Removing 'Popcorn' Ceiling

wildbillJuly 31, 2005

Hello everyone -

I'm a frequenter on the Garden Web forums, but will be here more often now since my wife, Dena, and I just closed on a house in Manchester, Connecticut last Thursday. It was built in 1865, but updated in 1971 - electrical, sheetrock, etc.

We don't have to move in right away, so we can and will be spending some time to fix it up, have a new roof put on, paint, etc.

One of the things we cannot stand is the popcorn ceilings and want to remove it and repaint. Have any of you done it or have suggestions? We were thinking of scraping it off with something like a putty knife, or large wire brush scrubbing pad, or car ice scraper and using the shop vac to clean everything up. We've already started ripping out the carpets so the stuff would be easier to sweep up.

Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks


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Maybe this isn't the best or the cheapest, but one idea is to scrape it off, then add a new layer of drywall over it.

Maybe it's crazy, but I'd imagine the surface repairs would be a big headache otherwise. Just a thought (and I'm not experienced in repairing these ceilings.)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 12:51AM
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wet it down, don't soak it just get it fairly wet. then it wipes right off. i found this out the hard way when trying to clean nicotine off the ceiling. be careful not to soak it, or you may get waterspots. i usually use a spray bottle adjusted to a mist, but you could use a pump sprayer if you have a large area.

once done, allow to dry throughly and then repaint it. if it is a little rough, you can respackle it to smooth it out.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 11:15AM
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Yup, wetting it down seems to be the way to go, as lon gas it's latex/water based.

Google the subject for more details - it looks pretty straightforward to do.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 1:00PM
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We've done our entire house this way. Lot's of Blue Tarps
on the floor because THIS IS MESSY. Plant mister, sponges,
wide-bladed scraper, and stool or ladder. Piece of cake.
Usually took me two passes to re-spackle to smooth out
the irregularities. Prime and paint, and Bob's Yr Nuncle.

Don't over spray. Don't catch a corner of the blade of
you'll dig holes. Easy does it. Smooth.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 4:11PM
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Over on the HGTV remodeling forums someone mentioned recently that popcorn texturing from the 60s and 70s sometimes contains asbestos. I would definitely check that out before doing a lot of scraping and breathing that stuff. Or like soembody else said above, just sheetrock over it. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 11:32PM
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Definitely get it tested for asbestos if it was put up prior to the late 70s. You don't want to be ripping the stuff up and breathing it in.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 8:52PM
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I found that the easiest way to remove a popcorn ceiling is to use a thick nap paint roller and wet the ceiling in small sections (Approx 3' x 3') till it starts to come off on the roller.(It is best to have a covered roller and cover the floor with plastic or paper. At this point use an 8" tape knife to remove the popcorn. It should come off very easy, if it does not come off just wet it more. It should come off in one stroke down to the drywall if that is what you have.

Good Luck,

Joe in North Stonington, CT

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 3:19PM
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The part that gets me is, at some point in time people actually thought that stuff looked good! But I shouldn't talk. I think I've still got a leisure suit in my closet somewhere.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 5:30PM
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i still prefer a popcorn ceiling to a smooth one. they are a b! to paint, but they do help cut the noise level some. this i can speak to from experience, as i have compared the same room's echos pre and post popcorn ceiling. although in most cases the effect is not noticeable once furniture is in place.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 5:56PM
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I accidentally happened across your post on the Gardenweb about your popcorn ceiling.

It is possible that you may have asbestos in the ceiling and scraping it will really be bad news.

Please see the following at

Specific Applications for Vermiculite


Acoustic Finishes
Gypsum Plaster
Air Setting
Binder Board
Loft Insulation
Fire Protection (internal/external) Sound Deadening Compounds
Floor and Roof Screed (lightweight insulating concrete)


    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 8:52PM
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We have an old house that was covered with popcorn ceiling and textured walls over cracked plaster when we bought it. We used a garden sprayer to apply a mist of water all over and use large plaster knives to scrape it off. I hate that stuff!!!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 11:26AM
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Thanks for your great ideas everyone.

I think we'll have it tested for asbestos, & if it checks out OK, then do the wetting & scraping thing. Otherwise, we'll cover it with thin sheetrock.
Bill & Dena

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 10:30PM
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this is kind of late to bring up, but here goes.
My husband misted our popcorn cieling with water, then vacuumed the popcorn off with a shopvac. He had a gortex filter in the shopvac so clogging wasn't a problem.
When the shopvac got full, he emptied the goop into a plastic lined trench. The sun dried it and then he scooped up the plastic full of goop and threw it out. He thought it was a peice of cake-We still had a mess, but maybe this way made it easier to clean up.
He and my son finished the cieling by using the knock down system? I believe that is what it is called-rented the machine from HD that blows the plaster onto the cieling and used a wide metal sqeegie to flatten creating a flat texture look. Then he primed and painted. It looks nice, he did a good job.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 9:58PM
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Go to your local home center or paint store. There's a chemical you can apply to soften up the popcorn layer then you can scrape it off. But I should warn you... the chemical has a strong citrus smell and depending on your abilities scraping the layer off requires time and lots of elbow grease!I did my ceiling and I would probably do it again versus hanging drywall.

