Here’s How to Remove Those Popcorn Ceilings Yourself
We won't call it easy, but getting rid of those textured ceilings is a cheap project you can do on your own.
There’s a lot to love about older homes—the character! The quirks! The superior construction materials!—but one thing modern homeowners usually don’t like about an older home? The popcorn ceilings. If you own a home with popcorn ceilings you’d like to get rid of (or maybe you were the one who added them 30 years ago and now regret that decision), it’s possible to remove the ceiling texture without getting a contractor involved, but there are some important steps and precautions you should take before going scraper-first at your ceiling. We’ve gathered the best tips for how you can safely and cheaply get rid of those pesky popcorn ceilings yourself.
The textured, stucco-like popcorn ceilings we know today came into popularity in the middle of the 20th century for their ease of installation (they didn’t require painting over), ability to cover up imperfections in ceiling construction, and soundproofing characteristics. The ceiling texture continued to be regularly used into the early 2000s, but if your home or the ceiling in question is likely older than the 1980s, it’s important you do a test for asbestos before going any further—the material was often used to improve the soundproofing capabilities. Hire a professional or take the necessary precautions before doing a DIY test. If your ceiling tests positive, you have a couple options: You can hire a professional to safely remove the ceiling or you can cover it up with wood paneling or drywall—if the ceiling is intact, it’s perfectly safe to leave it as-is and simply cover up the texture you don’t want to see.
If your ceiling doesn’t test positive for asbestos and you want to handle removing it yourself, the tools you’ll need are likely already in your garage: a ladder, a putty knife, a garden sprayer, and lots of plastic sheets and drop cloths to protect the rest of your room from the mess you’re surely about to make.
To get started, test scraping a small portion of the ceiling while it’s dry. If it’s proving very difficult, try lightly wetting the area with warm water, wait 15 minutes for it to soak in, and try again. If scraping is simply not going to happen, it’s likely your ceiling was painted after the popcorn texture was applied, which makes the substance that much harder to remove. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need the help of a professional, or you could simply cover the ceiling with drywall. If your ceiling is scraping easily, power on!
You’ll want to be sure to properly prep your room for this project: Remove as much furniture as you can, cover the rest with plastic sheets, cover the walls and floor with plastic sheets as well, using painter’s tape to seal off the edges. Remove any light fixtures and ceiling vents and stuff the holes with newspaper or tape over them to prevent any water or dust from entering an electrical socket. To be safe, you’ll want to go ahead and turn off electricity running to the room altogether, and also turn off central air or heat when you start scraping so you don’t stir up the dust.
Once you get to scraping, it’s best to work in no larger than a 5-foot area at a time—otherwise parts of the surface you spray will dry before you get to it. You want to only use as much water as necessary, since too much could damage the drywall underneath. Start scraping the ceiling surface and continue around the room. If you’re feeling particularly handy, HGTV has a great tip to tape your putty knife to the nozzle of a wet/dry vacuum so that what you scrape off is immediately vacuumed up, which will seriously minimize your mess.
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After removing all the texture you’re able to scrape away, you’ll want to sand down the ceiling so that it’s smooth to the touch before priming and painting the entire surface. It might be a time-consuming and difficult product, but all that work will surely be worth it for a smooth, textureless ceiling that not only will look better, but will also add value to your home.