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Remove old ceiling texture

Filed Under: home decor, remodeling, Know-How

At the demand of my wife, I've been removing crusty old popcorn ceiling texture from our new house. It's a messy process, but a few tricks can make it (and cleanup) an easy task. If things go well, you'll end up with a fresh, clean ceiling.
To get started, you'll need:
  • Ladder or step stool
  • A wide 4-6" scraper/putty knife
  • Garden sprayer (that's never had chemicals in it)
  • Tarp or drop cloth
  • ShopVac(recommended) or a broom and dust pan
  • dust mask and safety glasses (optional, but recommended)

Wether you're working over a carpet or sub-flooring a tarp will make cleanup much easier later on. Spread it out underneath your future texture free ceiling. It'll serve to catch the texture as it falls, and keep the floor free of moisture as you work.

Put a half gallon or so of warm water in your garden sprayer and pump up the pressure. Ours has a few spray nozzles, we selected one that sprays a wide fan of water. We bought ours for $20 at our hardware store, but we've seen them for $15 at the ginormous discount stores. (Personally, I like the local guys better.)

Spray down the ceiling, giving a thorough, but not dripping we coating on the texture. You want a nice even covering. A good rule of thumb is to move the nozzle whenever you're spraying liquid.

Wait about ten minutes, then re-spray the area. If you're removing texture that's been painted over, you might want to repeat the process. Latex paint is water based, so it'll usually let water soak through given enough time.

You should be able to see the area you just wet down with the spray. If you can't see it anymore, you'll probably want to go over it again with your sprayer. Don't get too excited with the sprayer, you probably want to avoid water streaks on your walls. You might consider taping plastic over anything that might become water damaged.

When you're ready, set up your ladder and grab your scraper.

Set the scraper at a 20 to 45 degree angle to the ceiling and gently, but firmly push the scraper across the ceiling. Be careful not to gouge the soft drywall ceiling. If you rip any of the paper covering, you can come back with some spackle later. The texture should be soft from the water, so it'll fall off with very little dust. If the texture is hard, spray it with water again and let it soak in for a minute or so. It won't take long.

When you're done, you'll end up with a clean ceiling, and a tarp that's covered in bits of plaster. Be careful as you walk on it. The texture will crush and stick to your shoes. You can drag them outside, or dump it in a nice pile by lifting the tarp.

Now's a great time to get out your shop vacuum. Mine easily sucked up piles of ceiling texture. Once the majority of the plaster was up, I used our regular vacuum to finish the job. If you're going to paint the ceiling later, consider using a coat of primer first.

Popcorn Texture Removal(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Old textureStep 1Step 3Step 4Step 5

  • Ron

    Sweet! I was just wondering how to do this. I assume the same basic technique would work to get rid of the texture on walls?

  • GlennZilla

    Be Carefull. A lot of the popcorn ceiling has some form of asbestos in it.

    I recently did the exact same thing to my entire house, but we had the popcorn tested and it had "Crysotile" in it. This meant that it was not the horrible cancer cauing asbestos but still a problematic one. The local experts advised me to totally seal off the room with plastic sheathing and avoid the use of any kind of fan or A/C in the room until the stuff was down and removed. I also had to vaccum with a HEPA filtered vac to make sure it was all removed.

    It's only a few more steps that described here, but I feel a lot safer in letting my 15 motnh old daughter run loose in the house now that it's gone and I know I cleaned up the debris.

  • GlennZilla

    Actually for wall testure there's different steps. The wall is usually textured with drywall compound.

    Best way I know to smooth it out is to sand it down and lay down a new layer of compound to get it nice and smooth.

    Hope you got strong arms. Because after sanding it and laying down a new coat by hand you arms will kill you.

  • Jim

    I did my whole upstairs. I hate that popcorn ceiling.....feel like I'm living in the 80s.

    Any way, I was also concerned about the abestos (after the fact) as I didn't know it contained the stuff. Fortunately, I chose to do something a bit different. As I scraped, I had the shopvac right there to suck up the stuff as it fell. I had a square-shaped attachment that was the same width as the scraper.

    It is very important to use a drywall vac and not your ordinatry shopvac. Otherwise you'll just be spreading the fine particles all around the room and house.

  • 4 Comments / 1 Pages

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