time to learn to tape and join a smooth ceilling. Hence the barff gun. regards T

Elizabeth says:

Shop-Vac Scraper Trick

My hubby and I just removed that ‘Oh so great late night snack’ from the celings in our old master bedroom, the hallway and living/dining rooms. Here’s a tip for you crafty people out there: we jerry-rigged (sp?) our shop vac by taping the scraper to the handle of a long shop broom, then taped that to the straight tube piece of the vac with the attatchment creating an “instant” cleanup when removing the popcorn. No need for a ladder on regular celing height and no dust! We had virtually no mess on the floor and did the whole project in 1/2 the time. Next up… get rid of that wallpaper from the late 70’s. Thanks for the water/vinegar tip – we’re going to try it.

lisa says:

Hey all,
Very good information, were about to start this process ourselves. But, I know that the popcorn that is on the ceiling now was mixed into the paint before it was sprayed on. Does anyone have any hints about that? The vinegar and water really works. I’ve done it. I was wondering about the marks on Amy’s legs myself. LOL glad to find out it was the ladder.

Just can’t wait for all the fun I’m headed for this week.

George says:

Scraping Alternatives

Hi, this is an update to my 8/29/05 post, where I talked about putting joint compound over existing popcorn and creating a knockdown effect next. I wanted to provide some more info on my experience to help you decide if this is the route you should go:

The Good:
– works well on painted popcorn that’s stuck tight to the ceiling (and is really tough to remove by scraping). Popcorn like this should provide a terrific bond for the the joint compound if the popcorn is not flaky. I’ve seen popcorn that was like little styrofoam balls loosley attached to the ceiling — I can’t see any alternative to scraping this stuff off.
-fewer steps than the traditional wettin/scraping method: apply liberal amounts of joint compound with trowel to cover popcorn, use a clean hock (the wood or metal square thing that holds joint compound, similar to an artist palette), press it against the ceiling and pull it back off. The suction of the hock against the ceiling results in a texture like tiny icicles or stalactites. Using a wide taping knife, held almost parallel to the ceiling gently “knock down” the wet joint compound. If you mess up, just repeat until you get the texture you want.

The Bad:
– This process could be rather tedious on large rooms. I started on a hallway, and thought “no problem – I can do the whole house like this.” Maybe not…takes a lot of effort to fill in all the low spots in the popcorn. If you’re not careful, you get swiss cheese that requires filling later.

The Ugly: The joint compound wets the underlying popcorn. Too much wetting and manipulation of the compound can cause “pop-outs” where silver dollar sized areas of the popcorn will come loose, requiring filling and some foul language. So…be careful esp. if the popocorn is flaky to begin with.

The Alternative: Since then, I bought one of those $45 texturing guns and a gallon of premixed compound from the “orange” store that hooks up to a compressor or HVLP sprayer, like I already have. I did this to see if I was really saving any effort so I went to work in the master br closet: mask the walls, cover the floor, wet the ceiling, scrape, prime, spray with texture mat’l, knockdown with wide blade, prime again, final paint & cleanup. Obviously, no picnic either. The result was nice, but a little plainer than my hallway method. I have another large closet where I can experiment with my original method again.

Recommendation: Try this method in a closet or small hallway first. You can achive very interesting, hand-crafted textures. I hope this info helps.

Brian says:

I just finished the sanding process that comes after scraping down the popcorn texture. The scraping was a pain in the butt, but I’m sure it’ll be much nicer after the popcorn is removed. My next idea is to attempt to convert all of the corners to those rounded looking corners that are becoming popular. Not sure exactly how to go about this. To cover the ceiling formerly known as popcorn in the basement I’m renting a texture sprayer from Home Depot. I think it was around 60 bucks for 4 hours.

Marsha says:

I have just finished painting 5 rooms of popcorn. This house was built in 1985.I have learned the hard way. I should have primed the ceilings first but I didn’t. I just rolled the paint on pretty heavy and luckly 3 rooms are fine but the other 2 which is the larger 2 are a mess. It looks like it’s all going to fall off the ceiling. What can I do to touch up this mess?

Hey Marsha, that’s one of the major pains with popcorn ceilings, patching them once they’re damaged. Personally, I would say to scrape it all off…but if you’ve read the post, you know I hate popcorn ceilings. If the damage is not too extensive, you can buy the dreaded stuff in buckets in the paint section of your local hardware store, otherwise you might want to consider renting a texture sprayer to get a more even coat. As much as I don’t want you to put more popcorn up, I’d rather not see it patchy.

Holly says:

I scraped the popcorn off of one room and became discouraged with the condition of the drywall underneath. We will be depopcorning the whole house in one week due to the installation of our new wood floors and it will be near impossible to wet,scrape,spackle/joint compound,sand and then paint an ENTIRE house in one week. So, I had an idea. Why not skip directly to sanding? I tried and it works great! I sand the popcorn with a course grit pole sander and then go over with fine grit sander and what a time saver. Some people might not find it perfectly smooth, but its close enouph! Just be sure to sand evenly! I hope this helps someone else!

Brian Reese's mom says:

Hi Jason – Please give me your expert advice. We have approx. 400 sq ft of popcorn that we’d like to remove. It has been painted and after doing some reading I’m getting scared. (Our house ws built in 1977 – another source of fear.) We’d like to get it finihed in one weekend. Do you think it’s doable? Brian said he’d come down and help. I’d appreciate any more tips that you can offer.

Mary says:

I can not tell you how glad I was to find this “popcorn ceiling support group”!!! LOL 🙂 I went through the nighmare of trying to roll paint on my popcorn ceiling – only to have it fall off in big wet clumps — what a mess!!!

Now that I have it all scraped off and the ceiling primed — I don’t want to have just a plain smooth ceiling. I have searched the net high and low and can not find any instructions for the easiest ways (and products to use) to put a slight texture on the ceiling. Is there anything I can just “roll on” without having to be a masonary?? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Kathy says:

We just removed the popcorn from our bathroom ceiling. The house was built in 1968, and we didn’t have the stuff tested. I hope we live to enjoy our new ceiling. We scraped it off wet, and didn’t have to sand, so hopefully, we didn’t breathe too much of it.
We decided to add some texture back to the sheetrock. That “orange store” has a funny looking roller that you can use to add a texture paint. We then knocked it down to achieve the minimum texture effect.
It was a little tricky. You have to work in sections and we can see the seams now that it has dried. We’re thinking of redoing the section that’s nearest to the bathroom light. The other sections are not noticable.
Knocking down the texture wasn’t that easy either. The timing has to be just right. The instructions said to wait 5 minutes after applying the texture paint. You have about a minute to knock it down before it begins to mess up.
Maybe we should have used something else? Or, maybe a different roller. We have more ceilings to do. We’d like to get it right this time.

Greg H. says:

O.K. everyone- I have a question. I recently knocked down all drywall in my bathroom for remodel and have installed new drywall. I have access to a compressor and a texture sprayer.

Now the question. In my bedroom, would it be easier just to knock down the drywall ceiling (popcorn, drywall, and all), install new drywall, then tape/mud/texture/paint??

In my bathroom, I used a leaf blower in the attic crawl space to blow all insuallation away from the ceiling area, and then kicked the ceiling down from above. I would do the same for the bedroom. I can knock the ceiling down and have new drywall up in a day, ready to tape and mud.

I never removed popcorn before, and our popcorn is painted over, which I understand would make it more difficlut to remove. I thought I would ask the “experts” their opinion.

Greg H

Well, since I haven’t taken my leaf blower into the attic and kicked out the ceiling from above, I guess I can’t say I’m an expert. 🙂 I’m really pretty new to all this home remodeling stuff, but removing popcorn really isn’t all that tough. I know it’s pretty hard to tell with the popcorn up there what the quality of the drywall job is but if you’re going to spray texture it anyway, I would say to give popcorn removal a shot. I’ve heard from a few people recently that said painted popcorn was actually easier than non-painted popcorn because it came off in better sheets. If it doesn’t work out well…at least you have the piece of mind that you have the skills to pull it out and start over. Now if your ceiling were wallpapered with 7 million layers like our bathroom walls were, then you might want to think about ripping out the drywall, but I think you’ll be alright.

Anne Lane says:

Everybody talks about drywall, but my place was built in 1920. Some previous owner sprayed popcorn all over the place – probably directly on the plaster. If I wet down the popcorn, the plaster could also come down. Right?

Plaster + Popcorn Problems?

Ooo…plaster. I’m not really sure as I’ve never had to deal with plaster before. I didn’t find many references to this problem on Google, but I did find a Q and A page with a section titled “Removing Popcorn from Plaster Ceilings“. They said you could spray it with warm water and scrape it off and didn’t give any indication that there was any danger of damaging the plaster, but again warned about asbestos. Best of luck!

Dee says:


Just spent a $1K to have “a skilled pro” remove the ceiling popcorn in my 1300 sq ft. house, and my nightmare continues. The arrangement was to have my ceiling prepared to a “ready to paint” status. My professional painting is now saying that the ceiling has not been properly sanding. To my untrained eye, the ceiling looks smooth. What is it that the painter sees that I don’t see? Is it that hard to do a job like this right if you’re supposed to be experienced? Also, any suggestion on how to either encourage the worker to fix the job or find someone else who can correct the problem.

Thanks for your input.

Well Dee, we’re not professionals either. Our ceilings aren’t “perfectly smooth” but they look better than they did with the popcorn. If your ceiling hasn’t been primed yet and still looks like ours did in the pictures above (brown with joints and nail holes spackled over), then you probably won’t be able to tell from the floor if it’s smooth. If the painter were to put a coat of primer up there you would see what he’s seeing. Not sure what to tell you to tell your contractor…perhaps you should have the painter contact him and explain what his expectations are. Best of luck!

Maria says:

We are getting ready to sell our house with 3 bedrooms with popcorn ceilings. The realtor told me getting rid of the popcorn would be the “most bang for your buck”.

Today I got a quote from a painter. $500 to remove the popcorn in all three rooms plus…$3500 to paint the interior of the house.
I thought $500 for the ceilings was resonable, but $3500 to paint a 1200 sqft. house?!?! That seems kinda high to me, but what do I know.

Anyway, after they left. I got up on the ladder and scrapped a piece off to see what would happen. It came off very easily and what was left looked pretty good. So, I scraped off one whole room usings a 10″ mudding knife. It took less than an hour and I never wet the ceiling with anything. It is smooth. I can see no nail heads or seams. It’s just a little rough so I plan sand it down a bit to get it as smooth as possible before pianting.

So, now with this little bit of experience I am wondering why anyone would bother wetting the ceiling first. Mine came completely off with one pass of the scrapper.

Of course, since I wasn’t planning on doing this it all fell on the floor and was a huge mess, but the shop vac sucked it up pretty well.

I hope the other 2 rooms are this easy.

laurei says:

We are getting ready to “depopcorn” a hall, front room, dining room and family room.
Our family (grown children) are in an uproar as they say it must have asbestos in it and it will stay in the air for years.

I did one room many years ago while my husband was out and didn’t think is was a big deal.

From all the responses you’ve had it seems that a lot of people do the work themselves.

Don’t want to do the ceiling and bring on bad health problems.

Any opinions????

Josh says:

We had our popcorn ceilings analyzed for Asbestos. Our home was built in 1977 and results were 2-3% chrysotile asbestos which is the most common in popcorn ceilings.

Now that we know, everyone is telling me to
A) Leave the ceilings alone,
B) Just cover it up with another layer of drywall.

But I’m still thinking of either scraping or completely tearing out the drywall in all since it has some sagging issues. Am I nutz or is everyone else being completely paranoid? My wife is the one who is most worried because she is pregnant and she is one of those worriers.

If you DO have asbestos…

Well, you of course assume all liability if/when you decide to remove your own popcorn ceilings. As soon as you know that you have asbestos in the texture, you can no longer hire just any contractor to remove it. At that point, you have to hire an asbestos abatement contractor. There are websites like this one that describe how to properly remove asbestos containing popcorn yourself. I personally think the word asbestos itself induces an undue level of paranoia when uttered. We never even tested our popcorn before we started spraying and scraping…but then we’re young and foolish.

laurie bross says:

Thought I saw an address of where to send a sample of popcorn for testing, but now I can’t find it.
Do you have an address where I could send a sample.
If there were to be NO asbestos, our family would get off our backs about doing the work ourselves.
We are in our late 60’s but we can “scrape”.

laurie says:

OK, I went back to the top and found a link, got a phone number and I will see what I can accomplish off that phone #. If no results, we’ll just start and hope for the best.

Ron says:

Has anyone tried the popcorn scraper that has a plastic bag attached to it to catch the falling material? check out the site below it looks like a good idea. http://www.homaxproducts.com/products/texture/15/index.html

Chris says:

I have popcorn ceiling in kitchen and dining area which I would like to remove (it’s peeling away from our previous flat painted ceiling.) There is a section of ceiling where cupboards once hung and the ceiling is uneven. I have been told that if I plaster over this section, it will evenutally crack and maybe fall. Any suggestions?

Alexi says:

I just bought a home that has popcorn ceilings in almost every room and all the hallways. A co-worker told me that if I remove it I won’t get the smooth finish that I have on the walls when I’m done painting. Instead, he suggests leaving the popcorn in place and covering it all with drywall and then painting over it. This will be my first experience removing a popcorn ceiling and I want it to look well done. But the drywall idea seems labor-intensive and costly, even if I do it myself. I would save money by not removing the popcorn, but how much more would I spend on drywall, spackle, joints, hangers, etc? What do you think…can I get a good result by just removing the popcorn the old-fashioned way?

