How To Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

If you have a house that was built in the 80′s, like we do, you probably have that popcorn texture on your ceiling.  You know, that super bumpy cobweb filled mess with edges that are impossible to paint cleanly.

Well, I have good news, my friend!  You don’t have to live with the popcorn anymore.  Hooray!

We have successfully removed the texture from the ceiling in two of our rooms, with many more to come.  So I’d thought I would share what we’ve learned along the way.  And when I say “we”, I mean “my husband”.  I had the idea to take it down, he learned how and did ALL the work.  So I will share with you what HE learned.

First and foremost, make sure there is no asbestos in your ceiling.  If you house was built after 1978, there most likely isn’t – but be sure!  Our popcorn ceiling was made of newspaper and paint.

 

Supplies Needed:

Pump Sprayer

White Vinegar

Hot Water

Large Putty Scraper

Plastic Sheeting

Painter’s Tape

Spray Texture (with or without hopper & compressor)

Primer & Paint

Step 1:  Prep the Room

Prep the room by clearing out the furniture (you’ll be so thankful you did this) and covering the floor and walls with plastic.  It should be completely and totally covered because this process makes a huge mess.  With everything covered, clean up will be much easier.

Tape the plastic sheeting up to the walls just under the ceiling line.  Make sure the floor is covered wall to wall and tape down at edges.  Then tape the wall sheeting to the floor sheeting.

You’ll also want to remove any light fixtures, heat vents, etc…

 

Step 2:  Prep the Mixture

You’ll need to use a pump sprayer for this job (like the kind you put weed killer in for the yard).  Make your vinegar mixture in the tank.  We have a one gallon sprayer.  We put in one cup of white vinegar, then filled it up to the one gallon line with hot water.  Make sure it’s H-O-T.  That would make the measurements for the mixture 1 cup vinegar to 15 cups hot water.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:  Spray and Scrape

Now is when you start spraying.  What you are doing simply is wetting down the popcorn so you can easily scrape it off.  Spray a patch that is about 3 feet by 3 feet with your vinegar/water mixture.  Let it soak in for 3 or 4 minutes, then scrape it off carefully with long smooth strokes.  If you spray ahead a section it will be soaking in while you scrape the current section.

The amount of mixture you spray is very important as too much spray can soak the sheetrock, causing you to scrape out chunks of the ceiling itself (big problem).  It also will make your ceiling very wet and you’ll have to wait a long time before you can add texture and paint.

However, too little spray can make it hard to scrape.  Start on the light side and adjust accordingly.  If it’s too hard to scrape, spray a little more, until you have figured out the right amount for your ceiling.

You should be scraping down to the sheetrock, but not into it.  When the texture comes off you should be able to see the mudding and patching in the sheetrock seams.

**Wear safety glasses and a mask for this part as it’s very messy and the ceiling texture will be falling on your head and face.**

 

 

 

 

Step 4:  Let it dry

Have patience with this step.  Go out to dinner.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Take your kids to the park.  If you start step 5 before the ceiling is dry it will be a nightmare.

While you are waiting, you may want to sweep up some of the popcorn texture and put it in the trash. You have plastic down – true, but do you really want to track it all over the house?

 

Step 5:  Spray On New Texture

Most ceilings (even flat looking ones) have some kind of texture.  Hardware stores have many different kinds of spray texture.  The most fine and flat one is usually called “Orange Peel” texture.

When we did the ceiling in our dining room we used these cans of spray texture.  It ended up costing us about $60 for the whole ceiling.  That’s too much for me.

When we did the ceiling in my daughter’s room, we decided to get a big jug of texture and a hopper gun that we could attach to our compressor.  It cost about $65 ($15 for the texture, $50 for the hopper), but there is 2/3 of the container left.  We know we’ll use it all and more since we’re planning to remove the popcorn ceiling in each room of our house.  It also made the process go much faster.

Whichever way you go, read the directions on the texture sprayer carefully and follow them closely.  You want to use smooth, even strokes as you spray the ceiling so the texture spreads out evenly.

