How to Get Rid of That Unsightly Popcorn Ceiling

Does your home still have popcorn ceilings that were popular decades ago? If so, it’s probably time for a change. Odds are, you’ve probably already been thinking about getting rid of your popcorn ceilings but just haven’t gotten around to it.

Many homes that were constructed between the 1950s and late 1980s included popcorn ceilings, mainly because they were affordable and easy to install. But these days, all that sprayed-on material isn’t exactly considered an attractive feature any longer. Many buyers who scope out homes typically vow to remove any popcorn ceilings in homes they consider putting an offer on.

Not only are they unsightly, they’re also hard to keep clean. Because of the rough, bumpy nature of this surface, dust and debris can be trapped very easily. Trying to clean this textured surface can prove to be a real chore.

Whether you’re considering selling soon or are simply looking for a way to improve the esthetics of your interior, you may want to consider eliminating your popcorn ceilings in favor of something smoother and more modern.

But how exactly do you get rid of that material on your ceilings? And should you even bother attempting it on your own?

Here are some of the more common methods of popcorn ceiling removal to reveal a smoother surface.

Scrape the Material Off

Scraping is the most common way to remove popcorn ceilings. This method simply involves chipping away at the sprayed-on material to reveal the surface below, requiring little more than a utility knife to tackle all the scraping.

But as simple as the job may sound, it’s a time-consuming, exhausting, and extremely messy one. Every time the utility knife chips away at the material, it becomes airborne. Some people soak the ceiling material with water in order to soften it up prior to removing it, but this can actually make the job even messier and more difficult because it only makes the material heavier to work with. Scraping it dry is the best way to go.

Before starting this job, measures should be taken to seal off the entire area to prevent any dust particles that are released from the scraping to be confined to the room being worked on. Once the material has been completely removed, a joint compound will likely need to be skimmed over top to repair any dents and scrape marks left behind from chipping away at the ceiling.

The biggest problem with the scraping method – besides the mess – is that there’s a big possibility of releasing asbestos that may be hiding within the popcorn ceiling. If the ceiling material was installed before the 1980s, asbestos could realistically be present. While this material may be harmless if left alone, it can become a serious health hazard if it is allowed to become airborne.

All those dust particles could contain asbestos, which can then be inhaled by the occupants of the home. Long-term exposure to asbestos has been linked to a number of respiratory health problems, as well as lung cancer. For this reason, it’s always best to take a sample of the ceiling material to have it tested for the presence of asbestos. You can do this yourself with an at-home kit, or you can call the professionals to test it for you.

If the test comes back positive, the scraping method might not be the best route to take. If you do decide that this is the method you’d like to use, you’d be well-advised to have the professionals remove your popcorn ceiling for you.

Cover the Ceiling With Gypsum Board

If you find asbestos in your ceiling material, you can leave it intact and still create a smooth surface by simply covering the ceiling with drywall specifically designed for ceiling surfaces. Specialized gypsum board for ceilings is much lighter than conventional drywall, making it less laborious to install.

All that would be required for this job is placing the drywall directly over top of the popcorn ceiling. You would then need to nail or screw the boards into place, then seal the joints with a compound material to create a smooth surface.

This method typically results in the smoothest finish compared to other methods. One of the best things about this method is that you can still cut holes into the existing ceiling to run wires or install HVAC ductwork without having to make any major repairs later on since you’ll be covering up the area with drywall.

Covering up the popcorn ceiling with drywall might also be the best choice if the existing ceiling is full of spots that require repairs. Rather than having to patch them all up, simply covering them with gypsum board will solve the problem right away.

If you decide to take the DIY route for this job, you’ll need to enlist some help from friends or neighbors, as it will be tough to install the boards to the ceiling by yourself. Otherwise, call ceiling contractors to do the job for you.

Add Another Textured Material Over Top

While you might not necessarily achieve the smoothest results by lathering a new compound over top of your popcorn ceiling, it’s still an effective way to cover the old material and create a more up-to-date surface. There will likely be some level of texture to the ceiling by using another material to cover your popcorn ceiling material, so if you’re looking for a completely smooth finish, this might not be the best option.

This method is a rather simple one that most homeowners should be able to tackle on their own. Before you cover the ceiling, you will need to prep it first and test the existing substrate to make sure it’s secure enough to handle added material to it. If you skip this step, you run the risk of adding too much weight that the substrate is not able to hold. This can cause the ceiling to buckle under the pressure and actually crumble off.

Once you’ve established the strength of the underlying ceiling substrate, the work can start. This method simply involves skimming a thin layer of drywall mud over top of the popcorn ceiling, then adding a finishing compound with a utility knife until the desired texture is achieved. You can create a unique design and texturize as much or as little as you like.

The Bottom Line

There’s no need to live with your tired-looking popcorn ceilings any longer considering all the effective and affordable methods available to get rid of it. The method you choose comes down to whether or not there is any hazardous material lurking in the popcorn ceiling, the condition and age of the ceiling, and your desired finished look. Once the project is done, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in the overall look of your home. You’ll love it, and buyers will appreciate it too.