Removing Popcorn Texture from Ceilings

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information.

Hi, I am TwoPlusCute and I have popcorn ceilings throughout our house. There; I said it.

To be honest, popcorn ceilings don’t seem as annoying to me. However, they are hard to patch and I wanted to see how easy it is to remove them. So, I did a test in our second bathroom (for which I have grand future plans). The test came out positive: Popcorn is a piece of cake to remove. Really, really easy. What is hard, is to sand and plaster (to a nice flat result) after removing the popcorn. Let me digress a bit to talk about sanding.

In my own personal hell, I am pregnant, with a toothache and I am sanding. Seriously, if I am to go to hell, I won’t be thrown in a fiery pit. I will be placed in a huge room, with rough, pitted, dripped and damaged walls, that need sanding.

Disclaimer: I am not currently pregnant and I don’t have a toothache (thank goodness). Seems the way I phrased it, I caused a lot of misunderstanding. Sorry about that! I was describing what constitutes hell for me, in general. I did sand the ceiling, though. 🙂

IMPORTANT CAUTION: It was mentioned in the comments by my blogging friend Christine of So Domestically Challenged that popcorn ceilings sometimes contain asbestos. I googled and found that, while it was banned in the late 70ies, they allowed the sale of existing production (<- I have some choice words to say about that) well into the 80ies.
If your house is that old, please test for asbestos before removing the popcorn texture!

The Cute was scheduled to be out all day when I removed the texture and sanded – visiting the zoo with her grand parents. If I knew asbestos was still in use well into the 80ies, it goes without saying that I wouldn’t have touched a thing before I ran tests. Now, all I can do is crossing my fingers that no asbestos was used in our mid-80ies home.

This is the test in our second bathroom. I wet the area and scraped. Easy peasy and first lesson learned: Scrape with the joints (like we say “sand with the grain”) so you don’t scrape away the joint tape. The joints are where the drywall pieces meet and where they meet the vertical walls.

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. 1
To my defense, there was barely any joint compound on that tape.

 

The only tools you will need are a spray bottle with water and a 6″ wide putty knife. You can get one from any home improvement store. You can do it with smaller or bigger putty knives but for me, 6 inches width is ideal – not too much effort and much easier application.

 

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. The only tools required.

 

As for the water bottle, I got a dollar store one. Works just fine and I didn’t need a stronger sprayer. But there is a trick: spray and wait. Give 5 minutes to the water to get the texture saturated. You don’t need to spray excessively. Test in a small area to see if it is ready; if it comes out easily in big chunks, you are good to go. If it feels like you are sanding instead, spray more and wait.

This is how it will look when it is properly wet. It will feel like as easy as spreading soft butter and it will come out in large chunks like in the next photo:

 

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. Properly wet texture comes off easily in big chunks.

 

I should add I used a professional respirator mask (with filters – the kind that looks like you are prepping for a nuclear war) and safety glasses. However, 15 minutes in the job, I couldn’t see a thing (due to condensation inside the glasses – it was a hot day) so the safety glasses had to go. The mask stayed on for the whole process and it was invaluable when I started sanding.

 

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. 2
Working in small areas.

Work small areas, it will be much easier. Wet, wait, scrape, wet, wait, scrape. There will be a mess but not as much as you’d imagine. I barely filled a small grocery bag with the debris.

If you work in a small room, here is what to do:

– Close the doors.

– Put a wet towel at the bottom of the door(s) to keep the dust inside the room.

– Cover e-ve-ry-thing. You can stick (with painter’s tape) plastic covers to all the walls (and over the floor) so all dust falls in.

– Cover any electric outlets with painter’s tape. Child safe outlet covers work greatly, too.

-The real dust comes with sanding. And it will travel everywhere. Including yards away, in your bedrooms – even if you have the doors closed like I did. Having said that, I am still impressed with the amount of joint compound that was on our ceiling.

– Please, don’t use little paper dust masks. This dust is super fine and will clog your bronchiYou will need a serious painting mask.

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. There will be dust.
Scrapes and some dust. This is while removing the popcorn from the ceiling.

I was working in our living room that has an open floor plan so I didn’t cover anything. I only removed all furniture underneath the working area. I did close the doors far to the other rooms but the fine dust (from sanding the joint compound) found its way in.

This is how the ceiling looks like after removing the texture. Many constructors apply the popcorn directly to the drywall without even priming it because nobody will see it. In my humble opinion they should prime everything.

 

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. Not as much dust as you might think.

 

Photo above: Notice the – easy to clean – pile of debris and then compare with the next picture.

Photo below: This is after I started sanding. Clingy dust everywhere.

 

Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information by TwoPlusCute
Dust, dust, dust everywhere. This is while sanding the ceilings AFTER I had already swept twice.

It was bad. Like I wrote in the beginning, hell=sanding.

(By the way, the walls are not that dark color anymore. I painted them with

a gorgeous DIY grey that I am in love with!)