Kurt says:

Sounds like a Pro.

I’ve been involved in removing the popcorn from several rental units built in the early 80’s. We put plastic drop cloths on the floor and then sprayed the ceiling in sections using a garden hose with a standard spray nozzle attached. We used dry wall knives (thin, flexible trowels) as scrapers. For the most part, the popcorn came off easily in sheets, but there were some stubborn spots that required sanding. Be careful when scraping near wall joints to avoid tearing up the tape. The process was a little messy, but the units were empty and uncarpeted so it was pretty easy to clean up.

I tried using the scraper with the bag attachment to catch the scraped-off popcorn. It worked fine, but the bag got heavy as it filled up with the wet popcorn and become awkward to use. I decided it was easier to just let the scrapings fall on the drop cloths.

After the popcorn was off, we used joint compound to fill nail holes and other imperfections; this was the most tedious part of the process. Even then, we didn’t feel the ceiling looked good enough to paint. We tried using texture that mixes in with the paint, but it really didn’t look very good, so we sprayed on texture using texture from THD (basically, joint compound), a hopper gun from Harbor Freight, and a compressor. Putting on the texture was fast and easy (practice on a piece of cardboard or plywood first), but getting a consistent finish on a cathedral ceiling was a little tricky.

We primed the ceiling before putting the color coat on, and it ended up looking pretty good.

Good luck, everybody.

dan says:

I used a pole mounted popcorn scraper with bag attachment ($15 at home despot) along with a pump sprayer. The scraper is poorly made, so I needed to straighten the blade and rebend the neck every time I emptied the bag, but it worked great. I removed over 900 sf of popcorn in a day with no damage to the underlying drywall or joint compound.

Steve Hartwell says:

Ok, since this discussion is still continuing, I’ll toss my experience into the mix 🙂 I, like Dan above, started with a pole-mounted popcorn scraper and the hanging bag. But the bag filled quickly, and was really heavy and tiring to use. So instead I taped the pole to the rigid, 5-foot long pipe portion of the hose of my cheapo ($35) wet/dry shop-vac, with the scraper blade just above the mouth attachment. I plugged the hose into the vac, turned it on, and continued scraping. The attachment grabbed 95% of the popcorn and sucked it into the shop vac, and the bag got the rest (I could tell when the vac was full by the change in pitch of the motor). I finished most of the ceilings in my house this way in a few hours over a weekend, and the cleanup was minimal. I think I shoulda patented this! 🙂

I like how this one post has turned into more of a “shared experience” discussion than just me rambling about my experimental home improvement projects. Welcome to those coming in from LifeHacker and thanks to everybody who has contributed…especially Steve for the “sucky” popcorn catching tip. I’m a webdesigner, not a contractor – and as you can see, I’ve had a steady flow of good questions since I posted this back in August. Any tips/tricks/hacks you can offer here will definitely help the masses…and myself if I ever get to removing the last of the remaining popcorn in the kitchen and hallway.

dawn says:

Please please please help!!! I’m moving into an apartment where the tenants of over 15 years were extreamly lazy. They tried the popcorn effect on not only the ceiling but inaddition the walls also. It looks hidious and it is beyond an eyesore. Not only did they do the ceilings but they also did the walls they used joint compound and made huge peaks everywhere. Amatures looking for a quick fix. What can I do the land lord will not allow the walls to be torn down. Please help.

David Keltie says:

Why not hire a plasterer to skim the whole ceiling? Quicker and you’ll probably need to skim the ceiling after removal anyway (get one who clears up too!).

Joint Compound?…on all the walls?..with peaks? Personally, I would probably re-drywall at that point. I think this article at diynetwork will help though. They suggest either using a floor scraper or smoothing with more joint compound. Am I the only person that thinks with a name like joint compound, that the stuff should only be used to cover tape joints and nail holes in drywall?

Lee Taylor says:

Found your site because it was linked to from a site that I regularly read. Just thought I would make the following comments regarding textured ceilings. I’m 56 and did most of the construction of my house myself (in the late 70’s and early 80’s). The popular style in the area was to manually “stimple” the ceilings with a “stimple brush” which gave a texture that could be varied to acheive a more individual style than the spray on “popcorn”. This was popular because our generation grew up in homes that had smooth painted ceilings. My sons, who are in their 20s, don’t like textured ceilings and think smooth ceilings are “cool”, and textures belong on walls

Go figure!

Keet says:

When you do this, it might be worth testing a small section of the ceiling while it’s still dry.

I did a buddy of mine’s bedroom and the entire ceiling just about fell off without wetting. A little more dusty, but was easy to get rid of once it was down (lighter in the garbage bags, too). Of course it helped that the ceiling had been painted. His 12 x 18 ft. room was done in a little over an hour.

Messy business, but I agree…popcorn needs to go away.

Gail says:

RE; Asbestos concerns.

When my husband and I decided to remove our popcorn ceilings, we were concerned about asbestos issue due to the age of the home.

We spoke with a company who that did testing for asbestos. They advised that they could test for asbestos for (if I remember correctly) around $50.

However, since we were only going to do 2 15×15 rooms AND since we had already decided to do it ourselves…the guy at the testing facility said just save the money and use it instead to buy some quality breathing devices to wear while working.

We spent about the same amount ($50) on 2 good quality ventilated masks and wore them while scraping and cleaning up.

I think that many of the concerns about asbestos are more directed at people who have been exposed to high levels, either by performing frequent asbestos installation/removal or simply by breathing in a lot of small particles. I believe the HEPA masks filtered out any level of asbestos that might have been present.

Matt says:

Hey, I’m a Remodeling contractor and just wanted to throw my 2 cents in here.

I frequently deal with DIY homeowners in their 20-30’s who absolutely hate popcorn ceilings! They all want “smooth” ceilings instead! Kind of strange when you consider that that “popcorn” texture was put there to act as an additional fire barrier! Yep, that popcorn texture isn�t just for looks guys. In most cases, it will contain 3-5% Crysotile Asbestos, which has long been used, (and is still used) in construction materials because of its unique properties. It is non-combustible, durable, flexible, and resistant to most chemicals, as such, it makes a perfect ceiling coating. I frequently spec out “popcorn” ceilings on my jobs due to their fire retardant properties, as well as all the time and money it saves!

In my opinion, the �popcorn� texture is a great, proven concept that has many benefits and few drawbacks. I will continue to spec it out!

If your hell bent on taking it off though�spend the 50 bucks for asbestos testing, buy proper protection, make sure you have adequate ventilation, DON�T SAND IT, USE the �Wet down and scrape method� and work safely!


al says:

Matt–I don’t believe asbestos is used anymore in popcorn ceilings. In fact, I’m convinced of it. Some google searches can be done to check.

I had a popcorn ceiling once on an older 60s home and paid for a simple asbestos test. It was relatively cheap and revealed things like gypsum was one of the materials. No asbestos, no worries. A few miles over, we met some poeple who had had asbestos in their ceilings and had to abate it, major pain. I have heard (uncomfirmed) that asbestos was used more in the West US than the East, but I don’t know if that’s true.

There may be an issue with lead paint in popcorn ceilings on older homes, but I’m not sure that lead paint was used as much on walls, as opposed to things like doors and windows, etc. Someone more expert could answer that one. But if you’re very concerned with all that dust coming off, a simple lead test is cheap too with a kit.

Matt, I respect your opinion as a contractor, but I think I speak for the majority of commenters here when I say, “Yes, I’m hell bent on taking it off. It’s ugly and I don’t want it in my house.”

As a contractor whose been hired by someone who wants a “smooth ceiling”, what materials and methods would you use? I’m especially interested in knowing how you would prepare a surface that has been wetted down and scraped for paint without sanding.

Jerm says:

Helpful Tips for Wetting/Scraping.

After reading every post here and a few other places, I came up with my own plan of attack for a 12×12 bedroom. Water is the key to getting this stuff off, but I think the amount of water is the trick! Instead of soaking or spraying the ceiling, just use a small amount to water and do a small area at a time (like 2 x 2ft). Spay the area and only let it soak for 5 to 10 seconds. The popcorn layer will turn to mud and scrap right off. The trick is to not let the adhesive layer of the popcorn coating to get wet. This way, rather than bear drywall and tape joints, you end up with a smooth white layer of popcorn adhesive that looks like drywall mud and is perfectly smooth.

I did a 12 x 12 bedroom with two 32oz sray bottles in an hour. I used a 10″ drywall knife for the center and a smaller 3 or 4″ knife around the outside. The drywall finisher didn’t put the final coat of mud on the ceiling’s corner tape since the popcorn would cover it. So, I was very careful to not rip the tape by going with the tape rather than running the scrapper into the wall (perpindicular with the tape). I followed up with a damp spong to clean the corner of the small stuff I missed with the knife. I’ll add a top coat of drywall mud to the ceiling side of the corner tape before priming. The ceiling come out so smooth, it will only need a fine sanding if any at all.

Melanie says:

I am about to embark on 1000 sq.ft of ceiling. New carpet coming in2 1/2 weeks. After getting on a ladder to paint and looking across a sea of gray cobwebs that I think I vaccum regularly. I want clean ceiling. The house is 40 years old and is ready for a face lift. Thanks to all for your imput. My question lies after scrapping the ceilings and your down to the drywall what did people uses to texture the ceiling drywall before paint? or did you just do primer coat and then just paint, got a good paint recommendation ? Now to texture, I saw some spray stuff at Home Depot called something Orange. Is that good stuff or would it be best to spay something on with our spray device. Once when our darling sons thought when we said we’re going to redo the the walls in the small bedroom, they thought we were riping out walls so they proceeded to do major art on the walls, Need less to say we, along with their help, ended up putting in some new dry way and sanding off the art and having to retexture. Long story short. I would love input on the process to finish the ceiling with texture and paint after striping. Thanks for the education I have received tonight. What did we older folks do before we talked to people all over the place. I have 2 1/2 weeks to have all this done. Melanie from California
Great Web design. Thanks

Hey Melanie, I have no idea what texture you should use after scaping. We’ve just been following the same method I outlined in the article throughout the house (already done all 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a hallway). As far as paint goes, we’ve been doing a coat of ceiling primer and then a coat of paint. In some rooms we used ceiling white, and in others we used a color. Getting the edging perfect between the wall color and the ceiling has been tough, but I think we’re going to do crown moulding in some of the rooms where the wall color is very different from the ceiling.

Aisha says:

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am about to start removing popcorn from my 2 bedroom flat, I have been to all DIY shops shopping for a tools to make it easier like Wallpaper stripper but all in vain.

I live in London, United Kingdom, is there any equipment I can use to simplify the job.

Thank you


Audrey says:

Great info for removing this garbage off of our ceilings. You both did a wonderful job of it. So glad we found your site. We were just slammed with by the wrath of Katrina here. You know what happened here. Well we are totally redoing everything (whether we want to or not). But I can tell you this ceiling has got to go. I am following your tips to the T.
By the way Amy , in the 2nd to last pic here. I could just swear you look almost exactly like my daughter Nicole. You both did a terrific job in your home as well as the way you explained things. Thankyou for offering this info. I know it will take a while to do, but we are now well informed. Have a great day. Audrey and fam

Rosie says:

Jason and Amy …….WOW! thanks for much for sharing your experiences here!!! I was searching some sites because I was considering redoing our smooth living and dining room ceilings in a ‘knock-down’ finish…..but after reading all this…..now I’m not even so sure about that. Thanks for making me slow down and do a bit more thinking on this. Might save me from doing something I might regret!

Davey says:

hello, ALooks great by the way.

What year is your house? Were you not afraid of Asbestos?

I just bought a house and all three bedrooms have popcorn ceiling this stuff is so damn ugly. The house was built in 1987. Is there anyway it could have asbestos?

Our house was built at the end of the 70’s so there’s a chance the popcorn may have had asbestos, but we never had it tested. If your house was built in ’87, then you’re probably in the clear, but if you’re worried about it I’ll be a hypocrite, and tell you that you should get it tested.

Terry says:

I have a 1925 bungalow that has ugly popcorn cielings in the dining room and one bedroom. Last weekend I was putting in new light fixtures in the living room, and discovered that there is a popcorn cieling in that room too… covered with drywall. I’m sure that is a more expensive way to get rid of the popcorn, but slapping new drywall over it seems easier. Any thoughts?

JP Sinnott says:

How long did it take you to remove the popcorn from your ceiling and to sand it after. Did you leave the ceiling smooth ? and if so how did it look after you painted it. Did you see seem marks from the drywall after you painted it?

Each room took us less than a day (8ish hours depending on the size of the room) from start to finish with a coat of primer and a coat of paint. The job is actually more prep and cleanup than actual work. Looking up at the ceiling here in the office, we got them mostly smooth. There are a few areas where you can tell where a drywall joint was, and in general the edge between the wall and the ceiling is a little rough, but overall it went pretty well. We’re not too worried about that edge because we plan to put up crown moulding eventually.

I can’t believe I’m taking part in this disccusion board over removing popcorn. Nevertheless, I would like to have it removed. I wanted to give my room a new look, adding moldings to the top of the sidewall but because of the popcorn, the moldings may not seal properly. All of the method I have read on removing popcorn seems very labor intensive and discouraging. And with this abesto thing and possible lead paint, is it worth the health risk?

