How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings in 7 Easy Steps

With highly textured ceilings, you’ll need to install furring strips to your ceiling and then attach the paneling to the strips to avoid an uneven look. Note that with this method, you will need to remove small sections of the popcorn texture in order to attach the furring strips, so testing for asbestos is still essential.

What is a popcorn ceiling?

Popular in the middle years of the 20th century, popcorn ceilings are those heavily textured ceilings that approximate the look of popcorn. They were usually made from compounds like drywall mud and were popular because they helped dampen sounds and because they were easy to install without intensive finishing work. You can’t see imperfections when the entire ceiling is an irregular jumble of dotty texture, after all.

What is dangerous about popcorn ceilings?

“The process for popcorn ceiling removal is actually pretty easy, but it is truly messy, and it can be dangerous too,” says Brandon Walker of the Tempe, Arizona–based ASAP Restoration LLC. “That’s because popcorn ceilings almost always have asbestos fibers embedded in them. Because of this, the only truly safe way to remove popcorn ceilings is by wearing a protective suit, and using a p100 respirator. These two items will be the most important of anything involved in the process just because they are the only thing keeping you from asbestos exposure and contamination.”

Can I remove popcorn ceilings without wetting them?

Yes, by all means, but it will likely be harder to do. “There are two methods for removing popcorn ceilings: the dry approach, which simply removes it dry, and the wet method,” explains Shawna Guevara, managing director of Landmark Structural Builders, which operates out of California and Texas. “Don’t underestimate the potential mess if you use the wet method to remove popcorn ceilings. Typically, I start with the dry approach, scraping a little portion without water to evaluate how easy it is to remove. If it comes off quite easily, you may not need to use much water. If it is difficult to remove and results in blotches, be prepared to utilize the wet approach.”

How long will it take to remove a popcorn ceiling?

It depends on the size of the ceiling, of course, but there are other factors as well. For example, you should try to leave the work space in which you’ll be removing the popcorn ceiling open to fresh air for several hours before you commence work to ventilate it, and you need to wait at least 12 hours after applying spackle or joint compound before you sand and paint the ceiling. As for the actual process, plan for 20 hours of work to remove 500 square feet of popcorn ceiling. It’s a weekend project, if you’re lucky, and definitely not an afternoon project.

What is the best tool for removing a popcorn ceiling?

“For scraping into corners, you can use a drywall knife or a paint scraper as these are the most effective tools for removing the popcorn texture,” says Jay Sanders, owner of both Castle Dream Construction and Maryland Contractors. “For best results, I recommend you use a six-inch putty knife.” You can also buy a dedicated ceiling texture scraper, but many people find these no more effective than those other tools you likely have already, and some prefer them less.

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