How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

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

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
May 16, 2022

Related To:

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

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling 01:01

Discover a DIY solution for removing popcorn ceilings with ease.

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

Step 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.

Step 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

Step 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

Step 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

Step 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

Step 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

Step 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

How to Paint a Ceiling

Follow these simple painting tips to freshen up your ceiling.

Next Up

Tray Ceiling Ideas: How to Paint Horizontal Stripes

Add interest to a lackluster tray ceiling with painted horizontal stripes.

How to Create a Coffered Ceiling

A coffered ceiling adds Old-English style to a home office.

How to Create a Barrel Ceiling in Small Nook

The ceiling of a small breakfast nook is changed from flat to curved.

How to Create Ceiling Circles

Wooden medallions are used to conceal an uneven ceiling and add a modern touch to a traditional home.

How To: Installing Tin Ceiling Panels

Host Steve Watson shows homeowners how to install tin ceiling panels.

Dramatic Striped Ceiling Update

The ceiling is a room's fifth wall. Give this often overlooked area a big dose of personality with an easier-than-it-looks graphic paint treatment.

How To Create A Faux-Tiered Ceiling

Paint techniques and molding are used to give the illusion of a tiered or vaulted ceiling.

How to Safely Remove Kitchen Cabinets

Learn how to safely remove your old cabinetry to get ready for your new kitchen remodel.

How to Install a Tin and Beam Ceiling

An old ceiling is restored with new beams and tin tiles.

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.