Hey Benjamin, in relation to other home improvement projects, removing popcorn ceilings isn’t that tough. Regardless, if you’re not up for the job, you could always try putting up the crown moulding and sealing the top with a bead of caulk. I’ve seen that done before and it doesn’t look as bad as you might think. I’m a big proponent of just scrapping it all off though.

Erin York says:

Hi, thank you for the wonderful website, it has given me some great ideas, but my question is after I scrape the ceilings can I primer and paint or do I have to put some texture on them? and if so how? thank you for your help! THANK YOU!!

Hopefully, once you’ve scrapped, sanded, smoothed over any imperfections with joint compound, and sanded the joint compound down you’ll have a smooth ceiling to prime and paint.

Pamm says:

Jason and Amy, thanks for sharing your technique and starting this wonderful conversation. I have forwarded the info to my husband. Hopefully, he will see how easy it is and rewarding! I can’t wait to get rid of the ugly popcorn.
I know for a fact that my builder did it to save time and money, not for any sound reduction or fire safety! I can base this on the $5 light fixtures they put in! hahaha

todd says:

I am in the process of scraping 3000 sq ft of popcorn. This was due to the cost of hiring it out – on that note, and always looking for a little business oppty – would you pay to have someone prep, scrape, and clean up your popcorn for about a $1.25 per sq ft…

Just looking for some input…it seems that most painters and contractors will unhappily do the job, but since they dont specialize they are up around $2.00 a sq ft….Am I crazy? Do tell!

Being the one who wrote the tutorial 🙂 I wouldn’t pay to have it removed. The job isn’t all that tough, but I’m sure there are people out there who would pay. The question is whether there are enough people in your area to make it worthwhile.

JP McDonald says:

I am ready to tackle my ceiling tomorrow. I hope I can do it in one day. My celing has water spots in it. My hot water heater broke the other day and put a nasty yellow spot in the ceiling. I am selling my townhouse so I have to get ride of this popcorn crap on my ceiling. It looks like previous owners patched the ceiling in a bunch of places. here are some pictures

I need to repaint parts of the walls to. Can I patch the walls or am I doing to have to repaint the whole place. It was just painted so I really don’t want to. I can try and color match it, but I really don’t want to

CBASS says:

haha, this is EXACTLY what I was looking for! Thanks!
We get the keys to our new house Fri. Our stuff arrives Monday. The wife and I have the weekend to take popcorn off the living room and 3 bedrooms. (It was already taken off of or never applied to the rest of the house)
Funny… I had no idea others shared my virulent hatred of the popcorn. It’s not that I like smooth ceilings so much as I HATE everything about the popcorn… except maybe it’s fire retardent properties. I don’t mind that I suppose.

Has anyone tried putting wood flooring over the smooth drywall to simulate a wooden roof? Just curious… that’s a bridge too far for this weekend and another topic. We’ll paint it to start.

michael says:

More Asbestos Info.

This article on asbestos and popcorn ceilings appeared today on MSNBC at


There are a number of other things to be concerned about regarding asbestos and lung cancer. There is No Minimum amount that has been determined to be safe, the effects may not show up from 10 to 40 years and popcorn ceilings using asbestos were allowed to continue up to at least 1986 so that manufacturers could use up existing stocks. Other uses were curtailed by 1978.
Also the wallboard(aka sheetrock) and mud joint compound contained asbestos also. This means that sanding the joints or broken paper on the sheetrock, nailing and drilling will release sufficient amounts of asbestos fibers and are very dangerous. Vacuuming will likely spread asbestos laden fibers throughout the entire house through it’s exhaust and will hang around for years to come as one dusts and cleans over time causing further exposure.
I really don’t want to spoil your home decorating fun but I hope you all will be, at least, a little more careful.

Editor’s Note: 🙂 I removed your second post where you pasted in the article from the link above and made the link in this post clickable.

julian k says:

I live in santa monica california.
house was built in 1974.
i am trying to wet my popcorn ceiling in order to scrape it of,but it is not getting any softer
actually it is pretty hard all the time.
do i have to sand it a bit and then patch it?

My guess Juilian, is that ceiling has been painted a few times and the water isn’t getting through the paint. You could try scraping it just enough to knock off some of the popcorn and then wet it and see if it scrapes off easier, but it may just end up being a tough job.

Gregg says:

I have to say I am shocked that nearly everyone is saying this is easy. I tried to remove the popcorn without wetting it, then with a spray bottle. Maybe there are different varieties and thicknesses of the texture because mine is very difficult to scrape off. I am also tearing the sheet rock paper no matter how gentle I scrape. It took me several hours to do 5 sq ft. I actually sharpened a putty knife and that is helping just a little. What am I doing differently that this process is way harder than all the posts I’ve read??

“Maybe there are different varieties and thicknesses of the texture because mine is very difficult to scrape off.”

That might be the case Gregg, I know we had a more difficult time scraping the popcorn in the guest room than we had with the rest of the house – the only parts we haven’t done yet are the kitchen and the living room with it’s vaulted ceilings. Wetting it (with a pump sprayer preferrably) helped a lot for us. Sorry to hear you’re having problems with it.

rick says:

they have removed popcorn ceilings in a bldg. i once lived and found that it does have some asbestos. how high is the exposure to the asbestos if it is done quickly with masks and collected in plastic bags. why do some tests come back negative (multiple samples) and others come back pos.?

Gregg says:

Ok, so I kinda got the hang of it. I had to REALLY wet the stuff down, let it dry for a minute, wet it down again, then scrape and spray a little bit more as I go along. It seems to work best with a smaller spackle knife even though it takes more time. As long as the popcorn is soaked I don’t have to press as hard which helps to not damage the sheet rock. It got easier, but still sucks. Builders that put this stuff up should be put in jail. Time for a beer. Thanks!

rick says:

Home Depot has a solution that you mix with water that eases removal. Ours just peeled right off after using it.

Linda says:

This is a wonderful site, I’m so happy to have found it. Our test for asbestos just came back positive and I am really disappointed and torn about what to do. My husband wants us to remove our popcorn ceilings ourselves. We did remove a small section to test how difficult it would be and I must say it was very easy. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk our health, or if this issue is overblown. I know that poor workers who do this for a living year in and year out are exposed much more than people doing their own home, but does the one time offer too great a danger? I have learned from your site that many many people do it themselves and no one can answer if it’s worth it but the people themselves. I am so confused, we hate the popcorn and it really dates what is otherwise a beautiful home. What do all of nice folks think?
Best wishes,

Prosper says:

OK…I was about to tackle the job myself, but ummm, after reading, I don’t know. I have popcorn ceiling allover my three bedroom house. The only rooms that don;t have popcorn are the kitchen and the three bathrooms. I have high angled (not flat) ceiling in a very large open area living and dining room along with 3 bedrooms.

What I was actually thinking about doing was doing a google search or hiring an investigator to find the person who came up with “popcorn” ceiling and having him come remove it for free. At 6 feet 2 I can be very persuasive. Of course, my wife disagrees and so I am left with the task of deciding whether to remove and re-spacke, repaint myself (wifey is not too handy, but she’s good with suggestions, demands and timeframes), or hire a contractor.

Excuse me, I’ll be right back. I’m having a mental/emotional aneurysm at the moment.

Gregg says:

I’m STILL shocked that everyone thinks this crap comes off easy. If you ask me, if the stuff comes off like icing off a cake…DO IT! DO IT ACROSS AMERICA!! Unfortunately for me, it was not easy. I tore the sheet rock paper. I tore the sheet rock tape. The solution that you mix with water, what is that? I went to Home Depot and they only had popcorn to put up, but no remover. Are you talking about DIF? Regardless, you will still soak the sheet rock and tear through the paper. Ugh, maybe I’m just bitter. I’m gon’ go jump out a window.

Janie says:

I was happy to find this site. I am in the process of removing the popcorn from my dining room and kitchen. I have used the scraper with the bag from Home Depot, along with spraying the ceiling with water. We still have a mess to clean up, but 80% of the ceiling has gone into the bag and straight into the trash. It does get heavy, but if you move the trash can along with the ladder, you can dump it quite efficiently. The popcorn globs up on the scraper, so you have to clean it occasionally. Someone told me that once this part is finished, I should get joint and wall compound and mix it to a consistancy of thick paint. Then just roll it on the ceiling. Has anyone tried this? I hope it works!

It sounds like a good idea to me Janie. After we finished the scraping/sanding/patching we just used a coat of primer and then a coat of paint…but I bet if you used something thick like that it would help to smooth out some of the rough spots.

Sheri says:

Fun to read, Great Story! 🙂

We should call this group SCRAPE (Society for the Creative Removal of Acoustical Popcorn Everywhere.) Thanks, Jason, for starting this.

We have just finished our first two rooms (eight to go.) Ours is Truly Evil Painted Popcorn, a pitched battle. The scraper/bag tool did help on the first room. We did not sand the ceiling after we scraped it, thinking it looked good enough. One coat of ceiling paint showed us we were wrong. We tried a long-nap roller for a nice generous second coat of paint, to see if that would make the ceiling look smoother. Nice thought, but no.

So…we bought some sand texture additive and applied a third coat of paint, with the loving care of NASA engineers building a shuttle. It was pretty tricky to use. You could see the sand was heavier where the sections overlapped, and it didn’t look right. So, after it dried, we sanded off some of the sand. That helped, and after one more coat (yes, that’s FOUR paint coats now) Room One looked great.

Determined to learn from our stupid mistakes, we attacked Room Two. This popcorn had even MORE paint on it. The scraper bag tool was useless, as was the wetting solution. (Gregg: Lowe’s, Popcorn Ceiling Texture Remover, $10, made by Litex.) I think it would work on unpainted popcorn, but not on our crud. Resorting to brute strength, we scraped off the peaks to get a place for the water to begin to work. Then scrape more, wet more, over and over in the same area. Scraping this room took most of the day. Please pass the Ben-Gay.

Then, we bought a pole sander. Folks, if your popcorn is not the sweet gentle stuff that falls cleanly off the ceiling, you’ll need this tool! Sanding is no fun, but it really makes the ceiling look better. Also, this time we used a PRIMER coat, and then one coat of flat ceiling paint. It looks great.

So, we have learned so far:
1. Everybody’s popcorn is different. I hope yours is the kinder, gentler variety. Ours is horrible. (We feel your pain, Gregg.)
2. Do drape your walls with plastic, unless you plan to repaint after the ceiling is done. Most old popcorn ceilings are dirty, and you’ll get dirty water streaks you either have to wash off or paint over.
3. Do sand after you scrape. The pole sander is worth the $20. (No comment about the blisters.) Wear a mask.
4. Do use a good primer for the first coat; it makes your second coat much smoother.
5. Textured paints are hard to use. I might try the idea of adding joint compound to the paint to make it thicker, but no more sandy stuff for us.

I will post more if we figure out anything else helpful. Chin up, hang in there!

Barbara says:

Hi everyone, writing from the Netherlands. What a great site. We are moving back to my home in Bakersfield, California in June, and the first thing to do is the popcorn ceilings. House will be empty (renters for 10 years) so no problem with mess. We did not know how to start, or to pay someone, etc. Now, we have some answers. Thanks, again, and as we continue on our journey, we’ll be back to comment, or to sing more praises. OT: I miss America!!

Carrie says:

Does anybody have any tips about scraping the popcorn off of plaster ceilings? I’ve gotten the wetting solution from Home Depot and have scraped off the popcorn, but it has left some kind of layer in some spots that I can not get off. I’ve tried sanding with the sanding pole, but it still is not smooth. I don’t want to prime and paint without getting rid of that layer first. Any suggestions?

dorsey says:

Helpful Comment

It occurs to me that the several people who are having extreme difficulty removing your popcorn have either encountered popcorn ceilings that have been painted, or have mistakenly identified a textured paint as popcorn. There are a couple of textured paints that contain popcorn-like aggregates and look very similar to popcorn. I’m a remodeler/handyman, and have lost my lunch money on a job or two where I made similar misdiagnoses. The only answer for those types of ceilings is a chemical stripper. ugh.

Real popcorn ceilings only need to be wetted to be removed. And instead of dry-sanding, try wet-sanding instead. Cut a piece of low-pile carpeting to fit a pole sander, dunk it in a mop bucket, and have at it. It takes some repetition, but you’re not breathing dust.

I also have a palm sander that has a dust collection bag. I took off the bag and rigged up some hoses from the sander to my shop vac. It’s remarkably effective and useful for any sanding you do, from wood to spackle.

This is a pretty fun exchange you got started here. Nice work. Best to all.

Janie says:

OK, I wrote before. We now have our ceiling finished. I did try to roll on the thin w&j compound. It probably would work but you still have to sand. A tip for those people like me who like to cut corners and think directions are for everyone else! After scraping, if you think you can sand down some residual popcorn,make it smooth and paint over it, even if it feels smooth to the touch, it will come back and bite you in the form of curling paint. I tried a couple of spots like this and by morning, the paint we had applied looked like a ceiling from a decaying southern mansion! It was only small spots and easy to repair, but just added another step. Every trace of the popcorn must come down!The sanding wasn’t that bad with the pole sander and screen like sand paper. The ceiling is so beautiful now and I could not believe how it lightens up the room. That popcorn casts tiny little shadows from each kernel. All combine to put the popcorn ceiling in the dark. Now, as soon as the memories fade and the muscles heal, I plan to start the living room!

