February 2, 2012

#185- Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Let’s keep this reno train a movin’... First we prepped for demo, then demoed the Downstairs Bath, and then replaced the exhaust fan in the ceiling.  Today’s project: remove the popcorn ceiling.  Yep.  That big repair patch in the ceiling from our plumbing leak is going to have to be covered up somehow, and I feel strongly that one shouldn’t spend time doing something that they hate.  Therefore why would I work hard to re-popcorn the ceiling in this spot so that I can make it match, when at my core I hate popcorn ceilings?  Rubbish!  Instead, it all has to go!

Photo of the gross ceiling before the Exhaust Fan Replacement.

Luckily for me, one of my contractors during the Bath Crashers project gave me a pretty simple tutorial when he removed the popcorn from our Master Bedroom ceiling.  (Slowly I will remove the popcorn from every room... if it kills me.)

Step 1- Spray the ceiling with water to dampen it.  Using a sprayer like this is super helpful, but if you don’t have one you can use a spray bottle if you don’t mind a little carpel tunnel.

Step 2- After the water sits on the ceiling for about 5 minutes, go back with a wide drywall knife and scrape off the popcorn.  It’s that easy.  It will fall like a snow storm, and it will be beautiful.

Step 3- Use your drywall knife to then thinly spread drywall mud over the entire surface.  This is called a “skim coat.”  I definitely recommend using lightweight joint compound for this, not the regular joint compound.  I just put enough on my knife to apply a thin layer to a section of the ceiling, and then I went back with my knife at a 45 degree angle and scraped it smooth.  As you can imagine, you’re working against gravity here, and let me break it down for you, gravity is going to win.  Expect clumps of compound to fall off your knife, onto the floor, into your hair, etc...  For this reason I would carefully cover your floor, or if you’re like us, tackle this project first when your floor is already torn up so that you don’t have to do anything more than scrape up a few chunks once they dry.

Step 4- Wait 14-24 hours for your compound to dry, and then comes the fun part- sanding.  (I’m being sarcastic, you got that- right?)  Make sure you wear a good ventilating face masks for this, and protective eyewear too as the sand will likely cover every exposed inch of your body.  I hate how drywall dust feels in my hair, especially when you wash it and it gets all pasty in there, so I took a few extra precautions.

There are special drywall sanders that you use, with screens that attach to the paddles instead of sandpaper.  We had a version with both a handle and an extension pole, but I found the handle and a step stool a little easier to work with.

Step 5- Clean up and if necessary, do it again.   Unfortunately I had a few spaces around my repair patch where the drywall tape was noticeable, so I had to go back with another layer of compound, and wait another 24 hours, and then sand again.  But I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like this again?

Cover your eyes, here comes the close up!

We still have to prime and then paint the ceiling, two more of my least favorite projects, but In the end we'll have a smooth and beautiful ceiling, and you could never tell that at one point it was raining frozen water.  I’ll tell you this much, I’ve never worked so hard for, or been so proud of a ceiling before.  But the last thing we wanted to do was spend a lot of time and money in this room, and have the ceiling be a stained and chunky mess.  One step down, only about a thousand more to go...


  1. We had popcorn ceilings in my childhood home, and there were little specks of silver on them that kind of twinkled. Classy!


  2. Oh Shannon I wish you had a photo. Classic!

  3. I am on a similar quest to eradicate all popcorn ceilings from my house. I had the living room professionally done, but did the master bath myself. My mom and I rigged up a handy tool for catching the stuff as we scraped, using a coathanger and a plastic grocery bag. It was so much better than having it fall all over the floor! Good luck with yours!

  4. Great blog, Erin. Just one word of caution... In many cases, popcorn ceiling contains a non-trivial amount of asbestos. I strongly urge any of your readers who are attempting this project to have a small sample tested before beginning. (The tests typically run about $30.) We bought a house with popcorn ceilings galore--also with sparkles, like Shannon above!--and recently found out that they do contain asbestos. Suffice it to say that the project got a whole lot bigger. :)

    1. Great advice! Luckily our home was built in the 80's, when asbestos had already been banned, but a great point for readers with older homes. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Great Tips.....it's really work nice. I like to apply this.

  6. Blog Post is very helpful to do popcorn ceilings removal, thanks to share this valuable information.

  7. Nice blog great tips to remove popcorn ceilings. Is it any process to do this task in a short time.

  8. Nice blog great tips to remove popcorn ceilings, thanks to share this valuable information