Popcorn Ceiling Removal: A DIY Guide

how to remove popcorn ceiling

When buying an older home, there are a lot of things to look out for, including asbestos, mold and bad wiring. Provided these three major issues are non-factors, any other issues are likely aesthetic and secondary, however, it’s still important to conduct a home inspection to ensure everything is on the up and up. When it comes to aesthetics, older homes are less desirable and require some renovations to be brought up to snuff. The most typical renovations conducted in an older home are flooring upgrades, kitchen renos and bathroom renos. After executing those three renovations, you’re just some tinkering away from having an up to date home. The first thing you may notice, however, is the popcorn ceiling.

Popcorn ceilings were very popular in the 50’s and 60’s and have been plaguing households ever since. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone interested in installing popcorn ceilings in this day and age. Nice, smooth, paintable ceilings are what people are looking for. Still, when on an aggressive house hunt, a popcorn ceiling isn’t a make it or break it, because it can always be removed.

At as much as $2 per square foot, depending on the size of the home, something so simple could wind up taking a huge chunk out of your renovation budget. The good news is, you don’t need to be pro or require a lot of tools. Popcorn ceiling removal is very doable as a DIY project, but rest assured, it’s hard work and makes a big mess. Follow this guide and you’ll be enjoying smooth ceilings in no time (and hopefully, a recovery massage from your spouse):

1) When To Do It

This should be the first renovation you do before you move any furniture in. It will cause an enormous mess, rather than go through the effort of mitigating it with covers (it will still find its way through), go nuts and attack the project full force without preoccupation of consequences.

2) What Tools You Need

Your tool checklist includes: A sander, a garden sprayer, a putty knife with mud, paint, roller, and, of course, a scraper.

3) Cover Up

If not executing this task in an empty house, cover every inch of your house up, it’ll be raining wet plaster.

4) Spray Down A Section

Spray down the section you first plan to work on with your garden sprayer. Use the hottest water possible mixed with fabric softener.

5) Scrape, Scrape, Scrape!

Scrape every popcorn ceiling in your home, section by section. Be careful not to gouge big holes in your ceiling.

6) Smooth It Out

Lightly smooth out all the imperfections and residual popcorn with a sander. Don’t try on smooth out large gouges, just ensure the ceiling is nice and even.

7) Fix Gouges

Once sanded, it will look almost perfect aside from some gouging that would have inevitably occurred. Use your mud and knife to fill in these gouges so that it’s perfectly smooth.

8) Paint And Prime

Prime and paint with your preferred color and you’re done!


Has this article got you in a DIY mood? Check out these DIY Home Projects That Will Instantly up the Value of Your Home!

10 comments on “Popcorn Ceiling Removal: A DIY Guide”

  1. Michael Houdyshell says:

    For $10.00 you can get a tyvek one piece throw away suit, Wear a mask to avoid inhaling any debris, and a good pair of safety glasses

    1. Jeff says:

      Please don’t start any removal project until you have the popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos. It should be considered contaminated until proven different through proper testing. This could involve testing multiple locations within your home. Not testing, and proceeding to removal could contaminate you, your family, and your home. Not a good way to start a DIY project!

      1. shirley henderson says:

        that would be any home built 1978 or before. if ceiling haven’t already been redone on those homes built 1978 or before.

  2. Kmoe says:

    Many old popcorn ceilings contain asbestos. Please have it tested before removal.

  3. Jeff says:

    Asbestos testing should always be done prior to any such removal project of popcorn ceilings, in my opinion. The testing should be from multiple locations of the popcorn ceiling, following a asbestos testing companies process.

    Your article does not seem to link popcorn ceilings to asbestos, unless i missed that part. Nor does it discuss the need to test for asbestos. Removal of popcorn ceilings, containing asbestos, could contaminated someone’s home.

    Please update your article, since those choosing to dabble in DIY may not know that popcorn ceilings should be considered contaminated until proven safe.

  4. mike says:

    This is an example of where one simple suggestion can make this WAAAYYY easier.

    Want a “hack” Do all of the above except attach your scrapper to your shop vac/vacuum on a long hose. It will vacuum up the popcorn fragments as they fall.

    Sigh – sometimes we make things too difficult

  5. Paula Marshall says:

    What years was asbestos permitted? Or was there a year it was banned?

    1. Jeff says:

      I believe it was banned from popcorn ceilings in 1977, but I would consider any/all popcorn contaminated until proven different, regardless of the year. Not worth contaminating a house and everyone in it…

    2. shirley henderson says:

      1978 or before unless ceiling have already been redone before.

  6. Lea kelly says:

    The warm water mixed with fabric softener sounds like the same method as removing wallpaper. Can I use a steamer to remove the popcorn ceiling similar to removing wallpaper if tested negative for asbestos?

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