Make sure you have proper ventilation as most texture products have harmful fumes.

Here’s an example of Orange Peel texture (this has already been painted):

 

Step 6: Let it Dry

Yes, there is a lot of drying time in this process.

 

Step 7:  Prime and Paint

I think this step is self explanatory.  But just a note:  Remember that it’s a ceiling.  Don’t waste your money on fancy paint.

 

Step 8:  Clean Up

What your floor will look like if you haven’t swept yet:

This is where you are happy you did step one.  Start with the top of the wall panels and remove the tape.  Lay plastic across floor, covering up the big ole’ mess.  Fold in all sides to the middle like you are wrapping toast crumbs up in a napkin.  Pick up your big ball of plastic wrapped popcorn ceiling and throw it in the trash.  Clean up – DONE!!

 

If you have any questions about the process, feel free to post them in the comments section below.  I’ll try to answer them as quickly and clearly as I can.

 

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31 thoughts on “How To Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

  1. We have lovely popcorn ceiling, too…however it is on a vaulted ceiling covering an amazing amount of frame detail. Lucky for us we know to not delve into this unless we want to also re-sheetrock as several of our neighbors have and had to do this, someday we’ll be ready, but right now we’re just holding our breath that the contractors finish our bathroom and kitchen soon so we can move back in ;) I applaud you two for doing all that scraping, waiting and painting it is hardwork.

  2. Wow. What I have is textured paint on top of plaster. You ended up putting on textured paint; I want to get rid of mine. 30 years ago I thought it would cover the cracks in the plaster. Of course, the cracks came right through it. Do you have any idea if this method of yours would work on textured paint? I’d rather get back to the plaster and be able to spackle it, etc. and just flat-paint it.

    • I’m not sure it would work on textured paint. It works on popcorn because the texture is made of paper mixed with paint. The water/vinegar softens the paper. I would venture to guess that your texture would have to be sanded off.

      • That’s what I figure, too, and why I’ve lived with it for 30 years! Oh well, at least now I know how to remove popcorn ceilings, should I ever need to do so. Thanks!

  3. I always wondered if this was something I might be able to do myself! We have an upstairs bathroom that not only has it on the ceiling, but on EVERY SINGLE WALL in the bathroom. I have no idea what would possess someone to create a “popcorn box” bathroom. Many a bloodied knuckle has been had.

  4. Pingback: Popcorn Ceiling Removal La Jolla CA Ceiling Popcorn Removal | Popcorn Ceiling Removal San Diego Popcorn Ceiling Removal

  5. When we bought our house 9 months ago, NOT having to deal with popcorn ceilings was one of the main reasons we picked it! Although with the way you explained it, it doesnt sound that bad at all! Thanks for walking us thought it! Im definitely going to keep this in mind in case we ever move to a place that has it!

    Samm @ LittleHouseintheBigD.com

    • We already had the tools (sprayer, scraper, vinegar) so it cost us about $15 in drop cloths and tape and $4.50 for an extra trash can at the curb. $19.50 total for the scraping. The texture and hopper gun cost us $60 but we have about 2/3 leftover for the next rooms we want to tackle (texture cost $15, hopper gun $45). We also already had the primer and paint. I just used leftover primer (mixed with random white paint leftovers so I’d have enough) and leftover white paint from other projects. If I had to purchase the primer and paint it might have cost us $40 more or so. We spend $79.50 total and have texture leftover for at least two more rooms and a new tool.

  6. We had someone do ours, well our son took down the old stuff but someone came in and did some necessary patching work do to foundation troubles and then did a light texture for us. The previous owners tried to do the ceiling in the kitchen/breakfast nook and messed it up royally we managed to make it look a little better but it really needs complete new sheetrock etc.
    One thing we were told was to use booties (like they wear in the hospital op rooms so that you can just slip them off your shoes when you are ready to leave the messy room.