Kate says:

Did you ever think your popcorn post would have such a long life? I’ve read every post as we are moving into a home built in ’69; one of my builder relatives says it will definitely have the asbestos corn. He suggests that we wear the respirators, thoroughly moisten the painted popcorn, partially knock it down, then moisten it again. Then we will hire a drywall co. to put up a “knock-down” textured ceiling. Then we’ll prime and paint. It won’t be totally smooth but it should look nice, much better than the filthy looking popcorn. I will admit that the asbestos thing has me freaked but I’m going to be as careful as possible and do it anyway. My relative says that keeping it moist is key as it is the dust that can be dangerous. So here we go!

Joe Adams says:


I share your sentiments exactly! While I’m not yet ready to take down the popcorn ceiling, I know I have this to look forward to. Been looking at homes to purchase for about a year. No matter what the age, from new to old, they ALL have it! Yuk!!

Thanks for your article!!

Hater of popcorn ceiling!


Kristine says:

Anyone come across a popcorn ceiling with gold glitter in it? We’re about to buy a house this weekend — only thing I hate — of course, the popcorn ceilings….that’s how I found your site…

Anyway, all of the ceilings have this gold glitter…I wonder if that means that the popcorn was painted….hmmm. What to do…

Gold glitter popcorn ceilings? Now, that’s particularly groovy. If you can find a chair or something to stand on that will get you up to one of these star-studded ceilings, wipe your hand across a small area of the popcorn. You should be able to tell if it’s painted.

Rob says:

Awesome post. I am going to sears to get a scraper. My kitchen and bathrooms are smooth and I love them I have 3 bedrooms and 2 living rooms to remove. That’ll take what, a day 🙂

Aaron says:

I was struggling, trying to scrape and scrape the nasty popcorn ceiling in our bathroom. Then I found this and it’s helped out tons. Imagine, just spraying it with water and it comes pealing off. Thanks, you helped me and my very sore arms! 🙂

Quanda says:

Does the wet scraper technique work on ceilings that are not true popcorn, but still have joint compound applied? My ceilings look like someone took a mop full of compound and pressed it in a pattern. I want smooth ceilings, but am curious if the “scapings” will come off in sheets the same way that or if I need to simply wet and trowel it smooth.


Amanda says:

I have one small warning. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to leave this project to someone else. I decided to remove the popcorn from our bathroom, then a few hours later I noticed I have tiny bumps all over my face, arms, and legs (everywhere the pocorn landed on me).

@Quanda: If it’s not popcorn, it probably will not come off easily, especially if the texture is created with Joint compound. Try scraping in a small area. If it doesn’t come off you may have to re-drywall or retexture to get a smooth surface.

@Amanda: Maybe you were allergic to something in the popcorn. My skin gets like that whenever I have to do anything with the fiberglass insulation in the attic.

Howie says:

Is anyone in Hawaii doing this?

I am closing on a townhouse on June 1st in HI, and the only thing I don’t like about the place is of course the p-corn.

I usually do ALL home improvement myself, but with two very young kids, I may pay someone (I hate doing that for something fairly easy). I’m only thinking about paying someone because they would be responsible for cleaning up afterwards and all that.

Janie says:


I have seen several ceilings with gold glitter in the popcorn. Who knows why! But I think they might be from the 60’s or possibly 70’s. You might want to get it tested for asbestos before you do anything. Of course they might have used that stuff into the 80’s also.

Janie 🙂

Ben Wiens says:

This guy is serious about smooth.

I really dislike popcorn ceilings also for many of the reasons stated in this thread. But I can see why they were developed. It’s almost impossible to create a smooth enough ceiling that doesn’t show off some defects. So now that I’ve renovated the kitchen and nook area of my townhouse, I’ve come to an even bigger picture conclusion. Drywall surfaces in houses just plain suck. You paint the drywall, and the slight sheen in the paints that makes that them even slightly cleanable shows off every defect. Put texture on the walls or ceiling to reduce the surface sheen, and the walls and ceiling are not easily cleanable or repairable.

Here is my situation. I removed some walls to open up my kitchen to the eating nook. I repaired the walls. I used the wet method of removing the popcorn from the ceiling. I found the ceiling underneath was reasonable smooth and had a coat of paint on it. I patched areas that were rough. I even used a 4 ft long Darby to level some areas of the wall that were wavy. I mudded and sanded to perfection. I thought the surfaces where pretty much perfect, even when looking at the drywall using a 200 watt lamp at 80 degrees to the surfaces. I used primer on my first coat. Then I painted the walls and ceiling with Behr Flat Enamel. It’s not totally flat having a sheen number of 4-6% at 60 degrees. Also by mistake I used a roller that created a bit of texture. Result, ceiling and walls that looked terribly wavy. Looked like a very poor drywall job. Turned out it was mostly the difference between the old paint texture and the new really smooth sanded areas. I sanded again for almost a solid day using a pole sander, but it’s almost impossible to sand off an entire layer of paint texture. Result, hundreds of high spots smoothed down and low spots still with paint texture. I switched to CIL Smart Ultra Matte paint (Canadian division of ICI), a scrubable flat paint with ceramic filler and Teflon which has a sheen number of 2-4%. Better but still looks terrible. I could repaint the ceiling with ceiling paint, this typically has a sheen number of 0-3%. But now the ceiling would not be as easily cleanable. This wouldn’t fix the wall problems, but could it help the ceiling?

I’m wondering if I should move into a mud hut. I’m beginning to hate painted drywall, but it’s not likely I’m going to pull the drywall. I want a nice cleanable wall and ceiling surface but how do I get one that looks nice in a renovated place? Or are there little tricks that I don’t know about that make most of these problems pretty much go away?…Ben

Ben, you get a “helpful” icon on your comment for the simple fact that you know the sheen value of the paint you’re using. We left the ceiling paint in two of our bedrooms and the surface isn’t perfect, but it’s very non-reflective. The right lighting choices can hide the imperfections and I don’t think we’ll ever need to clean the ceilings in those rooms. The only rooms that I would worry about needing to clean would be the bathroom (again…pee vapors) and the kitchen. As far as “tricks” go, the roughest part of our ceilings is around the edges. We plan to put up some crown moulding in some of the rooms to cover that up.

Chris says:

I am about to move into a house on May 31st and it has popcorn ceilings. Our (mine and future wife) house is only about 1250 square feet, so it’s not huge. We plan on only being in the house 3 or 4 years, so here’s the question…Do you think it is worth it to remove the popcorn ceilings or should I just suck it up for a few years and deal with it. The house was built in 1997, so I don’t think that asbestos will be an issue.

One more thing…I am moving from an apartment in which I have a one month overlap between my closing date on my home and my lease expiring. That results in a month of an empty house to do any renovations that may be needed. Do you think that a couple weeks and a some weekends of after work scraping is enough de-popcorn a 1250 sq. ft. house and sand and paint and do whatever else it is that needs to be done to make the ceilings look better?

Thanks in advance for any information that can be thrown my way. If I take on this project I’m sure that I will be visting the site a lot more in the near future to ask “on the job” questions I’ll probably have mid-scrape.


My wife just read your comment and says, “Definitely!” We only plan to be in our house for a total of about 5 years, and we had already moved in when we started on the ceilings. While you’ve got the whole house empty, you may want to do the whole thing at one time. Spend a few evenings scraping popcorn, spend a few more days sanding/patching/spackling, then paint it all at once. That should save you some clean up and prep work time. Best of luck!

Jim T says:

Knock-Down Texture Advice

Great site! I;ve been thinking of removing my popcorn for some time, but thought I would need expensive equipment, so put it off.. After reading this site, I’m starting tomorrow.
I’ve heard quite a few comments asking what kind of texturing (if any) to do after the removal, or how to texture, so I thought I’d share some notes on that point.

You’ve already got a link to Homax here, but let me put a direct link to a tool I’ve had for a few years and find both inexpensive and a good working tool, the Homax manual texture gun.

After I remove the popcorn and sand, I’m going to put on a “knock-down” texture with this tool. I’ve done quite a bit of wall fix up with it, and the only down side is I think my arms going to get a bit tired after doing a whole ceiling.

For those of you that don’t know what knock-down texture is here’s one more link that has a hideous blue-colored picture of it, but I bet if you look at it you’ll see it’s most likely the texture your walls already have:
This site also has a nice tip telling you to round the corners of your dry-wall knife to minimize accidental gouging of your drywall. sounds like a tip I will follow.

I’ve heard people tell me that doing knock-down is tough to do I don’t know, maybe I’ve got a knack for it, but I find it pretty darn easy.
Here are the tricks to get it right:

  1. Buy a piece or two of drywall, and practice with it. Be sure to paint the practice pieces, as there is an amazing transformation between an unpainted piece of drywall with a knock-down texture, and one that is painted. If you’ve never done this, you will think the unpainted test piece is a dirty mess, and that you must have done something wrong.
  2. Less is more: Again, if you’ve never done this, you will most likely apply too much the first time. I can not over-state the transformation after painting. When you are first applying the spatter, try to think of the amount of spatter you would have if you had just brushed your teeth, then took still-wet toothbrush and raked your thumb over it onto your mirror. Your not trying to cover the dry-wall your looking for a splatter of bumps. After you feather it out by LIGHTLY dragging a drywall knife over the bumps, they will spread and flatten out to that familiar knock-down texture.. Which by the way, this is where it gets the name knock-down from.
  3. Take the time to notice the flat spots in an existing wall: If your walls are already textured with a knock-down texture (like the picture in the second link in this reply, take a good look at the percentage of the wall that is flat.. the background of the texture is lots of areas of drywall that don’t have any texture to it at all. The end result is a combination of flat dry-wall, that has had splotches of texture splattered on it, then those splotches were flattened out to make those pools of raised spots. It’s much easier than it looks.

So in recap, it’s easy. Point the texture tool at the wall, squirt on some spots, wait 15 mintues for it to set up a bit, LIGHTLY drag a drywall knife over it, wait to dry, paint. Last step is stand back and be amazed how that simple procedure hid all the imperfections in the ceiling.

Drew Miller says:

Once the cieling is sanded. People are mentioning “texture to match the walls” What is all this business about textureing the ceilings, What do you use to apply this texture, and why can’t you simply prime and paint?

t tebben says:

Okay, today (May 22, 2006) was the day. I’d tossed around the idea of removing my popcorn ceilings for about a year and after reading your website, I ran out and bought a garden sprayer. Forgot to buy ceiling paint, but that’s okay.

Let me just say this: Do not attempt this without a WetVac! Very messy, although I’ll admit I didn’t prepare well.

I will do one room at a time as I need to paint them. Our house isn’t old (1997) but the people who we bought it from built it themselves and did the popcorn job. Ugh! Every single room, even the garage.

The popcorn came off well enough, no problem. The mess is my biggest complaint but boy does it look fantastic already! Whooo-hoo

Nancy B says:

Thanks for the information and encouragement. My hubby and I bought a condo last month that not only has popcorn ceilings, but also popcorn WALLS. That’s when I went looking for info on how to remove the stuff. I got started a couple of days ago, and it’s coming off easily, though cleanup is worse than I expected. I’m smearing dust on doors and floors with a washrag – have to find a better way of washing up. Most of the other condo owners just painted over the popcorn. Thank goodness no one ever painted ours, though there are some painted spots that are hard to scrape clean.

Thanks again for the help!

jeff h. says:

The Venetian Plaster Option

TRY THIS, PEOPLE!…I LOVE IT!: I’m removing our gross popcorn ceiling from our condo’s 12 ft. high, 1300 sq. ft. living area (yeesh!). Whoever came up with this stuff should be seriously wounded (not fatally) so he can suffer like I am. The results looks fantastic, however. My tip is this: I am using a product made by Behr (from Home Depot) to skim out the areas that are now smooth. It is called Venetian Plaster and runs about 30 bucks a gallon. The plus is that it is a tintable plaster, so it does not need to be painted (although it can be if you desire…prime it first). Another plus is it does not need to be sanded because of the way it lays down and it dries pretty fast. I’m having great success with it. I had the paint clerk at the Depot veer from the existing formula for tinting the plaster by adding a crap-load of white tint to the product so that it would be more opaque and cover more quickly. Although if you plan on painting over it anyway, the extra tint is not needed. In fact, if you plan on painting over it, it does not need to be tinted at all…just pick it up right from the shelf and head for the cashier. You can also do kind of a skip-trowel method of application that looks sort of like knockdown. That way you don’t need to cover the entire surface as the knockdown-like texture hides a multitude of flaws. Once you prime it over and paint it in a flat paint, it all works to look like a really nice texture. Try it out by investing in a gallon and experimenting. I love the stuff!

Farrell says:

Wow, great information here, stuff I never even thought of. Thank you to all contributors for the advice. We are considering removing popcorn from our small 5X9 bathroom. It is quite humid in there, of course, and the popcorn is kind of falling off. We have purchased some tongue and groove cedar and intend on covering the ceiling with that. Therefore the final finish does not have to be perfect by any means. The asbestos thing has got me concerned and I may just put the cedar right over (under) the popcorn. I see there are others that have put new sheet rock over the popcorn. Any advice or similar projects?

