Popcorn Ceiling Removal


“If you were a child growing up in the 1960s, then you probably remember your textured bedroom ceiling. In fact, you probably spent a good part of your formative years staring up at that ceiling, perhaps trying to discern animal shapes from the random patterns in the cottage cheese-like bumps.”

Baron & Budd, P.C.

Speckled popcorn ceiling

The popcorn ceiling is among some of the home design trends that gained popularity in the mid-20th century. Known for its ease of installation and the ability to mask construction flaws, popcorn ceilings remained popular through the early 2000s. The hallmark feature of a popcorn ceiling is a textured cottage-cheese like surface that resembles stucco.

If you are like most of today’s home buyers, you probably find popcorn ceilings unappealing and would prefer to remove them if you are purchasing or selling your home. Fortunately, this removal process is one that many homeowners can tackle on their own without professional help. Below are ten DIY popcorn ceiling removal tips.

1) Test your ceiling for asbestos

“A trained and accredited asbestos professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

If your home was built before the 1980s, it is wise to test for the presence of asbestos, a material used to help soundproof rooms in homes and other buildings. The asbestos testing process is best handled by a trained professional due to the health risks involved. If your ceiling tests positive for asbestos, the best thing to do is to have the ceiling professionally removed.

2) Gather your tools

DIY enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that they probably already have many of the tools you need to remove your popcorn ceiling right in your storage closet or garage. Here are the key items you will need for the removal process:

  • A ladder
  • A garden sprayer
  • A putty knife
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plenty of drop cloths to protect your floors


3) Prep your room for the removal process

While you are likely eager to get rid of your popcorn ceiling, you should ensure that you have taken the proper measures to protect your belongings and optimize safety. Here are a few tips to prepare your room for the removal of your popcorn ceiling:

  • Start by removing your furniture
  • Turn off your heating and cooling system and close your vents
  • Remove any ceiling fans
  • Cover outlets with painter’s tape
  • Apply painter’s tape to the top of your wall under the ceiling
  • Apply your drop cloths to your flooring


4) Begin with a bit of test scraping

Before you dive into the ceiling removal process, test scrape a small area of your ceiling while it is dry. If this is a challenge, try applying some warm water to the area and wait 10-20 minutes for the moisture to soak before trying the scraping again. If you still have difficulty scraping even after applying moisture, your ceiling was probably painted after the popcorn texture was applied, which may complicate the removal process.

5) Moisten your ceiling area with your sprayer

“For easier scraping and practically no dust during popcorn ceiling removal, use a garden pump sprayer to mist the ceiling and let it soak in for about 15 minutes before scraping. Only give it a light misting—too much water could damage the drywall or loosen the joint tape. If the texture hasn’t softened after 15 minutes or so, spray it again and wait another 10 to 15 minutes.”

Family Handyman

Applying a mixture of warm water and 2-3 tablespoons of dish detergent will facilitate the removal process. Be judicious with your application of water, as you can damage your drywall if you oversaturate your ceiling. You may need to apply additional moisture to stubborn areas. Be sure to wait approximately 15 minutes to give your ceiling a chance to absorb the moisture. This will make the scraping process easier.

6) Scrape one area of your ceiling at a time

The scraping process can be intimidating, especially if you have an expansive ceiling. An effective way to tackle a large ceiling is to break the removal process up into manageable chunks by working on areas that are no larger than four to five feet. This strategy also helps facilitate cleanup and makes it easy to temporarily stop the removal process if you need to take a break. A great tool for this process is the PopEEZE Popcorn Ceiling Scraper Vacuum Attachment Tool seen here:

Popcorn Ceiling removal tool

7) Do not ignore the details

After you finish the initial removal process, check the corners of your ceiling to make sure that they are free of material and residue that may have accumulated during your project. You can use a putty knife to remove material from ceiling corners to give your ceiling smooth, clean lines.

8) Survey your ceiling for signs of minor damage

Sometimes even the most skilled DIY enthusiasts are unable to complete a project without sustaining some minor damage. When removing a popcorn ceiling, you may disturb the underlying drywall and tape. Before you begin sanding your “new” ceiling, survey the entire area and look for signs of minor damage that require attention. Here are some measures you may need to take:

  • Replace any damaged drywall and tape
  • Hammer down any nails that may have become exposed
  • Cover the nail heads with joint compound

Plastering a ceiling after popcorn ceiling removal

9) Sand down your ceiling for a smooth finish

Once you have removed all of the textured surface, you will need to sand down your ceiling to ensure that is smooth to your touch. While this part of the process is time-consuming, it is essential to transform your ceiling from rough and bumpy to smooth and sleek.

10) Begin the priming and painting process!

“While there are exceptions, in general you’ll get the best results with paint that’s formulated for a ceiling application. For a ceiling, you want paint that doesn’t spatter, has a long open time (dries slowly), and is flat instead of glossy. Most ceiling paints are formulated with these qualities. And of course you can have ceiling paint tinted if you want a color other than ‘ceiling white’.”

Family Handyman

The last step in the process is to prime and paint your newly transformed ceiling. Selecting a high-quality paint will help ensure that you are pleased with your project results. As you evaluate paint options and colors, look for paint that is specially formulated for ceiling applications to obtain ideal results.

The Bottom Line

Removing a dated popcorn ceiling will give your room a smoother, more seamless look and help make your home more attractive to prospective buyers. By following the ten steps above, you can safely and successfully remove a popcorn ceiling on your own minimal expense.