  7. My husband found a tool at home depot that is made to do this. What made it worth the $ ( about $20 ) a Walmart bag attaches to it to collect all of the mess and you can attach a stick to it and stay on the ground. We have 1 room left to do but it’s the kitchen :(

  8. I have done my living room and 3 bed rooms with that popcorn ceiling. When we did our living room we scrapped it not knowing about the water and vingar. That took a lot of time. The only room I have left is my kitchen. I just started on that this weekend. Thank God thats the last one. Thank for sharing your story. Rocky

  9. I just got down off of my ladder, shook the popcorn out of my hair to look up how to texture my kitchen ceiling now that I have it about clean. I was so worried about how I was going to proceed I could hardly sleep last night! Your blog here is the first one that I clicked on and boy am I glad I did. As soon as I get finished I am headed to Lowes to buy cans of texture. Thank you so much for the info. By the way I too bought the scraper and clipped on a bag. It has been super easy to contain the mess and I have been able to do it over several evenings.

    • I’m about to tackle my hallway so I can put in new lights and I am definitely getting the scraper and bag system. Thanks for the recommendation! Anything to make this task simpler!

  10. One very important step omitted in the prep of the area is shutting down your HVAC system and covering all the outlets with plastic. (Even if you checked the popcorn for asbestos, there is a good chance you may have missed it in the sample if you are not a certified trained asbestos inspector.) Another point I would like to make is that vinegar is not a wetting agent and will do little to help control the dust. A better option is to use a little soap. This will help make the water wetter and penetrate better so you don’t need to use as much. Even if the ceiling does not contain asbestos, there is a pretty good chance the dust is not good for you to breathe. Silica, which is a common ingredient in the plaster is cancer causing to breathe and will also scar your lungs causing silicosis. Good rule of thumb, dust is not your friend!

    • Good point on the dust issue. Wearing a mask is always a good idea when working with dust or anything you could inhale. And turning off the HVAC system is also a great tip. Thank you!

  11. Will this process work on popcorn ceilings that have been painted? I want to do this but I believe the popcorn ceilings in my living room were painted at one time.

      • Not ALL popcorn ceilings have been painted; if you take a drywall scraper & scrape off a small area somewhat easily, or if the glitter is still on the ceiling, it has not been painted, and the method above will work. If the ceiling has been painted, you are S.O.L. and might as well figure out another way to redecorate, or remove the sheet rock entirely. I have unpainted ceilings in the bedrooms and I removed the stipple, but unfortunately, the previous homeowner did paint the kitchen & living room, they aren’t coming off.

        • Thanks Louise. I was worried this was the case. All of our other popcorn ceilings have the glitter and will come off by scratching them but the living room ceiling was to like that. And they are the same color of the walls where the rest of the house is not. Guess its time to get creative!

  12. I just got done scraping my living room and hallway. I previously scraped our bedroom and dining room. They turned out great. I only used a spray bottle with just water. It worked very good. I read that I should wipe it down with a sponge after I’m done. I’m assuming to clean the dust and make sure there is no residule mud. Did you do this? I didn’t do it in the other rooms and it worked fine. We didn’t have it painted at all. We’ve lived here 20+ years. I don’t think it’s a good idea to paint a textured ceiling just for the reason that it’s almost impossible to remove the texture. Is that why you used the vinegar?

  13. After the acoustic popcorn is removed, it is likely that you will have to do some additional “drywall mud” work. Sheetrock finishers do a 2nd rate job on a ceiling that will have acoustic finish because the popcorn covers up the rough spots. Shine a flashlight across the scrapped ceiling surface and you will see it. Plan to apply at least one layer of mud on the nail dimples and the seams and do some sanding before you use the texture hopper. This will give you a professional job.
    Also, before you start work, you can carefully scrape off a sample into a sandwich bag and mail it to a company that can test it for asbestos. 1978 was the cut-off date for manufacturing with asbestos, however, your house could have been built in 1982 or thereabouts with left-over asbestos product. If it has asbestos, an asbestos removal company can remove it all and increase your homes value or you can install sheetrock over the popcorn.

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