Joe Adams says:

FYI: There’s an article at tennessean.com which states that textured ceilings installed before 1980 or sprinkled with glitter probably contain asbestos.


Gregg says:

I saw some folks posted the Homax URL for some of their products. I just wanted to pass on a similar link to the solution they have that you mix with 3 gallons of water to spray on the popcorn. Someone previously mentioned Litex at Lowes, but I found Homax at HomeDepot. I haven’t used it yet but I will re-post with the results when I do.


Thanks Gregg, I’m curious to know if these solutions work better than just straight water when used with a sprayer. I look forward to hearing the results.

Sheila Kihne says:

Praise be to you, Jason! I googled “popcorn ceilings” and you were the second on the list. We have a 5,000 sq ft 1990 built home with popcorn ceilings- its horror is not limited to the 70’s. I’m tackling a bathroom first and will go from there. LOVE your pictures and instructions, thank you!

Jeff says:

For those of us with asbestos ceilings (and are actually concerned about our health) why not just screw in a new layer of drywall over the existng ceiling and mud and tape?.. or pay for a drywall contractor to come in and redrywall the entire ceiling? This would be alot cheaper than paying a professional asbestos abatement crew to come in and scrape the crap off.
Sounds time consuming, but definitely a safer alternative than scraping asbestos off yourself or cheaper than paying professionals to do it. Also, you will be asured of a nice smooth finish.


Vicky says:

I have a question we just bought a house that as popcorn ceiling but it’s been painted, we were told by our contractor that it would be very difficult to remove cause we can’t just wet it and painted. To save some money we have decided to attemp to remove it ourselves, we just started on our plaster ceiling and it’s been really hard to scrap off. Any suggestions? thanks

Gene says:

We live in a 1970’s hi-rise condo that has popcorn over concrete ceilings, so I’m assuming we’re asbestos infected. All the articles on this site are very helpful and have convinced me NOT to DIY, since concern about asbestos containment and disposal might be a liability issue. Now the challenge is finding qualified contractor who is willing to do the job, since most of the craftsmen in Florida are still up on the Gulf coast doing the Katrina recovery! The Venetian plaster sounds like a good alternative since the concrete likely isn’t very smooth.
Thanks for all your effort on this site!

Stacey S. says:

Wow, the stuff really does come right off, just be patient and give it a few minutes (2-3) for the water to soak in before you scrape and it’ll be easier. Go LIBERALLY on the water and you won’t gouge as much. TIP- I noticed that the popcorn had little cracks in the mud and if I wetted the right amount and waited a couple of minutes- I could tell it was ready to be taken down when these cracks disapeared. I don’t think this has been mentioned before but a great reason for getting rid of the popcorn is that your ceilings look so much taller!! Yes you will have to do some clean up which isn’t as bad as you think (kind of cleansing actually :).Make sure you wear goggles and a mask! This is one of the easiest “major” DIY’s that you can do to update your home.

Jenny says:

I’m so greatful for this all of your information. Its great getting to learn from others mistakes! We’re getting ready to start removing the popcorn from our home. I originally planned on hiring someone to do it but all the estimates on our 1000sq ft house were over $2500.00 just to have the popcorn removed. So we haved planned to just remove it ourself. We have hired a professional to come through and texture afterwards. A cost of $600.00. Definatly well worth it after hearing everyone’s problems with tryng to just paint it. We thought since there were so many different ways of trying to remove it, that we are going to try a different way in each room. I will let you all know which way I find is the easiest. Thanks again for all the ideas. And the great website.

Rich says:

Great tips, thanks to everyone. I didn’t see this one though. I took on the task of removing the popcorn ceiling in my moms house (built by my grandfather in the 40s or 50s). So far scraping it off was as easy as I was told it would be (I just found this sight today – and by the way I had no idea about the asbestos in the stuff until I was about 98% done). MY PROBLEM: underneath the popcorn I found texture. Not the simple knock down stuff but what appears to be slightly deeper, could be plaster but I have been able to scrape through it. I have scraped what I could but there is still a lot of the popcorn stuck in the texturing. Oh, and it does have glitter in it, groovy. I have found that I could get up there and use a wet cloth to hand wipe the popcorn out of the crevices but after about an hour of working on about 6 square feet I quit for the day and have not been back for about three weeks trying to figure this out. In the mean time I have heard about the asbestos problem and have been really reluctant to return.

Question: Can I prime over, drywall compound over, or do something over what is left and move on with my life and the completion of this project. someone suggested using a steam vac to wash the stuff out and suck it up at the same time since it would be a smaller amount. I was afraid of ruining a perfectly good steam vac.

eric says:

sounds like you may have a plaster ceiling.You may have just scraped the surface chunks of “popcorn”. I have used a skin coat of drywall “mud” to smooth the ceiling. you can also try thinning joiny compound with water and rolling it onto the ceiling. then sanding it smooth

I agree with Eric. If the house was built in the 40s or 50s, you’re likely to have plaster. I’ve read some cases about textured plaster ceilings. If this is the case, you probably want to stop scraping and start smoothing/sanding the rough spots with joint compound.

Rich says:

Can I use the joint compound over the popcorn material that is still embedded in the plaster? I am afraid it will prevent anything I put over it from sticking and it will bubble or just fall off.

Lauren says:

Thank Google and Jason for this wealth of info —

Here’s my Q: Anyone know if I will ruin my Dyson if I try the dry-scraper-attached-to-the-vacuum-hose tecnique?

How about if I use the Dyson with semi-wet popcorn bits?

(Am trying to decide if I need a wet vac or if I can use what I already have. I’m all taped up and ready to paint the guest bedroom and am trying to decide if I should de-popcorn or not. Y’all are giving me strength and the curiousity to try it out.)


(I’m going to mark myself as being helpful here…It’s a rare occasion.)

A: Eee Gadz! NO! Don’t use the Dyson

…that’s a $400+ vacuum and this is a dirty job. I don’t know for sure that it’ll ruin it, but do yourself a favor and buy a wet/dry vac. We have a little 5-gallon one that you can get at Wal-Mart for $29.83 (link). You could even get the fancy one for about $70 if you wanted to use it as a blower too. I use our little one for all of our DIY Home improvement adventures. Plus, you don’t want to get all that possibly Asbestos containing (hopefully not though) dust in the vacuum that you use around the house on a daily basis.

tim cosby says:

ever try to paint a textured ceiling with a roller. texture comes right off. no problem. no mess. tho i prefer the texture myself & do not care for the looks of plain smooth ceilings. which yellow faster. & just have no style to them. with texture you should add paint to the mix to seal the coating better & have no problems with flaking & they don’t yellow as fast. tho i’m not an idiot for liking texture as mentioned, i did notice the bathroom & kitchen were NOT the 1st rooms done so the smell of pee must not have been a problem. when the mix has paint added it will not absorn any more odors or anything more than regular painted ceilings. i may not be an expert on the subject but i could be as close as this board has seen. next time use water & a roller to remove the texture. stay in 1 place & it will turn loose. stick to the roller & no mess. thank you very much
elvis has left the building

Roger says:

i have popcorn walls and ceiling, and its painted, in fact this wall was made very recently because the former owners of the house were remodeling, horrible to think that this is style. its very hard to remove, very, it pissed me off so much i made a hole in the wall.

Bill says:

Thanks for the site. About the asbestos. I worked for the telephone co. for 41 years and in the 1960’s and 70’s we “pot wiped” all our cable closures, that involved lead cable and molten solder so we had asbestos everywhere to protect ourselves from burns… Even after the government outlawed that we were in attics with asbestos insulation on heating ducts and blowen asbestos inulation and on water pipes wraped with it. I know of no one that has a health issue from contact with any of this… But there are some things that you should do to protect yourself. First wear a mask, even one of those dusk masks will help. Water is your best friend, wet down the ceiling to keep particals out of the air. Clean up the debris as soon as you can and try to keep the stuff on the floor damp to keep particles out of the air. Seal the room to keep the rest of the house clean, wipe down everything with a damp cloth after you are thru and ventilate the room to the outside, it’s whats in the air that you can breath that is a danger. Clean yourself up with a good long shower and keep your hands away from your mouth as much as possible. The sanding? That’s no problem, it’s only the “popcorn” that’s a concern. As for me, asbestos comes from the ground and I feel it’s OK to put it back. One last thought keep the government, your neighbors and the EPA out of it.

Jim says:


I read GEORGE applied join-compound directly onto painted popcorn…

this is exactly what I want to try. I have done a small 1×1 foot patch, just to see what would happen….

So far, after it has dried for a few hours in this summer-heat, it LOOKS like it will work. Of course, I will need to sand it (while being mindful not to sand TOO deeply or TOO hard so that I don’t scrape through, to the dreaded popcorn). Then, I will rent a texture-gun with a air-compressor and spray the ceiling, and walls.

This is our first home, and we are taking pictures. I’ll let you know how this turns out, if I decide to do this!

If anyone has ANY advice on this method, please email me.

I have researched this topic for weeks now, and this particular method of getting rid of popcorn-ceiling seems as though it is not discussed often.




Jim, if you are taking pictures with a digital camera, post them all up somewhere and paste the link here. There are lots of great free picture hosts out there. Photobucket.com is pretty good. If you need any help, let me know. As far as help goes with the mudding over popcorn, I’m not the man to ask. 🙂

Stacey says:

Our house was built around 1918 and definitley has plaster ceilings. Most comments discuss a popcorn like texture, but we have a thick swirl texture on the ceilings of most of the house. Has anyone tried to remove this?

Bing says:

My townhouse is 1700 square feet, 850 downstairs, 850 upstairs. It all contains popcorn ceilings. Downstairs has one living room (500 square feet), and one room next to the kitchen that is about 350 square feet. The kitchen is not part of this job. The upstairs has four rooms. One master bedroom, one boy room, one girl room, and one guest room. The master bedroom has vaulted ceilings and is the biggest room of the four. The other three rooms are similiar in size. I want the popcorn ceiling gone in all the rooms.

The estimates I received so far range from $1200 to $8000 to get the job done (meaning, popcorn gone, ceiling smoothed, primed, and painted. I provide all the primer and paint). crazy! here is my plan…. Hire a day laborer who speaks English and is experienced in this type of work. Pay him $13 per hour for four hours initially to get an estimate from him. This estimate would include how long it would take for him and two other day laborers to do the job. That in itself will tell me approximately how much the labor will cost overall. Go with him to the hardware store to buy everything I need to do the job before hand (materials mentioned in the above article, plus primer, paint, and whatever else I need). ok, so here is my estimate. first four hours at $13.00 per hour is $52.00. I estimate the job would be done in three days with an 8 hour work day. so that would be 3 people time 8 hours times 3 days time $13.00 per hour with a total of $936.00. So the total cost for labor is estimated to be about $1000.

Does anyone have any comments on this plan, the time it would take, the day laborer problems, the cost estimate? I have no idea, but I really don’t want to spend $3000? for a contractor to do the job. Any comment and suggestion is greatly appreciated. Thank you for looking and a very much thank you for this site.

Mar says:

Great site. Hey, Mud over Popcorn… My daughter & I plastered her entire kitchen, dining,& study with joint compound. Call us crazy. But it’s beautiful. We applied it so thick that it could easily cover that ole popcorn stuff. You could only mix a two quart bowl at a time & apply-otherwise it would harden & couldn’t be worked. Great texture!! It was extremely labor intensive, but after painting-WOW it looked great. Her bedroom does have the evil curd-we are getting ready to tackle that with the same technique. Hope it goes well for you. Thanks to all for the great advice.

Stacey says:

Swirl texture ceiling

I just wanted to post my experience to help anyone who may have a similar problem. I have a very old home and most of the ceilings have been painted with a thick swirl texture paint. This is a bit different from popcorn ceilings and doesn’t come off nearly as easy.
We originally began by using warm water combined with a texture removal product and soaked the ceilings and then scraped off the paint with a putty knife. This was working but was very slow and time consuming. The paint was so thick that most of the water wasn’t absorbing all the way through.
We had a lot of luck with a steamer when trying to remove old wallpaper in another room. So we thought we would give it a shot rather than resorting to chemical paint removers. We simply held the steamer over a spot on the ceiling for a couple of minutes and then scraped the paint in that area off. This worked very well for us. The steam was much better at punching through layers than hot water. It is also helps to score the ceiling first. It is more of a two person project because one person can steam while the other scrapes.
We picked up or steamer at Lowes for about $50.00. It’s probably one of the best investments we have made. Some precautions must be taken because you are dealing with some hot water dripping down from above you. We wear long gloves and work to the side rather than directly above our heads.
Also, we tested for absetsos first and got the green light. Hope this helps someone along the way! Good Luck!

Kim in Georgia says:

Thanks, Jason!! My son is going to camp next week and my plan is to start the De-Popcorn Project in his room. Our whole house is popcorned. Already lost some due to my boys hitting the ceiling from the bunkbeds and boys squirting the ceiling above the bathtub during bathtime. Boys and popcorn ceilings definitely don’t mix. That little adventure let me know that it will come off easily. Thanks for all the helpful information.