Good luck

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 11:07AM
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I see no one has posted in a while but I will respond in hopes that someone might hear me.
I have to get rid of the popcorn on my kitchen ceiling. I believe it is sprayed directly on the plaster.
The house was built in 1960. There is a slight bow in the ceiling and there is radient heat up there.
I would really rather not desterb the popcorn in fear of asbestos, so hanging drywall on top sounds good to me... could I NOT remove the popcorn and hang drywall on top? I can not afford to pay someone to do this so if I were to remove the popcorn and there is abestos would sealing off the room with plastic and wearing a resperator be safe?
I would like to try the green glue/floating ceiling... what do you think???

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 12:34PM
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When you remove asbestos containing material (if that's what it is), the approach that professional removers use is to create an air-tight enclosure with "negative air pressure" so that fibres can't get through any cracks they missed; they use specialty HEPA vacuums that cost a lot of money, because asbestos fibres are so small they pass through regular vacuum filters; they wear respirators with asbestos-specific filter canisters (not those dust masks you get at Home Depot); they wet down what they're removing, and they bag the debris and dispose of it at a landfill permitted for hazardous waste. They also do other stuff like spray an encapsulant all over to lockdown stray fibres.

You can try to do this yourself, but the chances of making a mess and contaminating the rest of your house is high. Here is a link that tells you more of what's involved if you try to do it yourself, but you need to think seriously about whether this is a good idea.

Here is a link that might be useful: Popcorn ceiling removal

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 4:19PM
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We are wanting to remove ours too....DH seemed to think wearing a mask would protect him. I finally convinced him to wait until I find someone to test it. Does anyone know the cost of testing it? We have no idea how long it's been in this house...we moved in here in 1984, but I don't want to assume it was done after 1978......scary stuff!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 12:48AM
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I paid about 20 dollars to have mine tested. The company had me go into a corner and wet a size no larger than a square inch. I took a small putty knife and scooped a sample and placed it into a good ziplock plastic bag. Look in your yellow pages and find an independent lab that does the testing. Don't use a company that also does the removal.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 12:04PM
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thanks for all the input. I have heard of a machine that takes off the popcorn; can you rent something like this? does anyone know?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 2:34AM
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Hi-my husband is trying to remove a popcorn ceiling in his parents 1961 home. There is no asbestos and no paint on it - he thinks. No matter how much water he puts on it, it doesn't soften up. He has chipped away about 18 square feet and feels like he needs a jackhammer - not kidding. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 9:43PM
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And what makes him think it is asbestos-free? 1961 was prime time for such ceilings. You can only determine if something does not contain asbestos with a lab test, not by observation. It may be hard to remove because it has been painted. This makes for a messier and more dangerous removal if you do have asbestos.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 4:30AM
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Hello all! I have popcorn on the ceilings of my 1999 townhome. Do you think I should test it for asbestos, even though it was built after 1970? Also, if I decide to hire someone to remove it, can anyone give me an estimate of the cost (per sq. ft. etc.). Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 11:08AM
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I love the look of popcorn ceilings. Its all a matter of personal taste.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 6:45AM
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some popcorn is made of styrofoam; this reduces noise a lot. Don't paint it too much and it remains fluffy styrofoam, which reduces noise reflection. Paint it several times over many years and its surface becomes a hard (but textured) surface. A bit less effective.

Another advantage to popcorn is that the surface bumpiness means you don't need to get your ceiling to be perfect. Save time and money by not overdoing it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 9:54AM
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Just FYI. Popcorn ceiling is done different ways. Some used styrofoam, some perlite, some foam bits. My sisters house, I helped roller brush her kitchen was done with ground up drywall/plaster chunks we found out. We ended up scraping it off because it immediately turned to mush when painted and fell off. Never did find out for sure it there was asbestos, we didn't even think or know about that. She ended up getting ceilings painted with a sprayer by professionals a few years later, was not willing to have the whole house scraped.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 4:23AM
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---just noticed ----this is a really old post---------
usually don't respond to these

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 5:58AM
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Does anyone know the cost having professionals come in and remove the popcorn?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:10PM
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Boy, I wish this site was around when I removed all the popcorn ceilings in my 3-family.

I scraped all the ceilings of each apartment, dry with just a sharp putty knife. What a mess! All the dust in my hair and eyes, mixing with the sweat from working... Uhh! But cleanup was the worst, by far.

I never thought about wetting the popcorn to remove it. Brilliant! I have some spots around light fixtures that I was never able to get scraped off completely, I'm sure this post will help.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 1:31PM
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i saw a video of someone who misted their whole ceiling until it was so heavy with water that it started sagging and stretching and all came down at once like a snow avalanche. Pretty cool.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:50PM
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    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 9:49PM
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