How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings

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Written By Cecilia Camille

I'm a mother of four and a writer who loves to blog, write, and be involved in online communities. I have experience with parenting as well as technology-related work. In fact, I've always been interested in how technology impacts the world around us.

If you’ve been staring at your popcorn ceiling, wondering how to get rid of it, you’re in the right place. We’re gonna walk you through everything you need to know about popcorn ceiling removal. Let’s dive in!

What’s a Popcorn Ceiling?

First things first: what’s a popcorn ceiling anyway? It’s that bumpy, textured stuff you see on ceilings in older homes. They became popular because they’re great at hiding imperfections. But, let’s be honest, they’re not exactly stylish anymore. Plus, they can be a real pain to clean.

Why Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

So, why should you bother with ceiling removal? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal: Modern, smooth ceilings just look better. They give your home a clean, updated feel.
  2. Increased Home Value: Removing popcorn ceilings can increase your home’s value. Potential buyers love the look of smooth ceilings.
  3. Health Concerns: Popcorn ceilings can trap dust and allergens, which isn’t great for your health. Plus, some older popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, which is dangerous if disturbed.

Tools You’ll Need

Before you start, make sure you’ve got the right tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Safety Gear: Goggles, gloves, and a mask.
  • Plastic Sheets: To cover your floors and furniture.
  • A Ladder: You’ll need to reach the ceiling, after all.
  • Spray Bottle: To dampen the ceiling.
  • Scraper: For removing the popcorn texture.
  • Drywall Sander: To smooth out the ceiling after scraping.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Ready to get started? Let’s break it down step-by-step.

1. Test for Asbestos

Safety first! If your home was built before the mid-1980s, there’s a chance your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos. You’ll want to get it tested. You can buy a test kit or hire a professional. If there’s asbestos, call in the pros to remove it. Don’t try to handle it yourself.

2. Prep the Room

Clear the room of furniture and cover everything with plastic sheets. You don’t want dust and debris all over your stuff. Also, cover your floors with plastic. Trust me, this gets messy.

3. Turn Off Power

Turn off the power to the room. You’ll be spraying water, and you don’t want any electrical accidents.

4. Spray and Scrape

Fill your spray bottle with water and spray a small section of the ceiling. Let it soak for a few minutes. This softens the popcorn texture, making it easier to scrape off. Now, grab your scraper and gently scrape off the popcorn texture. Don’t rush; take your time.

5. Sand the Ceiling

Once you’ve scraped off all the popcorn texture, it’s time to sand the ceiling. This step smooths out any rough spots. Use a drywall sander for this. Make sure to wear your mask to avoid inhaling dust.

6. Repair Any Damage

After sanding, you might notice some small holes or dings in the ceiling. Use joint compound to fill these in. Let it dry, then sand it smooth.

7. Prime and Paint

Finally, it’s time to prime and paint your ceiling. Use a high-quality primer to cover the entire ceiling. Once it’s dry, apply your paint. A couple of coats should do the trick.

Tips and Tricks

  • Work in Sections: Don’t try to tackle the whole ceiling at once. Work in small sections to make the job more manageable.
  • Stay Safe: Always wear your safety gear, especially if you’re dealing with old ceilings.
  • Take Breaks: Ceiling removal is tough work. Take breaks to avoid getting too tired.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Testing for Asbestos

Skipping the asbestos test is a big no-no. Always check if your ceiling contains asbestos before starting the removal process.

2. Using Too Much Water

You want to dampen the ceiling, not soak it. Too much water can damage your drywall.

3. Rushing the Job

Take your time. Rushing can lead to mistakes and a less-than-perfect finish.


Q: How long does it take to remove a popcorn ceiling?

A: It depends on the size of the room and how much help you have. A small room might take a day, while a larger space could take a couple of days.

Q: Can I paint over a popcorn ceiling instead of removing it?

A: You can, but it won’t give you the smooth finish you’re looking for. Plus, it can be tricky to get an even coat on a textured surface.

Q: Is popcorn ceiling removal a DIY job, or should I hire a pro?

A: If you’re handy and comfortable with DIY projects, you can do it yourself. But, if you’re not confident, hiring a pro might be the best option.

Q: How much does it cost to remove a popcorn ceiling?

A: Costs can vary. If you do it yourself, you’ll save on labor costs, but you’ll still need to buy supplies. Hiring a pro can cost anywhere from $1 to $2 per square foot.

After Removal: What’s Next?

Once you’ve removed your popcorn ceiling, you might be wondering what to do next. Here are a few ideas:

  • Smooth Ceiling: Keep it simple with a smooth, painted ceiling. This look is clean and modern.
  • Textured Ceiling: If you like a bit of texture, consider a knockdown or orange peel texture. These are more modern than popcorn but still add some visual interest.
  • Beadboard or Planks: For a unique look, you can install beadboard or wood planks on your ceiling. This can give your room a cozy, cottage-like feel.

Maintaining Your New Ceiling

Congrats! You’ve successfully removed your popcorn ceiling. Now, let’s talk about keeping it in tip-top shape.

  • Regular Cleaning: Dust your ceiling regularly to keep it looking fresh.
  • Touch-Up Paint: Keep some extra paint on hand for touch-ups. Scratches and scuffs happen.
  • Inspect for Damage: Check your ceiling periodically for any signs of damage. Catching issues early can save you a lot of headaches.


Removing a popcorn ceiling might seem like a big task, but with the right tools and some patience, you can do it yourself. Whether you’re looking to modernize your home, increase its value, or just get rid of that dusty old texture, popcorn ceiling removal is a worthwhile project. So, grab your tools, take it one step at a time, and you’ll have a smooth, beautiful ceiling in no time. Happy DIYing!