Daniel Dubay says:

My dad is a professional drywall master who ran a compay of 40 men and did Meryl Streeps, Kevin Bacons and Million Dollar homes. He did my ceiling in the bathroom and living room. You can only do a room at time. It is a process though. one you use the process above with wetting the ceiling scraping. See if you have you see any waves. Sometimes it waves. You can use a long straight edge blade and fill it in with durabond 45 or 90. Then you can fill in all nicks. Also rescrew where you see nails popped. Use a punch to punch in the existing nails. Then redo all nails with 3 coats. You can use durabond to make it a quicker process. Also before you even do joint compounding it is smart to do a bonding agent before all the materials. Then once you patch and do nails it is time for a finished skim coat. Skim coating is doing the whole ceiling with using a trowel to point a fresh layer of joint compound on the ceiling. It is good to do one layer then sand then do another layer another day. The second layer/finish coat you can mix in dish soup to make it a nice smooth clean finish. This makes it easier to sand. Then you sand everything with a light. One person holds the light and one sands to hit all areas. Then you use a primer, generic or we used Bin primer. Then paint. A good trick on skim coating is to skim coat between all the nails first. Do the whole ceiling between the nails to fill the valleys in and then do the nails later. This will finish with a nice flat ceiling.
Then you have the best ceiling ever.

mrs. tedger says:

Our home was built in 1959 and our home inspector advised us to have the popcorn tested. It was done locally and $35 a test.

Fortunately there was no asbestos so we’ll be scraping this weekend!

Great info everyone!
Gonna try the roller and water trick first 😛

Tim Hall says:

I am new to the site and figured I’d give it a try for advice. We had the dreaded popcorn ceiling removed professionally because it had asbestos. After the popcorn was removed, the ceiling underneath was pretty clean with the paper of the drywall exposed and compound only over the tape lines. I patched up minor scrapes from the popcorn removal process. We are going put on a knock-down texture ourselves. My question is: With the drywall paper exposed, do I need to use a primer before applying the knockdown texture? I am not certain since the popcorn was installed without the primer and it was up since the house was built 35 years ago. Therefore, it would seem like I can add the knockdown and then primer before painting. Thanks.

Latha says:

I have a question on the popcorn ceiling removal.

After the scraping and sanding step, do I have to wipe the ceiling with a wet sponge or something? or just roll the primer over it.

Please let me know.


We just put a dry rag over our sanding pole and used that to wipe the ceiling down after sanding. If you don’t there’ll be a lot of dust on there that may prevent the paint or primer from sticking.

Renee Tinsley says:

Hey, to remove the dust from sanding (before primer and paint) you may want to try a shop vac with an extender and the floor attachment (its wide and flat) to remove the majority then a “wet Swifter” to grab whats left. They are damp and are also flat (the handle pivots too) which makes it fast and easy to do. As long as your ceilings aren’t too tall, you shouldn’t even need a ladder. Best of luck, a fellow popcorn hater!

Peter says:

Like everyone, I am very thankful for this site. I just bought a condo here in Seattle. The ceiling is covered in, you guessed it, popcorn. It was built in 1982. Lots of people tell you that if your house was built after ’78, you’re in the clear. However, my research has resulted in the discovery that although the manufacture of asbestos was banned in ’78, companies were allowed to continue using their remaining inventory until it ran out. So get it tested if your place was built all the way through the mid 80’s.

I had a lab test mine today and thank God, there’s no trace of asbestos!

Okay, to the point. My ceilings are painted as well. Just scraping off a sample for the lab was a serious pain. I have read that you can try and dry-scrape the paint to create holes that water can seep into. In fact, this technique was mentioned somewhere above. So I am gonna start scraping tonight. Here’s my plan:

I got a paint scraping brush (a coarse wire brush) and an extension pole. I’m going to carefully rough up the popcorn with this thing, and then try the regular water/scrape method. I will be very careful not to brush too hard because I dont’ want to mess up the drywall.

I haven’t moved into my condo yet, so I’m not terribly concerned about dust (I have cheapo laminate floors and no carpet… floors to be replaced soon).

Any advice is much appreciated. I will fill you guys in on how this went, since there is very little info on how to remove painted popcorn.

Thanks again for this great site.

deb says:

Well, just had a professional leave who has done tons of popcorn removal. He says he wouldnt touch mine at any cost. Seems I have 1300 sq ft of semi gloss painted popcorn ceilings.
Isn’t there any kind of solvent that would penetrate the paint? If I cant get rid of the popcorn what other methods can be used to cover it up? What are my options?

Latha says:

I read in other forums that I need to skim coat after i scrape and sand the popcorn ceiling.

Is is necessary. Is there an easy solution for skim coating?

mary says:

This discussion proves that you can find anything on the internet and that popcorn haters are bright, funny people.

We just closed on a house in Savannah and won’t be moving in until we sell our CT home. (In the current market, that could be YEARS!) I’ve been googleing for contractors to do the dreaded deed, all 8 rooms, and have found no takers.

Postings here have included one or two about covering over the popcorn with joint compound or the fairly pricey venetian plaster. Does either method work? Or does the entire ceiling come crashing down around your ears? It sounds like a brilliant short cut to me and I’m too old and too lazy for all that horrid spraying and scraping.

Thanks for any advice you can offer and for providing such a fun read.


diane says:

I have a great idea for putting an orange peel texture on your ceiling after you scrape, mix half primer with half sheetrock mud ( it will be thick but easy to roll), mix very, VERY well…. use a long nap roller and roll away . You can do the same mixture with your ceiling paint . I did this to my walls also when I took down wallpaper and there was no texture on walls and I wanted to paint them instead of re-wallpapering ……works GREAT !!! gives the perfect orange peel look .

Lauren says:

I have done the de-popcorning in areas of my condo that I can reach, however it is a one bedroom lofted condo and the lofted ceilings are about 30 feet from the bottom level and 10 feet above the second level. What stinks is that all my furniture is in the condo and there are no closed rooms to protect it from the dust (advice would be great on that). Anyway, I am trying to find anyone that would know what a good quote would be on getting these ceiling depopcorned? The area is probably 200 sq.ft. and they would need scaffolding to reach the high areas….if this is too expensive I may just cover the lofted popcorn ceilings with white wood paneling.

Peter says:

Hi. This is a follow up to my previous post above. I tried my wire brush paint-scraping method. It did not work at all. My popcorn ceiling was painted. I got really lucky though. after I realized that the paint-scraping method didn’t work very well, I decided to try to spray the stuff anyway. I was so lucky, because the water somehow was able to penetrate the paint. So I was able to scrape mine off without any major problems.

Regarding the question about whether or not you need to skim coat the walls after removing the popcorn, I don’t know that it is absolutely necessary, but you will need to make sure to use a very good primer and maybe do two coats. Paint doesn’t absorb evenly into paper. The other thing is that you will probably create nicks and scrapes in the drywall when you scrape the popcorn off. So this will require some patching with joint compound anyway.

Regarding the message from mary about applying joint compound over the popcorn, I would really not recommend this method at all. It will be very difficult to make it smooth and will take you much longer than just scraping the stuff off in the first place. Trust me. I have spent the last week or so scraping off the popcorn and skim-coating all of the walls and ceilings in my 665 square foot condo. I have stayed up until like 1am every night working on the place, and I will probably need another week or so. Skim coating takes forever when you apply it over smooth drywall. I can’t imagine how long it would take on top of popcorn.

The scraping part is actually very easy. The skim coating is hell. But it looks fantastic when you’re done! Good luck everyone!!

peter says:

Oh and another thing about applying joint compound over popcorn… The joint compound is moist. As you know, the procedure for scraping it is to spray it with water, let it be absorbed, and then scrape it off. The moisture is what causes it to loosen when you remove it. I would be concerned that the moisture in the joint compound could have the same effect.

Applying joint compound over popcorn should only be done when it has been painted first. Even then, it seems like a ton of work! Hope that helps.

mary says:

oh where did i leave my brain? of course, the compound is wet and could very well loosen the popcorn and we’d have the ceiling falling off in chunks.

still, this is not going to be a DYI. we’re over 60 and smart MDs say i’m allergic to dust. (i’m in denial over both).

do i hear any volunteers? thought not. in lieu of that, does anyone know of a reasonably priced contractor in Savannah who would take on the task?

thanks, all.


Brett says:

Thanks for the refresher on removal of the F.L.A. from lids. I prefer to hang drywall rather than strip it, but you do what ya gotta do. I hope it’s not quite the nightmare I remember it to be.

Thanks Again,

PS. FLA is Fat Ladies A…..

Rich says:

Just finished a 4000 sq ft home that was covered in popcorn and wanted to thank everyone for their tips. A few items to note on how we did it might make the project go smoother for some others.

Lowes Home imporovemnets has a 12 inch floor scraper for about $20 that was a life saver. It was a little rough on the arms, but you could scrape an 8 x 8 area in less than a minute. A 12 inch putty knife also works real well, but you will need a ladder.

The popcorn was 25 yrs old, and had been painted a few time. We found that two passes on the ceiling were needed, but not altogether to time consuming if you follow the following procedure. Wet the whole ceiling and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes (we used a 1 gal pump sprayer). Scrape the surface to open up the paint and knock off some of the popcorn. Come back and wet the ceiling again and let soak for another 5 minutes. This time the old popcorn will get saturated with water and become a little mushy. Scrape again, and you will find that the popcorn will come down very easily.

Lastly, we had covered the floor with construction paper on the first few rooms but this seemed a little messy to clean up. So we opted to cover the floors with 1 mil plastic taped around the walls. This made clean up very easy.

Hope some one benefits from this info, and I apologize if this info is redundant. I didn’t have time to look back and see if someone else had mentioned these items.

Thanks again,

Mikeybiggs says:

I have a question more than a comment. I don’t have the ‘popcorn’ effect but more like an ‘icing’ effect on my ceilings. Looks like they used plaster or joint compound to ‘goop’ up the ceiling. Any suggestions on taking this down before I just rip the ceiling down and put up a new one?

Susan says:

Great and informative board here. I’m going to tackle my home office ceiling in a few minutes, so I’m getting ready and studying up. I just had a brief comment to add: I was at an acquaintance’s house, and they had painted their popcorn ceiling in their daughter’s room black. And it looked pretty good! You didn’t know it was popcorn until you really looked close, and it gave it an interesting textured look. I thought this might be another option for those who won’t or can’t remove their acoustic ceiling. Thanks for the help.

Susy says:

Thank you! The only pop corn I want now, is at the ball game! 🙂 You have helped a lot!

Brenda says:

Just wanted to let you know…I was all ready to get rid of the popcorn throughout our 1987 house, when the paranoia of all things deadly got to me, and I had it tested. Yep, positive for asbestos, 3%. Between that & the radon we had to mitigate last year, I should have about 6 months to live.

GET IT TESTED!! It only cost $35, and everyone was calling me crazy, with a house built in 1987.

David White says:

Hi Jason!

I wanted to add a post here that I made on my blog. Mainly because you posting this was what spurred me to take on this adventure. And I have to say that I am VERY glad that we did. For those of you out there wishing to take the leap, it is a lot of hard work. If you realy and truly hate popcorn ceilings as much as my wife and I do, you will thank yourself later for doing it.

Thanks for the Inspiration Jason!

“From the first time that I saw the ceilings in our new house I knew that I wanted to remove the nasty blown popcorn. There was a ring on the ceiling from where the fan (that she never dusted) had blown dust up there. I had read numerous message board posts with tips and tricks from people that had scraped popcorn down before (Namely this post!). So armed with a three inch putty knife and a step stool I set about removing the ceiling from the master bathroom. It was hard, a lot harder then I expected it to be. By the time I had finished scraping the bathroom I had an indent in the middle of my palm that would be a huge bruise the next day.

Saturday comes and before starting on the spare bedroom we go to Lowes Hardware and buy a nice pair of cowhide gloves to help preserve my hands. This would be the first of five million trips to that cursed place. Once back in the house I start work on the Pink room. I�ve had several hours of experience by know and I�ve figured out what works, and what doesn�t, this room goes a bit smoother then the bathroom, and looks a fair sight better as well. It takes me the better part of an entire weekend to completely scrap the ceilings in the bathroom, pink room, hallway, living room, kitchen, and dining room. By the time I got to the living room I had it down to a science and had really figured out how to get it completely off.

We realized about halfway through this process that were not going to be able to even think about getting the painting started. Luckily Jennifer�s mother who was supposed to be coming to visit the following week asked if we could use her help now. The answer was a resounding yes.

You see, when you remove a blown ceiling like we had just done. Not only do you have to make sure it�s a smooth surface. You have to seal it with a primer, and then you have to paint it. So yes, that means you paint every single ceiling surface twice. My shoulders hurt just thinking about it! It took us until the middle of the week to finish painting every ceiling I had scraped. All told I believe it was five or six days from start to finish on the ceilings. So it was Wednesday we had not even started the walls yet, and we were supposed to move on Saturday! ”

(You can read the entire post here)http://nighthawke.blogspot.com/2006/08/those-people.html

JKW says:

Thank you for this site! I had just bought 10 gallons of popcorn ceiling removal solution, @ $9.89 a gal, but couldn’t find a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on it when I got home, so I googled and came to your site and tried water mixed with some dishwashing liquid, and it worked just fine, so I am going back down to my favorite “home” place and swapping it out for as much plaster of paris as I can buy because your site had a great post about using Venetian Plaster to finish off the ceiling, and it sounded really cool.


Dishwashing liquid? I never read that one. 🙂 I’m glad it worked for you though. I too would like to try Venetian plaster at some point…but probably not in this house. Best of luck!

