Popcorn ceilings instantly date a space, and not in a good way, so one of the first things I wanted to do for our home rehab was remove them! Apparently, it became popular in the 50’s as a way to hide imperfections on the ceiling and to dampen sound. The material it was manufactured with used asbestos for a time, so if you are removing it from your ceiling, you should get it tested for asbestos and if it is present, have a professional mitigation company remove it for you. Ours did not have asbestos in it, thankfully, so we got on with the not-terribly-hard-but-definitely-not-so-fun job of removal.
- Large sheets of plastic
- A ladder that will get you very close to your ceiling
- Spackle knives: one large and one small
- A sprayer
- Large, construction grade trash bags
- A hand sander and long extension cord
- Eye/mouth/nose/ear protection
You should work in an empty space, as this is a terribly messy job! Remove all of your furniture and then cover, tightly, anything that can’t be removed—like fireplaces or radiators. Spread the sheets of plastic on the floor, being mindful of getting it stretched in to every corner. Overlap them because as you move your ladder, they will move around a bit. Fill your sprayer with water, grab the spackle knives, secure your eye and mouth protection and then set up your ladder at a point in the room that you can reach around you in a 360 degree fashion. Depending on the size of your room, you are going to be moving the ladder, and going up and down it, every few minutes, so you want to maximize your reach as much as possible! Once you have everything set up and all of the gear, climb up with the spray bottle, and with the nozzle on the widest spray possible, start lightly spraying water into the popcorn. You want to get it wet, but not so wet that you damage the drywall underneath it. Depending on the age of the popcorn and how well it was applied, you may need to wait a few minutes before you start scraping. Some of mine just fell off once I put water on it, so I knew that it was time to get to work! Scraping this stuff off, when it is loose, is oddly satisfying—or at least it was for me! It became a bit of a game as to how much I could get off in one run, kinda like peeling an orange all in one piece? This job is super tedious, so do whatever you have to in order to get through it! However, if it is very glued on, you will have to utilize your small knife and just hack at it—but again, don’t hack so much that you gauge into the drywall and damage it. You want to get as much off as possible during this time because sanding it down is a lot harder and if there is less popcorn stuck up there, you don’t have to spend as much time sanding! Then it is lather-rinse-repeat till the entire room is popcorn free!
Once all of it is down, you want to get all of it into trash bags so you can dispose of it. You do want to go ahead and trash this now as it is wet and wet stuff sitting on your floor is never a good idea, but also because you want to minimize how much you traipse throughout the rest of the house! You’ll be amazed at just how much of this stuff was up there and with it being wet, it is very heavy, but I did manage to get it into bags by myself. I gathered all the corners and then lifted/shimmied it into a bag. If you don’t want to reuse your plastic, you could just roll it all up and stuff all of it into the trash!
Now that it is time to sand down the ceiling, you may want to re-cover your floors, as this is also a terribly messy job! For this bit, you definitely need to add ear protection and make sure you have the balance and dexterity that is required to hold a hand sander over your head while perched a few feet from the ground. Again, put your ladder in a spot that gives you access all the way around you, so that you can work in sections and not have to move your ladder as often. This saves you a little bit of time and your knees will thank you! Plug your sander into your extension cord and, using a rough grit, just get started! You probably won’t be able to get it perfectly flat, but you can knock down the dimples that the popcorn leaves a lot. You’ll decide what you can live with fairly quickly into this endeavor! I finished it off by rolling a coat of white paint over everything, which made it look more finished. As you can see from the before and after photo, it looks much better, but it isn’t perfectly flat. And I am A-OK with that!
Have you ever removed a popcorn ceiling? Or did you leave it to the pros? Leave me a comment! I would love to hear stories!!