How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling in 7 Simple Steps

Learn how to remove a textured ceiling without creating a mess using these simple steps.

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Also known as acoustic ceilings, popcorn ceilings were popular from the 1950s to the 1980s for their ability to cover up flaws in ceilings and absorb sound. But textured ceilings tend to capture dust, and the look has lost its appeal. Removing a popcorn ceiling while keeping the mess to a minimum is a fairly simple DIY project if you follow the steps below.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Materials + Tools

  • wide drywall scraper
  • drywall taping knife
  • paint roller and extension handle
  • paintbrush
  • protective eyewear
  • ladder
  • water
  • spray bottle
  • drop cloth
  • plastic sheeting
  • painter's tape
  • drywall compound
  • 220-grit sanding block
  • rags
  • primer/paint
  • dust masks
  • asbestos test kit

1. Test for Asbestos

Asbestos was banned from textured paint, patching compounds, drywall and other building material in 1977 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission when it was found to contain carcinogens. Before the ban, asbestos was widely used because it was a good thermal and acoustic insulator as well as a fire-retardant. Because of that, asbestos was commonly used in popcorn ceilings. So, if your home was built prior to 1977, (or even a little later, there may have been asbestos-laced products still being used for a little while after the ban), have the ceiling material tested for asbestos. EPA-approved test kits cost about $35 to $50 — so worth it for the peace of mind — and you can usually get the results back in less than a week.

If the test is positive for asbestos, leave this job to the professionals. Learn more about asbestos from the CPSC, which says the best thing to do with asbestos material in good condition is to leave it alone.

2. Prep the Room

Remove furniture from the space, or move it to the center of the room and cover with plastic sheeting. Also, cover any light fixtures. By laying down a drop cloth and using plastic sheeting, you’ll protect flooring and furnishings from dust and debris, and it will be easier to clean up.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

3. Spray the Ceiling

Fill a spray bottle with warm water, then spray one small section (10 square feet) of ceiling at a time. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Don’t oversaturate the popcorn coating as it could damage the underlying drywall surface.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

4. Scrape the Ceiling

Put on your protective eyewear and dust mask, then slowly remove the popcorn coating from the drywall with a wide drywall scraper, working one section at a time.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

5. Clean Up Debris

Before touching up with drywall compound, roll up the drop cloth and plastic sheeting. Take them outside, and shake them out into a garbage bin. Lay the plastic sheeting back down, or lay down drop cloths before proceeding.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

6. Touch Up Ceiling

Apply drywall compound to any problem areas using a drywall knife to get a smooth skim. Allow to dry overnight, then lightly sand and wipe clean with a sanding block and damp cloth.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

7. Prime and Paint

Paint the ceiling using a roller with an extension attachment. Flat or matte finishes will hide imperfections, so they are most often used for ceilings. Ceiling paint is made specifically to roll on with minimum splatter and will resist yellowing over time. There are plenty of color options, but white is a popular ceiling color as it reflects light into a room.

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Bros or Pros 2017

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Tomas Espinoza/Flynnside Out Productions

Watch How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

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