Linda says:

We have two homes we are planning to remove popcorn ceilings out of. Amen! You mention you have a smooth ceiling now. Did you put anything up, such as a knock-down texture or did you paint right on to the cleaned ceiling itself? If you painted right on to the ceiling, what are the procedures? Primer and then paint, or just primer? We are wanting plain white ceilings and I want to make sure anything underneath the primer/paint such as lumps from tapes (especially at the edges where the ceiling and walls meet) and nail holes are as invisible as possible. Sure do appreciate your info. Looks like a popular website. Thank you!!! And thanks also for your step-by-step pictures. You have encouraged me to work in an empty room and change out my 2″ scraper to a larger scraper.
Best regards,

Hey Linda. Yea, what started off as just sharing a DIY experience has turned into a forum for all things related to ceiling remodeling. 🙂 When we finished scraping and sanding our ceilings, we used joint compound to fill the nail holes and cover any rough areas, like the tape joints around the edges. Once that was dry, we sometimes had to repeat that process to get a nice smooth surface. When you’re done, put a rag on your sanding pole and wipe down the ceiling. If there’s a lot of dust on the surface you’ll find that neither primer nor paint will stick. To finish it off we used a coat of primer and a coat of paint. Best of luck!

Jim says:

We had our “popcorn” scraped off of our ceilings in 2005 by a friend and I’m now sending out a sample because, I still have some in the closets and I’m worried it contains Asbestos. My question is, because my house was built in California in 1977 is there a beter chance it does not contain asbestos because of California maybe being stricter about building codes and laws? Thanks.

Kristie says:

This past weekend my husband and I helped my parents remove a popcorn ceiling from a home they are remodeling. The home was built in 1972. The ceiling had the pretty silver glitter in it as well. It most likely had asbestos as well. Unfortunately, we were completely unaware that it contained asbestos until after we removed it from the majority of the home. My husband and Dad did all the removal but other family members were in the house at the time. They used a sprayer and wet the material before scraping it. It obviously still made a huge mess on them as well as the floors. My concern now is for the exposure we suffered over 2 days of removing the ceiling. Does anyone know the harm in short term exposure? Is there anything we can do after the fact to prevent health problems later? I just keep going back to seeing my husband completely covered with that stuff and it scares me!!

Nancy B says:


Ours was an extreme case. My husband and I scraped every inch (ceilings AND walls, including closets) of our condo starting in May, and finished up in August. After we’d scraped, sanded, spackled, and painted all the walls and ceilings, we tackled the kitchen, refinishing the walnut cabinets – which had been painted white – and installing a wood laminate floor in place of the old vinyl faux brick. The place looks so wonderful that I would recommend to anyone to take out the (expletive deleted) popcorn.

For Kristen: if the stuff was wet, that’s a plus. Most cases of asbestosis happened after long-term exposure to dry asbestos floating in the air – but there’s one case, at least, of a wife who contracted asbestosis from washing her husband’s asbestos-impregnated clothing over a period of years.

Once again, Jason, thank you for this forum. Please let me know if you’d be interested in “before,” “during,” and “after” pictures of our project.

Nancy B.

Fred in Tampa says:

I’m about to tackle a home filled with popcorn that was built in the late 80’s. Thanks to this site, I feel confident enough to tackle this myself. It’s taken 2 weeks to remove the 6 layers of wallpaper including 2 coats of paint in the master bath, so now I can start the popcorn fun. I’ll check back after I start to either praise or curse. 🙂

Gary A. says:

I’ve just spent about 2 hours reading from start to finish and I have a few comments. I’ll fight the urge to be verbose but I’m going to have to apologize in advance for going on a bit.

First of all, I don’t have a problem with popcorn ceilings. Popcorn is a relatively easy method of coating ceilings and hiding imperfections. I live in SC and have installed home alarm systems in new homes for about the last 10 years. Probably 3 out of every 100 new houses DOES’NT have popcorn sprayed ceilings so the so called “fad” from the 70s and 80s isn’t just a fad. It’s easy and cheap.

I’m sure many of the readers and posters here have had experience trying to get ceilings flat and smooth. I have and it sucks. If I was putting up a new ceiling I would probably go to the trouble of getting it smooth but even the slightest imperfection would drive me nuts. I’d be skimming and sanding for months if that’s what it would take. Having said that, I’d be willing to re-popcorn a ceiling if I wasn’t sure what was under the old stuff. Which is exactly what I’m doing now.

Question? Has anyone ever partially removed popcorn then recoated with new? I’m scraping until almost smooth and then I’ll prime/seal it before blowing new stuff. Any tips?

Next, I’d like to make a comment about asbestos. Many of the posts here seem to have a blas� approach concerning asbestos. A few years ago, while crawling under a building pulling new phone lines, I was exposed. I was very upset with my boss for not warning me about it. The asbestos was in the form of insulation around old cast iron sewer pipes which had been busted up and left there. I crawled throught this mess several times before I realized what it was. It was caked into my clothing, skin and hair. I wasn’t wearing any kind of mask. I never suspected there was any danger. I did some research on asbestosis and was a bit alarmed. Now, having said all this, I must add that, IMHO, the EPA often goes way overboard when placing restrictions on certain materials and the “proper” means of removing and disposing of them. So, you are probably wondering, what is my position on asbestos? Caution, caution, caution. Should I repeat that? No, I don’t think so. Read up on asbestosis. Be sure you know what you are dealing with. If you are in your early years, just starting out, planning to raise a family, consider this. You won’t know you have asbestosis until you are diagnosed with it. There is no cure. It can kill you. You may not live long enough to see your grandkids go to kindergarten. Yes, I will repeat it… caution, caution, caution. If you are sure you want to remove it, water is your friend. Keep it damp and don’t let it get airborn. Don’t strip a whole room and then take a break and go clean up. Clean it up well as you go. Seal it in double bags. Buy a decent air filter and run it on full power in the room you’re stripping. Change filters often. Stay in the room, preferably sealed, until you are finished scraping, clean thoroughly, wipe down everything, clean tools, put all rags, drop cloths, scraps, etc. into bags and seal them up. Don’t let this stuff spread around your house. If possible, remove contaminated clothing in the project room and transport it to your washing machine in plastic bags. Or, buy a cheap pair of PJs to wear while working and throw them away when finished. This may sound extreme but this stuff can come back to haunt you later. And, one last comment on this topic: check your local codes before throwing this stuff in the trash. There are severe penalties if you get caught throwing asbestos contaminated trash into public landfills or recycling centers.

OK, I’ve gone on long enough. BTW, my wife hates popcorn ceilings but since we are going to sell this place soon, she’s OK with respraying the popcorn. Our next home is going to have wood on the ceilings. Looks nice and doesn’t have potentially hazardous coatings. Good luck with all you projects and have a nice day.

Greg says:

After ceiling popcorn removal and before sanding you can try a “skip” trowel finish if some texture is still desired. To achieve a skip trowel finish you place regular joint compound mud with paint added in and in random movements with a floor tile finish trowel (by lifting off quickly and re-connecting with the mud during sweeps) you can create some neat designs in a semi-textured finish. We did this in our dining room and family rooms and by adding lighter two-tone paints to the compound (seperate applications) you can actually get a beautiful color coated – skip troweled finish to your ceiling. I would highly recommend testing on a piece of drywall first to get your design pattern and color(s) that you are looking for. By adding crown moulding, our ceilings look very fancy without the costs. Oh yeah and NO SANDING is needed as the texture looks great rough!

Jason says:

I did a MSN search for Popcorn ceilings and your site was number one and I totally dig it! Just wanted to show you this link that I found in the same search.


Hey Jason, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for watching my back and letting my know about that URL. I actually granted the people at EZRip permission to repost my images and content. They’re the only people I’ve given permission to though, so if you see this article anywhere else, lemme know.

ALIANA says:

I have an idea, after scraping off popcorn, to cover exposed drywall with textured paper to hide imperfections and, then, paint over it with matte finish.
Will it work?

Gregg says:

There are a lot of posts here so hopefully I’m not repeating this idea. I recently knocked the popcorn bits off my ceiling leaving the layer of cement behind. I started covering it with approximately a quarter inch layer of joint compound and using a notched trowel I started making a textured finish. Having ruined one section I wanted to re-do it by scraping the compound off and trying again, but when I did so the spackle AND popcorn cement came clean off down to the sheet rock with ease!

So here’s the deal, a huge bucket of spackle is as cheap as a bottle of popcorn removal solution so cost wise it’s not a problem. It takes a little more effort up front when skim coating the ceiling, but considering my popcorn was painted and was very difficult to remove, the moisture from the spackle absorbed very well and evenly, too. It even helped the popcorn to come off in long sheets. If your popcorn comes off with just water then great, but for really stubborn painted popcorn this idea is a lifesaver! Even the damage to the paper layer on the sheet rock and taped corners was extremely minimal. Just one more selling point for me was that I didn’t have nearly as much mess with water dripping all over. I plan on trying this in a larger room.

Gregg says:

In regards to my last post, keep in mind the spackle I used was quite wet. It just hit me that you could water down your spackle even more which might help soften the popcorn quicker and make it easier to spread. Let it dry a bit, even if it’s almost ‘cake’ like, it’s still moist underneath and will scrape off beautifully.

Ernie says:


My wife and I just scraped our dining room ceiling by using the wet method and had no problem.

However, after sanding the rough spots, I primed the ceiling and again no problem. I let the primer dry overnight and then went to paint the ceiling and in two spots, the paint will not stick. As I was painting, the paint was actually peeling.

I am thinking of scraping the problem spots, spackling, sanding, and then trying to paint again.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Dianna says:

I saw several questions about removing “icing” type textured ceiling material (maybe plaster?), but I have not seen an answer to the problem. Does anyone know how to remove this type of ceiling, which is not popcorn? I scraped a bit off and I think there is drywall underneath.

Faye says:

I am not sure if a popcorn ceiling is flaking. We’re finding white stuff and think it might be coming from the popcorn ceiling. Any experience with this? We’d like to get the flakes tested by an asbestos tester. Any recommendations on inspectors in the Los Angeles area?

Thanks in advance.

Andrea says:

I have only one room with popcorn ceiling in my recently purchased 1967 home!!! Thank goodness!! I am planning on doing knockdown texture on the walls AND ceilings but have read a few negative comments about diong the ceilings….right now I have that fine, gritty sandpaper look……any thoughts?

Gerry says:

I just came across this site – I wish I had done so before I jumped into my popcorn removal project. I wetted and scraped into the wee small hours of the morning and thought it was coming off just fine. The next day I saw that that although the popcorn was gone, there was still a lot of plaster-like surface still on the drywall and a lot of little gouges caused by my carelessness and impatience. So I guess now I have to go back and finish carefully taking all the remaining surface off down to the actual drywall and sand the gouges and go over them with compound and a putty knife before calling in the contractor to retexture. If I had read all these remarks earlier, I would have been more careful and thorough in the first place. ARGHHHHHH. One question I have for those who have used a Shop-Vac – do you put a special fine filter in it – that fine plaster dust can just blow through and back out into the room!

Fred in Tampa says:

Hi Ernie,
I too am having the peeling paint issue, mine tho is with the primer, Lowes insisted this was the best primer I can buy, I believe it’s called Gripper, however in some places, it just rolls right off the drywall. Because I painstakingly sanded to such a smooth finish, I’m resistent to finish priming until I can find out wht the problem is.

Dianna says:

Hi, Ernie and Fred,

We have a slightly different problem but are going to try the Zinsser product Gardz. It sees to fix a multitude of sins.

Here is the link: http://www.zinsser.com/wtb-GARDZ.asp?SID=11&WID=27

I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Who? Me? I don’t know anybody by that name… 🙂 Sorry for not responding to the comments for a few days. I’ve been very busy lately with a lot of non popcorn-related distractions. For the last few months I’ve been doing very little besides working, eating, sleeping, and writing. I’m working on a book about website design…and that has been eating up all my free time. Honestly, I don’t know how I became the king of popcorn ceiling removal. I’m just your typical first-time homeowner with huge remodel goals and a tiny budget. Somehow though, this little tutorial I wrote up gets 150 unique views a day. I’ve been happy to see the discussion that’s going on here in the comments, but I don’t think a blog comment list is all that conducive to community and conversation, so I’ve just registered popcornforum.com where I’ll setup a forum soon to host all this info. My plan is to go through all the comments and break them up into topics like Questions, Tips, Stories, Asbestos Concerns, etc… There’s a lot of good information here and it deserves a good home. It may be a few weeks out though, so in the mean time, hold tight to your scrapers and sanding poles and I’ll try to answer questions as I can. Thanks to all of you who have taken on the questions of others! You guys and gals are a huge help!

Andrea says:

You know that pink insulation that comes in 4′ by 8′ sheets? Could I nail that right over the popcorn, prime and paint it? I know I’d see the seams, but I’m planning to do a mural on it and I could build the lines into the design.

SC says:

How much does it cost to hire an asbestos abatement professional + repainting the whole ceiling? Anyone knows a Per square foot rate?

Rainbird says:

I got an estimate from an abatement contractor several years ago and the cost was six dollars per square foot. You can of course remove your own popcorn ceilings if you follow the proper procedures. The link below explains how a homeowner can remove popcorn texture that contains asbestos.


