How To Properly Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

popcorn-ceilingPopcorn ceilings were once all the rage, several decades ago, but few homeowners like the looks of them these days.

If you’d like to remove yours, rather than wait around for popcorn ceilings to return to popularity, it will take some effort, though it isn’t very difficult.

This Complete Home Remodeling Guide outlines the steps you need to take to properly remove a popcorn ceiling.

Test for Asbestos

Popcorn ceilings installed prior to 1980 may contain asbestos and should be removed by a professional. If you’re not sure about the age of the popcorn, have your ceiling tested. You can have an expert come to your home to test it, or you can take a sample to the tester. If you decide to do the latter, wet a small section with a sponge or cloth until it is saturated. Then, scrape off some of the material with a ceiling texture scraper or putty knife.

If the popcorn contains asbestos, your options are to leave it up and paint it or have a professional contractor remove it. You may want to get a few estimates on removal before you make your decision.

Removing Ceiling Popcorn That Doesn’t Contain Asbestos

There are three basic steps to getting rid of popcorn ceiling when it doesn’t contain asbestos. It’s a low expertise, high labor job and in that respect, it can certainly be a DIY project for most homeowners.

Step 1: Get the Room Ready

Empty the room of furniture, and remove everything from the walls. Next, protect the walls and floors from water and dust. Hang plastic sheeting on the walls and cover the floors with it too. Use painters’ tape to hold the plastic sheeting. If you don’t want to cover all the walls, at least tape plastic sheeting around all outlets and switches.

A drop cloth with a waterproof backing will work for the floor also. It is strongly recommended that you keep the HVAC system off while doing the job, or at least shut and tape over the grates in the room. You don’t want odors and dust pulled into the system and circulated throughout the house.

Step 2: Wet the Ceiling

Use a garden sprayer to wet the ceiling. A garden hose with a very fine mist nozzle setting can work. A pump sprayer is a very good choice too. If you use a pump sprayer, add 3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap for each gallon in the sprayer. This will help with step 3.

The popcorn should be absorbent, if it hasn’t been painted too many times. Go slowly and systematically over the ceiling to make sure it becomes saturated. Wait 15 minutes for the water to be fully absorbed and for the popcorn to soften. Use a putty knife to scrape off a small section. If it comes off in a gooey mess, with no dust, then you are ready for step 3. If it’s dusty, go over it again with water and repeat until you can scrape it without dust.

Step 3: Scrape Off the Popcorn Ceiling

It is recommended that you wear eye protection and a dust mask for this process. Use a large scraper, like a floor scraper, to carefully scrape off the popcorn. Be careful not to gouge the ceiling or the walls. Most DIY popcorn-ceiling removers will have a few scrapes to patch and paint when the job is done, but since this project is usually done when remodeling a room, it’s not a big deal.

Once the bulk of the ceiling popcorn removal has been accomplished, go over the ceiling with a putty knife or joint compound knife to remove whatever is left. You may need to wet the ceiling a second time to finish removing all the popcorn.

What Comes After Popcorn Ceiling Removal?

First, you’ll need a day or two to recover from the stiffness in your neck and shoulder from looking up and working above your head for several hours!  When you’re ready to move forward, patch any scrapes in the ceiling and sand it with fine-grit drywall sand paper. When that’s done, wipe it with a damp cloth to remove the dust. Now, you’re ready to paint your post-popcorn ceiling as part of the facelift for the room.

For guides on bathroom remodelingkitchen remodelingbasement remodeling, and outdoor remodeling projects, visit our helpful learning articles for tips and tricks!

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