It was well worth the result though:

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. Much better!

 

The difference between the two textures can be seen in the next photo:

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information. Comparison between flat and popcorn ceiling.

 

COST: zero, I already had the putty knife and the water bottle. Quite an economic project even if you have to buy the tools.

TIME: to remove the popcorn, took me about an hour for ~100 sq feet (including the waiting after the spraying). In stark contrast, it took me five hours to sand (and I am still not done).

DIFFICULTY: it’s super easy to remove the texture. However if you want a silky smooth finish on your ceiling, you will have to do all the work the construction workers skipped – like applying putty/compound, leveling and sanding. And leveling and sanding. Did I mention sanding? 🙂

 

TwoPlusCute: Removing popcorn textures is easy, with step by step images, several tips, some dust and a lot of information.

 

ps. The wall color in the photos is not the fault of the camera. It does change from brownish to oily green depending on the light. Not a color I feel love for and it has to go so I can happily say “Hello Gorgeous to more blue in our living room.

 

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16 thoughts on “Removing Popcorn Texture from Ceilings

  • June 8, 2015 at 7:59 pm
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    Can you say upper arm workout? LOL! I had to re-read your pregnancy paragraph a couple of time before I decided that you weren’t pregnant now – love the disclaimer! 😉 I am really happy to see in your comments that your house was built after asbestos was banned. I think a lot of people don’t know that many popcorn ceilings have it in them. SO SCARY! That’s what took my dad’s life, so I’m paranoid! The ceiling looks amazing! You did a really good job, looks like a pro did it!

    Reply
    • June 8, 2015 at 8:17 pm
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      You are not paranoid. Asbestos is dangerous without doubt. Nothing paranoid about it. Until Christine mentioned it in the comments I had no idea asbestos could be in other materials too – besides shingles.
      It is pretty scary, especially thinking that my baby would be exposed.

      And I am very sorry about your dad, Kris. 🙁

      Reply
  • June 7, 2015 at 9:43 pm
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    You are a rockstar! And made me laugh all at once during your post! Man that is a job! I am all about jobs but just getting that area scraped and then patched up for a flat surface takes some skills! You should see the area we tried to repatch in our basement! An outstanding job to you and a huge high five! Happy new week to you!!!! Nicole xoxoxo
    nicole posted…a patio before and after

    Reply
  • June 7, 2015 at 3:11 am
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    Wow, you scraped the popcorn off the ceilings by yourself AND while pregnant?! I bow down to you! 🙂 We had acoustic ceilings throughout most of our house too, but we hired someone to scrape, smooth, and paint it all since we were on a very tight deadline to get moved in. Great tips you shared about the (dusty) process.
    Carol @ CAD INTERIORS posted…Living Room Refresh & Rug Pad USA Offer

    Reply
    • June 7, 2015 at 2:13 pm
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      I apologize I wasn’t clear, I am not pregnant. I added a disclaimer so I stopped misdirecting people. Thank you though. 🙂
      You know, if I ever decide to remove the popcorn from the cathedral part of the ceiling, I will remove the popcorn (because it’s super fast and easy) but will definitely take a leaf from your book and hire someone to smooth and sand.

      Reply
  • June 5, 2015 at 8:50 pm
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    Oh my gosh! Kudos to you for taking that on! It looks great!

    Good thing you wore that mask too. Be careful, sometimes that popcorn texture is made with asbestos (yikes).

    And your hell sounds awful. Simply awful.
    Christine posted…Construction Update: The End is Near

    Reply
    • June 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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      That is a good reminder about asbestos! Our house was built in 1984 and asbestos was banned by then (or so I understand) so I wasn’t worried.
      I didn’t know popcorn may contain asbestos. Scary on retrospect.

      Reply
    • June 5, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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      Hehe, thank you!
      I am not pregnant now, I was two years ago and the memory still haunts me. 😀

      Reply
    • June 4, 2015 at 6:04 pm
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      Oh Ntina, thanks. For the record, days later there still is dust everywhere. Πολύ σφουγγάρισμα λέμε! 😀

      Reply
  • June 3, 2015 at 3:12 am
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    Oh, WOW! That is a lot of work. The fine dust would drive me crazy. I still have to clean hard to reach areas that have drywall dust on them from all our house fixes. Bleh! I’m so glad you wore a professional respirator mask; your lungs will love you. 🙂

    Great job! The difference is huge! You know, there is such a thing as popcorn ceilings with sparkles throughout. Yep! They did such a thing. I used to think it was cool because I could see the some of the sparkles at night, so I pretend they were stars. 😉 Cheesy, I know.

    Reply
    • June 4, 2015 at 1:23 pm
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      It’s cute; not cheesy. No sparkles for me but I think The Cute would love to see more stars. Hmmm.
      We kept her late out last night so she watches the stars. 🙂
      As for the dust, *sigh* oh yeah I still wipe it from the whole house. But to be fair, that is the fault of the joint compound and not of the popcorn.

      Reply

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