Julie says:

After a couple of recent hurricanes in my area I lost parts of my popcorn ceilings. Right now I only have drywall nailed up which hasn’t been finished. I would like to just skip everything and put up a wood ceiling but, wondered it I should scrape off the rest of the popcorn (I have vaulted ceilings) or if I could just place the wood over it? My friend and her husband just finished removing all of the popcorn ceilings in their house and she told me what a nightmare it was so I guess I’m looking for the easy way out. Any thoughts?

Joe says:

Hi, all! I found this website earlier, it looks like an easy solution to our ugly popcorn ceilings: http://www.barrisolco.com/removingpopcornceiling.html
check it, I’d like to hear from others what they think.

Dianna says:

See my earlier posts. We removed the textured ceiling the same way as removing a popcorn ceciling. We saturated the plaster with a solution of soap and warm water and then scraped it off with a putty knife. Actually, it was a lot easier than we anticipated.

As for the “cardbox” walls, we used the Zinssr Gardz proudct, then a skim coat, another application of Gardz, then paint. It is certainly time consuming to apply multiple treatments, but it was 100 percent worth it.

Bob says:

I’ve read your site top to bottom, it was similiar to “War and Peace”, in the amount of reading material. I have yet to find any results on this site similiar to my own experience. I have done my entire home and a handful of rooms in other homes with satisfactory results for all involved.

I carefully scraped ceilings, using the dry method and an 8″ drywall knife, the results of lightly shaving off the hanging popcorn to within about 16th of an inch of the ceiling leaves a clean plaster type texture that everyone assumes has just been painted. No longer is it a cobweb catching dust trap. That was my goal. Has anyone tried this and we’re they satisfied with tjhis look?

Congratulations on making it all the way to the bottom Bob! The amount of raw information here and the difficulty of finding what you’re looking for is precisely why I setup popcornforum.com. Rather than posting comments here that will likely get lost in this sea of information, anybody can go to the forum and post a new tip, story, question, asbestos concern, etc…I’ve even set it up so that you can post anonymously which means that you don’t even have to register or enter any personal information. It’s a much better way to make yourself heard and get feedback.

Ok, now that I’ve got that bit out of the way, I’ve heard from a few people who have scraped their popcorn without wetting it, but is that your last step? You just scrape the kernels off and call it a day? I image if you did that you would have some places where you would see the darker gray color of the raw drywall.

Ben says:

Hey all popcorn haters. In my journey to rid my basement ceiling of popcorn, I found this site. Although it took some time to read all posts, they were very helpful (Saved $450 that a contractor would have done it for). Just a couple tips I discovered and would recommend.

I found the edges and corners were most difficult, so I did all those first. I used a 2″ putty knife because it was easier to handle.

Secondly, get yourself any kind of pressurized sprayer. I started out with a water bottle…and unless you want severe forearm and hand cramps, I do not recommend. You can buy a 1.5 gallon wand sprayer at Home Depot for $14. This saves a lot of time and agony.

Lastly, my popcorn was painted – which some think makes removal too difficult. This didn’t matter…just use more water and let it soak longer. If that doesn’t help, scrape the top of it and spray again. I used a 12″ knife for center of ceiling and was able to get a very smooth finish.

Good Luck to all, and thanks to Jason for putting this together.

Billbo says:

Great site!! doe anyone know square footage price-range, to remove popcorn and knockdown ceilings. Thanks Bill

Nora says:

Hi there,

Great page!

I thought about DIY for removing the popcorn ceiling but due to time contraints, I opted to get a contractor to do the work. I am actually getting the textured ceiling look which is more of a flat textured look.

For removal, application of texture, sanding, prime coat and 2 coats of paint, it has come out to $2500. This is being done in my condo which is about 730 sq feet.

I would have tried it myself had it not been the tight time line that I am working with.

Alex says:

Has anyone considered that it might be simpler in some rooms to just hang new drywall over the top of the old ceiling? Depending on how many fixtures, vents, etc. you would have to adapt, might save a lot of the headaches.

NorAZ says:

My husband and I removed the hideous ceiling texture that is known as “popcorn” from our entire home last November. Since then, we have had a few nails popping out of our drywall in both our ceiling and 1 exterior wall. Do you think this is related to the moisture from scraping, retexturing, and repainting the ceiling or should we attribute it to house settling? Or perhaps the home is possessed. Has anyone else experienced this annoying possible side effect? Thanks for any help and thanks for maintaining this Popcorn Buster site. You are truly contributing to good in the world.

Alex says:

Hey, great site… lots of info. I have three rooms to remove “texture” from in my newly bought house. So I’ve decided to try different ways when doing each room… unless of course, one way just seems to work flawlessly.

I just finished the first room last week. I’m not exactly sure if its “popcorn” or just heavily textured paint… but what really annoys me is that the texture wasn’t applied uniformly and literally looks like someone just threw up globs of texture in spots around the ceiling that is relatively flat. so in this instance, i decided to scrape down some of the texture after wetting it… which for me was NOT as easy as some of these post made it seem… maybe bc there was paint on it? nothing came off in strips or flakes… i just kind of dented the higher “peaks”.

after i knocked down what i could, than i started the job of what i guess is called “skin coating” the ceiling with LOTS AND LOTS of joint compound. Starting out, I wanted to get a”smooth” finish… although i soon realized my joint compound application skills were obviously not at that level… so i eventually decided to go for an obviously textured look… where you could see the putty knife swirls and scrapes. my room of about 15×12 took me about 8 hours to “skin coat” (after about two hours of “trying” to scrape off the texture)

after everything dried, the “stucco” like look wasn’t half bad actually… although not the smooth ceiling i originally wanted… but it was MUCH better than the spotted lunar surface that was my ceiling before. now it just looks like one of those old plaster ceilings. i intend to now seal the whole thing with a coat of primer and then regular white paint… and i think ultimately it will look pretty good, i hope.

my one concern…. if someone could answer this is… someone asked if throwing up this much joint compound is going to be problematic in the future…. is this stuff gonna fall down?? Thanks!

Keith and Christie says:

Hey there Jason, we loved the pictures of you and your wife’s popcorn removal job! And was very happy to see that it can be removed! I thought that we were going to have to remove the sheetrock completely! THanks for the info. Will let you know how it goes here in Alabama. Our ceilings are only 7 feet tall, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have any probs. TTYL Keith and Christie

darla says:

does the popcorn have to come off in sheets… or can it just be knocked off the surface and re-textured?

David says:

Just stumbled upon this website and LOVE it! I recently bought a 1964 vintage bungalow and about 2/3 of it’s 1300 square feet has been popcornified.I plan to tackle the removal myself.Ironically while looking for a home,the 2 worst things that turned me off from many houses were stucco and laminate floors.My realtor would call me and say she saw a new propery but there’s minor stucco alert or a minor laminate alert!! Anyway,despite the popcorn,this place was too good a deal to pass up. The popcorn problem will have to be dealt with in 2 stages. The entire hall which ranges in width from 4.5′ to 9′ has popcorn-including the mouldings-this is the easy part. The living room/dining room is 27’x17′ and as if popcorn isn’t bad enough,the popcorn was sprayed onto 12″x12″ acoustic tiles!I may just drywall the whole thing. Admittedly,acoustics may have been an issue in this space-the whole house has hardwood flooring-but still there is no redemption for popcorn. One of the 2 popcorned bedrooms presents another problem. This room has a rounded wall with rounded mouldings-so ,if I cannot scrape off the popcorn,can I even buy this type of moulding anymore? I really don’t want to ruin this curved moulding!! About 3 years ago,I broke one of my front teeth on an unpopped corn kernal. So,I hate popcorn on many levels now!! Any suggestions would be appreciated. I didn’t realize the popcorn epidemic was so widespread,and I thought they had found a cure for it in the late 70’s. Obviously not so.My brother has a condo built in 1990 and lo and behold-popcorn heaven!!

Mark says:

This site is…well….helpful and hilarious. I am closing on a condo in So.Cal that was built in 1965.I too, like previous writers, will have a window of time where my palace of popcornification will be vacant. Want the vile stuff off-but may just hire someone. My arms/shoulders hurt just reading all this. Tho my pocketbook will hurt instead.

Linda says:

What a great site! I’ve trying to talk my husband into helping me remove the popcorn ceiling, at least our kitchen. After reading all these posts, I’m not sure whether he will be encouraged or discouraged to attempt this. Our breakfast nook is vaulted to 14′. Please tell me the effort will be worth it!!

Joe says:

Just thought I would give my 2 cents. I scraped my bedroom, and then used joint compound to give it a slight texture in less than two hours. Joint compound works great, as this is almost the same thing they use for knock down texture.I have seen it used as texture for walls, and have seen no problems with cracking, or peeling off. But I would not apply it directly over popcorn, as it will crack if put on too thick, and possibly come off years down the road.
I am about to do my cathedral ceiling in my living room, but I am going to put up 14 drywall directly over the popcorn. People will tell you 14 is too thin for a ceiling, but its not if you plan to install it directly over an existing drywallplaster ceiling. 14 is much lighter, and easier to work with. Many people do not consider the extra weight they are adding to the ceiling when they use thicker drywall. It is very easy to put up 14 drywall over an exisiting ceiling, and really makes less of a mess than scraping, even though the jointsnail hole areas will need to be sanded.
They make a drywall sander that can be attached to a shop vac, and does very well at sucking up the sanding dust. I have done drywall for 10 years, and if you take your time, you will have a nice, smooth ceiling, and Its really easy to work with. If you have a small room, then scrape! White flat paint hides most imperfections, and should be used over any kind of staingloss finish. The darker, glossier the paint you use, the more you will notice imperfections.

Lo says:

Great site, Jason! I just spent the better part of a week scraping, sanding, caulking, spackling and repainting two rooms in my house. It’s intimidating at first but smart preparation is the key to an easy job — and trust me it isn’t as hard as you think, anyone can do it and it’s really only 5 steps!


My house is older so I assumed asbestos and went from there. I bought one of those full body coveralls (sorry, didn’t have to the stones to go guerrilla like Jason and Amy) — 10 bucks at Home Depot, asbestos rated respirator — about 40 bucks at Home Depot, a few pairs of rubber gloves with extended forearms for extra coverage — 99 cents each for bags of two at Big Lots, an old towel from the closet to wipe off your shoes, 4 bags of plastic drop cloths — 89 cents at Big Lots, some ventilated goggles — 3 bucks at almost any hardware store, a cheap plastic pump sprayer — 8 bucks at Home Depot and a cheap, wide taping knife, a 12″ one at any hardware store — 6 bucks. If you want to scrimp, the taping knife, sprayer and drop cloths are essential. You can get disposable respirators, too, for much less but why take a chance with your lungs? A sturdy step ladder which allows you to scrape level, not “up”, one of those rubber 32-gallon cans lined with a thick plastic bag and a good radio will also make your life easier. Anyway, get your tools, now you’re set.

STEP 2: Start EARLY. Quiet Saturday morning’s are good. Move as much furniture as you can out of the room, or move it to the center. Cover the floor and anything left behind with drop cloths, it WILL get dirty if you don’t cover it. Turn off all electricity to the room, remove any ceiling fixtures and mask all light switches, outlets, etc. Don’t worry about windows, they won’t come into play.

STEP 3: Fill your pump sprayer with warm tap water. No detergents and/or solvents are necessary.

STEP 4: Hop up on your ladder and beginning with a corner start spraying the ceiling with water in manageable rectangles or squares (3’x6′, 4’x4′ etc.). Moisten it well. You want it wet, but not dripping. The popcorn will change color slightly as it takes on water, giving you a good visible guide when as to when it’s wet. Let it soak five minutes. Check your e-mail, finish that muffin, coffee, whatever. While you’re working it’s also a good idea to spray ahead to your next “work square” to get it softening while you scrape.

STEP 5: Take your putty knife/trowel/homemade scraper tool and get to work. Scrape at a shallow angle with moderate force — this isnt’ jazzercise — and the stuff will fall off like wedding cake frosting. Keep your scraping in front of you — it’s easier on the arms and shoulders and keeps you from turning yourself into an asbestos Chia Pet. I trail my scraping tool with a small lined trash can and the popcorn drops right into the can. When the can gets heavy, just dump it into the 32 gallon can. That’s it! Once you get the hang of scraping you’ll figure out how to do it so nothing is left behind. My ceiling is plaster underneath and was quite smooth so I had a minimum of repair to do afterwards, just filling small cracks with caulk/joint compound, etc. One 15’x15′ room took me about an hour or so to scrape, and that was with a 4 inch scraper! If you get arm weary take a break, eat lunch, rest, whatever. Keep all the sludge well moistened and dust won’t be a problem. And remember the stuff sticks to your shoes so beware of tracking it through the house. Wipe your shoe bottoms with the wet towel or use extra drop cloths to plan to your exits!

STEP 6 (Optional): Beer. Chips. Salsa. Ol�.

That’s it. Yeah, it’s unglamorous work, but it goes really quickly and the results are ridiculously rewarding. Plan it right and cleanup will be a minimum. It changes a room from “Boogie Nights” to “Sense and Sensibility” in just one afternoon. Now get your shopping list together and get to work!

After 200 amazing comments/suggestions/tips etc it’s time to close the comments. See the end of this blog post for more details. If you want to share your experience(s), please do so in the popcornforum. You don’t need a login or password to post there, so it’s just as easy as leaving a comment on here used to be. Thanks everybody!!!

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