Often removing a popcorn ceiling becomes part of a ceiling repair.It is a very messy job but many home owners feel it is worth the expense in time and/or money to get a smooth or textured ceiling more to their liking.
The most common type of ceiling repair follows a water leak, from the roof or more often, from plumbing problems in an upstairs bathroom. Covering water stains with a stain block can solve small problems, but there are many occasions when drywall (also called sheetrock) in the ceiling has to be replaced. With a popcorn ceiling, not only do you have to apply popcorn to the new sheetrock. You also need to remove the popcorn back far enough to properly mud the seams connecting the new drywall to the old ceiling.
Why You Want to Remove Popcorn
It is unrealistic to believe you will match the popcorn texture of the existing ceiling. The original application was sprayed on when the home was built, and the rooms were empty. If the repairs are in the hallway or a bedroom that isn't used much during the day, the repairs you can make with various popcorn spray applicators may be sufficient. When the damage is in a high traffic area like the kitchen or living room, it might be time to consider removing the popcorn as most home owners dislike it anyways.
There are many reasons why home owners want to remove their popcorn ceilings (read All Climate Painting and Remodeling's article, 7 Reasons You May Want To Remove Popcorn Ceiling, for more details.
- Threat of asbestos that popcorn ceilings were made with until the 1978 Clean Air Act.
- Impact on lighting and unwanted shadows.
- Discoloration that occurs over time, making the ceiling look dingy.
- Collecting dust that's impossible to remove without damaging ceiling.
- Disintegrating texture over time, which is difficult to repair.
- Damage to the ceiling which is difficult to repair and match the popcorn texture.
You'll first want to evaluate your options for removing OR covering up the popcorn ceiling, as outlined in Popcorn Ceilings and No, You Can't Eat It.
Popcorn Ceiling Removal
Be prepared for a messy job, and don't skip any of the steps to protect your walls and floors. The time you invest in preparation will save you time in cleanup. The steps here are intended to give you an overview of the job.
You'll want to do more research before you start working.
- Clear the room of all furnishings including ceiling fixtures like light fixtures and ceiling fans.
- Turn off the power to the room as you'll be using lots of water. Protect all exposed wiring, i.e. from ceiling fixtures.
- Use cheap plastic sheets to cover all the walls, using painters tape where the ceiling meets the walls and also at the floor.
- Rosin paper will work better on the floor, keeping the floor from getting slick, minimize tracking debris into other rooms. It will also absorb some of the water, making cleanup easier.
- Wear safety glasses and a mask to prevent falling debris from getting into your eyes or lungs. Professionals use respirators and special air filtering equipment when removing asbestos which is why you want to leave this work to them, and in many states that is the law.
- Wet the popcorn but don't get sheetrock too wet or it will sag. Use a good, handheld sprayer, and spray one small section at a time.
- Wait 30 seconds and use a metal popcorn ceiling scrapper (putty knife) to remove the popcorn which should come off easily. If you let the ceiling dry, you'll need to wet it again.
- When done, dispose of all the plastic carefully to keep the debris inside it. You will want to use new protective materials for preparing and painting the ceiling.
New Ceiling: Texture or Smooth?
Now that you've removed your popcorn ceiling, are you planning a smooth ceiling or another ceiling texture? If your walls already have an orange peel or popcorn texture, these are also common ceiling textures. There are fancier ceiling textures to consider too but for now we'll just give you a quick overview of texture names so you can research more.
- Knockdown (upper left above) – is great for concealing minor imperfections or adding some subtle depth to a room. It does require extra labor although you'll simply be trading off the time otherwise needed to repair your ceiling from any damage caused as you removed the popcorn.
- Orange peel (upper right above) – provides a subtle, understated look … that will also help to cover up knicks made while removing your popcorn. It's an easier texture (cheaper) to apply than knockdown, which is why it's so popular.
- Skip trowel (lower left above) – is similar to a knockdown texture with a subtle stuccoed look. Rather than spraying the texture, it's applied by hand do you” want to have a professional help with this part of the job.
- Swirl texture (lower right above) – offers a striking fan pattern that can give your home vintage feel. It's made by hand, using a tool or sponge swirling in full or half circles.
Preparing and Painting the “New Ceiling”
Your ceiling will need more preparation than a typical paint job. Remember that popcorn ceilings usually didn't receive the final coat of mud so now you'll need to apply it.
- Protect your floors and if you're not an experienced painter, you'll want to mask off the walls before your start.
- Apply a skim coat to the ceiling, to repair any damage done during removal of the popcorn texture. Finish the seams where the drywall meets. Unless you've done this before, you'll save time and aggravation by hiring a handyman to do this task.
- Apply a primer as you would to any new drywall project, ceiling or walls.
- After the primer dries, inspect the ceiling for imperfections and repair them.
- Apply two (2) coats of ceiling paint … and your done.
- Oops, you'll have to clean up again and move your furniture back into the room.