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.
Other reasons why home owners want to remove their popcorn ceilings include:
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.
Removing the Popcorn
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 and 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 (don't get sheetrock too wet or it will sag) with a good, handheld sprayer, one small section at a time. Wait 30 seconds and use a metal 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.
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 and finish the seams where the pieces of sheetrock meet. 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 sheetrock 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.