How To Remove Popcorn Ceilings Easily

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how to remove popcorn ceilings

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There are popcorn ceilings throughout my entire house that need to be removed. At first I thought it would be too much work to remove them, so I just lived with it for years.

Every time I updated a room, the popcorn ceilings kept it from feeling complete. Everything else could be on point, but the popcorn ceiling would make it look drab and dingy.

I had finally had enough. When I decided to start my Extreme DIY Office Makeover, I began researching popcorn ceiling removal. 

I found a lot of good information online then learned through trial and error. By the time I finished my office, I had come up with a solid method for removing popcorn ceiling within minutes.

Now that I’m working on my laundry room makeover, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you guys.

Before Removing Your Popcorn Ceiling: Do You Have Asbestos?

Spray-on textured products from the 1950’s-1980’s would have likely carried 1-10% asbestos. In 1978, spray-on asbestos products were banned, but businesses were allowed to use up the product they had on hand. This means that this product was still being used well in to the 1980’s.

Asbestos is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. For these reasons, you should have your ceiling tested before deciding to DIY this project yourself.

I am not a professional, and am not giving professional advice, just sharing my own DIY experience. I have, however, found the website and would refer you to this article on popcorn ceilings and asbestos before trying this removal technique on your own.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to the fun stuff! You can watch the YouTube tutorial here, or just keep scrolling down.

Tools Needed To Remove Your Popcorn Ceiling

One gallon lawn sprayer
Floor scraper
putty knife or smaller hand scraper
plastic or some type of covering to protect your floor and surfaces
*face mask* I wouldn’t do this without one
*goggles* I only wore my glasses, but will use goggles as well next time

Preparing Your Area Before Removing Popcorn

Popcorn ceiling removal makes a mess no matter what you do. The best way to deal with that is to cover everything possible.

I draped plastic over my washer and dryer, taping it to the wall to keep the popcorn from falling behind them.

I’ll be removing the flooring in this room next, so I’m not concerned with covering the tile. If I was keeping it I would cover the floor as well

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily
how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

Removing Your Popcorn Ceiling

With your room prepped, it’s time to get started on the ceiling.

Make sure you have all of your tools handy so you don’t have to go back and forth to grab anything you might need. You want to work quickly once you get started.

Spraying Your Ceiling

Run your faucet until the water is as hot as it will get, then fill your lawn sprayer.

Pump your sprayer, then begin spraying the ceiling. Start on one side and wave the wand back and forth, covering every square inch. Go around the edged of the ceiling as well.

Let it soak in for a couple minutes then spray everything again. The water needs to soak through all of the popcorn material.

I have found that hot water seems to penetrate that material better than cold or room temperature water. Spraying the ceiling a second time helps turn the popcorn to mush, which is a lot easier to work with.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

Scraping The Popcorn Ceiling

Start scraping the ceiling right after you’ve sprayed it for a second time.

Grab your floor scraper, place the blade at an angle against the ceiling and start pushing the scraper forward.

You want to apply enough pressure to scrape the popcorn, but not so much that you jab in to the drywall underneath.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

You should be able to slide the scraper across the ceiling, removing sheets of popcorn, without much force at all.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

If you get to a point where the popcorn isn’t scraping off as easily, just spray that area again.

I was able to scrape the entire ceiling, minus going around the light fixture and the edges, in under 6 minutes.

Scraping Around Light Fixtures And The Ceiling Edge

The smaller areas around light fixtures and the edges of the ceiling are harder to get with an 18″ scraper.

If you use a putty knife, you can easily get around those small areas and scrape the popcorn right off. Just use the same technique and if you have a spot that won’t come off, spray it and try again.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

At the end,  take your putty knife and scrape it across any other areas on the ceiling you might have missed. There shouldn’t be much, but sometimes you’ll find a couple little patches that were left behind.

Before you move on to patching and painting the ceiling, leave it to dry for a day. even if the ceiling looks dry, I would still give it 24 hours just to make sure.

Cleaning up the Popcorn

Just so you get a clear picture of why you want to cover everything, here is what I was left with.

Remember, this is all from one tiny room. It creates the mushiest mess you’ve ever seen!

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily
how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

Being able to roll the plastic up and throw away the mess makes things so much easier.

Since I’m ripping out the flooring, I just swept up the mess and left the rest.

But this is why you want to cover the floor as well.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily
how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

You’ll also want to scrub your walls clean afterwards. I used hot soapy water and a rag.

Cleanup is worse than the actual scraping and it will take longer to clean up the mess than it did to create it. But it’s worth it in the end.

Patching And Painting The Ceiling

After you’ve let it dry, you can go back with drywall putty and patch your ceiling.

Patch any spots you may have gauged or go over imperfections left by the builders before they sprayed the popcorn.

As you can see here, my ceilings weren’t perfect underneath, but I’m not going for perfect. Anything will be better than what I had before.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

I patched the areas where I pushed too hard with the scraper and gauged the drywall but I didn’t worry much about the other little imperfections.

how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

After the putty dried I went back with a fine grit sandpaper and smoothed those spots out the best I could,

When I did this room I hadn’t invested in an orbital sander yet. After this room, I finally ordered one. On the next ceiling I’m going to try that out and see if I get a smoother finish.

But like I said, I’m not worried about it. Anything is better than those popcorn ceilings were.

Painting Your Ceiling

Drywall is porous and, unless it’s primed first, will suck the paint right up.

You can use whatever primer you’d like, but I prefer Zinnser water-based primer. It gives great coverage and doesn’t have any fumes.

Apply as least 1-2 coats of primer. I applied 2 coats and that covered the drywall really well.

Once the primer dries you can apply 2 coats of your final paint. You’ll want to make sure it’s a ceiling paint, or at the very least make sure it’s a flat finish.

I used Sherwin Williams ceiling paint in a bright white. I’m partial to Sherwin Williams. It always gives me amazing coverage, the finish is perfect and the color is on point.


how to remove popcorn ceilings easily

Aside from that light fixture, this room is looking pretty good, right?!

I still have a lot of work to do in this room, but I’m happy with the progress being made

Popcorn Ceiling Removal: After

I hope this tutorial helps you tackle your own popcorn ceiling nightmares, I know it feels good to tackle mine!

Stick around, I can’t wait to share the end result of the laundry room makeover. It’s going to be unbelievable.

Until next time!

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