This once popular texturized ceiling finish has fallen from favor—here's how to get rid of it.

By Lauren Wellbank
December 15, 2020
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If you're unfamiliar with popcorn ceilings—also known as stipple or acoustic—allow us to give you a refresher: The once popular texturized finish was applied to the ceilings of residential properties before the 2000s; at the turn of the millennium, the trend turned towards a cleaner and more modern look. Most older homes still retain this relic, namely because the process of removing it is laborious and messy—but someone has to do it. Here, we talked to two home remodel professionals to get some tips on the best way to get rid of your own popcorn ceiling.

Credit: Getty / photovs

Ready to Remove

You won't need a lot of tools to remove this ceiling finish yourself, says Docia Boylen, the owner and general manager of Handyman Connection of Golden. For the best results, she recommends using a scraper (think a four- or six-inch mud knife), a ladder or scaffolding, and a spray bottle filled with water. The hard part comes after the removal process, when you have to manage the debris you've scraped off. "The problem with doing this is the mess that it creates," she explains. Boylen suggests covering the entire area of the room you're working on with plastic sheeting to catch as much of the "popcorn" as you can. "Also, make sure you turn off the furnace [or] air conditioning system so you do not circulate the mess around your home," she notes.

Step by Step

To get started, Boylen says you should spray a two-foot by two-foot section with water and let it soak before going in with your scraper. "To make the process go faster, you can spray the next area before scraping—then that section is ready when you are done scraping the first." Her best piece of advice? Wear protective goggles, a face mask (something we all have readily available these days), and old clothes you can toss out as soon as you are done. "After you finish scraping you can sand, texture (it is perfectly acceptable to not texture the ceiling—it just helps hide imperfections), prime, and paint," she says. "Any damage can be quickly repaired with drywall tape and joint compound before sanding."

Protect Yourself

Another important step is to check for asbestos before you begin the removal process, especially if your home was built before 1980, suggests Liz Walton, an interior designer and the owner of Philadelphia's premier design studio Liz Walton Home and The Interior Design Blueprint. "First, do a test to make sure there is no asbestos, an ingredient that was popular for these types of ceilings prior to 1980," she says, noting that you can order a home testing kit online. Additionally, you'll want to make sure you have your windows open for proper ventilation during removal: Even without asbestos, there are plenty of toxic materials and small particles that you want to avoid breathing in while you work.

Comments (2)

Anonymous
January 14, 2021
Is it possible just to paint over a popcorn ceiling with a roller or brush?
Anonymous
January 4, 2021
It is extremely important NOT to attempt to remove a popcorn ceiling containing asbestos yourself. This work should be done ONLY by a licensed professional who can take the necessary precautions to prevent asbestos contamination to your home and maintain compliance with applicable laws and regulations.